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Pondberry (Southern Spicebush) in NC

Pondberry (Southern Spicebush) in North Carolina


Lindera melissifolia

STATUS: Endangered

DESCRIPTION AND REPRODUCTION: This deciduous shrub grows to approximately 2 meters (6 feet) tall, and spreads vegetatively by stolons. Pale yellow flowers appear in the spring before the leaves. The bright red, 12-millimeter (one-half-inch) long, oval-shaped fruits mature in the fall. Pondberry is distinguished from the two other North American members of the genus (Lindera benzoin and Lindera subcoriacea) by its drooping, thin, membranaceous, and ovately to elliptically shaped leaves that have a strong, sassafras-like odor when crushed.

Reproduction seems to be primarily vegetative by means of stolons. The plants grow in clones of numerous stems which flower when little more than 2 to 3 years of age, but appear to live for only a few years. The dead stems are replaced by new ones that emerge from the rootstock. The plants bloom around March and are dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on separate plants). Mature fruits can be found on the plants in October, but they seem to have no reproductive value as no seedings have been observed at any of the known sites.

RANGE AND POPULATION LEVEL: In North Carolina, one population exists in Bladen County. Other populations are known in South Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

HABITAT: Pondberry, for the most part, is associated with wetland habitats such as bottomland and hardwoods in the interior areas, and the margins of sinks, ponds and other depressions in the more coastal sites. The plants generally grow in shaded areas but may also be found in full sun.

REASONS FOR CURRENT STATUS: The most significant threats are drainage ditching and subsequent conversion of its habitat to other uses. Even ditching without later conversion of land use can alter the water regime in a manner that reduces the plant's vigor or eliminates it from the site. Domestic hogs, cattle grazing, and timber harvesting have also impacted the plants at some sites. Eight of the sites currently in private ownership have been affected by these various factors, and the remaining sites are potentially threatened. Pondberry receives some legal protection under State law in North Carolina and Missouri, but none in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The apparent lack of seedling production is also a factor which in the long term could have significant adverse effects for the species.

Species Distribution from known occurrences. Species may occur in similar habitats in other counties.Green counties indicate observed within 20 years. Yellow counties indicate an obscure data reference to the species in the county. Red counties indicate observed more than 20 years ago.

Species distribution of the Pondberry in NC

Species Location Map based on information provided by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.
For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Dale Suiter, in Raleigh, NC, at dale_suiter@fws.gov

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