Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia )



Family: Laurel (Lauraceae)

Federal Status: Endangered, listed July 31, 1986

Best Search Time: February through March; September through October

Description: Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia) is a deciduous shrub that grows to approximately 2 meters (6 feet) tall, and spreads vegetatively by stolons. Pale yellow flowers appear in the spring before the leaves emerge. The oval-shaped fruits are 0.5 inch (12 millimeter) long, and turn from green during the summer to bright red in the fall. Pondberry is distinguished from the two other North American members of the genus (Lindera benzoin and Lindera subcoriacea) by its drooping foilage, obtuse or rounded leaf base, conspicuous venation and the two lowest pairs of lateral nerves are not parallel to the ones above. Pondberry leaves have a distinct sassafras-like odor when crushed.

Reproduction is 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 flower in late February or March and are dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on separate plants). Mature fruits can be found on the plants in October. Seeds are only viable for a short period of time.

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.

Distribution: In North Carolina, one population exists in Sampson County and one in Cumberland County. In addition, one collection was recently made in Onslow County but plants haven't been found again since the original collection. Other populations are known in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri.

Threats: 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.


Buchanan, M.F. and J.T. Finnegan. 2010. Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Plant Species of North Carolina. NC Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1993. Recovery Plan for Pondberry (Lindera rnelissifolia). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Atlanta, Georgia. 56 pp.

For More Information on Pondberry...

Species Contact:

Dale Suiter, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 919-856-4520 ext. 18

Species profile revised on August 23, 2011.

Last Updated: August 24, 2017