Plants and Animals

Barbarea orthoceras Northern winter cress

Key Characteristics

Biennial forb of rocky Great Lake shores, 30 to 80 cm tall; leaves clasp stem, upper leaves lobed, mid-stem leaves with 3 or less pairs of lateral lobes, unlike the similar yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris) that has unlobed upper leaves; lower leaves strongly purple-tinged; flower petals usually less than 5.0 mm long; fruit less than 3.4 cm long, more than 10 times longer than wide. This species is considered a variety of yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris) in some floras.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: SNR - Not ranked


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Chippewa 3 1981
Emmet 1 1923
Keweenaw 2 1994
Mackinac 5 2012

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Known Michigan occurrences are on cobblestone shores of islands in the Great Lakes in wet areas, rarely in marshy areas.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera), limestone calamint (Clinopodium arkansanum), spike-rush (Eleocharis sp.), rush (Juncus sp.), silverweed (Potentilla anserina), and white cedar (Thuja occidentalis).

Management Recommendations

This species primarily requires protection of the Great Lakes shoreline habitat and perpetuation of natural disturbance (e.g., winter ice, storms, wind, waves) and periodic fluctuations of Great Lakes water levels. Protect occupied habitat and adjacent habitat to allow for temporal and spatial change in habitat with fluctuation of the Great Lakes. Many of the species found in this community do not tolerate later stages of succession. Protect from development and off-road vehicle activity in occupied habitat.

Survey Methods

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgment of the investigator.

  • Meander search

    • Survey Period: From first week of June to first week of September


Survey References

  • Elzinga, C.L., D.W. Salzer, and J.W. Willoughby. 1998. Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations. The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management, Denver. BLM Technical Reference 1730-1. 477pp.
  • Goff, G.F., G.A. Dawson, and J.J. Rochow. 1982. Site examination for Threatened and Endangered plant species. Environmental Management 6(4): 307-316
  • Nelson, J.R. 1984. Rare Plant Field Survey Guidelines. In: J.P. Smith and R. York. Inventory of rare and endangered vascular plants of California. 3rd Ed. California Native Plant Society, Berkeley. 174pp.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1986. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques For Impact Assessment. Natural Areas Journal 5(3):18-30.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1987. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques for Impact Assessment. In: Conservation and management of rare and endangered plants. Ed. T.S. Elias. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento. 8pp.

Technical References

  • Chadde, S.W. 2002. A Great Lakes Wetland Flora. 2nd Ed. PocketFlora Press, Laurium, Michigan, USA. 648 pp.
  • Fernald, M.L. 1909. The North American species of Barbarea. Rhodora 11: 134–141.
  • Fields, D.M. 2003. The vascular plants of Taylor County, Wisconsin. The Michigan Botanist 42: 171–282.
  • Forzley, K.C., T.A. Grudzien, and J.R. Wells. 1993. Comparative floristics of seven islands in northwestern Lake Michigan. The Michigan Botanist 32: 3–21.
  • Judziewicz, E.J. 1997. Vegetation and flora of Passage Island Isle Royale National Park, Michigan. The Michigan Botanist 36: 35–62.
  • Judziewicz, E.J. 2001. Flora and vegetation of the Grand Traverse Islands (Lake Michigan), Wisconsin and Michigan. The Michigan Botanist 40: 81–208.
  • Slavick, A.D., and R.A. Janke. 1987. The vascular flora of Isle Royale National Park. The Michigan Botanist 26: 91–134.
  • Voss, E.G. 2001. Flora of St. Helena Island (Straits of Mackinac), Michigan. The Michigan Botanist 40: 27–47.
  • Whitehouse, H.E., and S.E. Bayley. 2005. Vegetation patterns and biodiversity of peatland plant communities surrounding mid-boreal wetland ponds in Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Botany 83: 621–637.