There is a total of 10 extant locations and seven locations that are presumed extirpated based on recent surveys. Detailed historical distribution data exist for this species from Jon Dey's dissertation on high-elevation macrolichens in the southern Appalachians (Dey 1978). Most of the locations and areas visited by Dey have been revisited in recent years by J.L. Allen, J.C. Lendemer, E. Tripp and R.C. Harris. The locations in the Black Mountains (3 locations) and Roan Mountain (1 location) have recently been relocated and are still extant. In the Balsam Mountains two historical locations could not be relocated, but one new location was documented, for a total of one extant location. The occurrences on Mount Rogers were also relocated recently (2 locations). One location each in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Plott Balsam Mountains have not been found again. However, two additional occurrences have recently been documented from the Great Smoky Mountains. Recent surveys of the original locality at Hawksbill Mountain by multiple specialists did not relocate any individuals.
Population Trend: stable
This species grows predominantly in spruce-fir forests, a critically imperilled ecosystem (G1-G2 ranking, White et al. 2012), and occasionally on heath balds. It grows on both hardwood and coniferous trees, and reproduces almost exclusively through vegetative reproduction and is not well suited to long distance dispersal.
Major threats to this species include the loss of mature, healthy spruce-fir forest due to the balsam wooly adelgid decimating large stands of Abies fraseri (Rose and Nicholas 2008, Rollins et al. 2010, White et al. 2012). Any logging activity or other land use change would also result in major losses of populations of this species. Species distribution models projected to 2050 and 2070 using two different climate change models (CCSM4 and HadGEM2-AO) at the lowest and highest carbon dioxide concentration (2.6 and 8.5 rcp) were recently built in Maxent for this species (Allen and Lendemer, 2016). Acid rain is another major threat to this species.
Three main actions will help ensure the continued survival of this species: 1) global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, 2) protection from logging and other land-use changes near all locations, and 3) research investigating the potential to transplant this species for reintroduction and/or assisted migration.