Lindera melissifolia - (Walt.) Blume
Pondberry
Other English Common Names: Southern Spicebush
Other Common Names: southern spicebush
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Lindera melissifolia (Walt.) Blume (TSN 194910)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.129236
Element Code: PDLAU07020
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Laurel Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Laurales Lauraceae Lindera
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Lindera melissifolia
Taxonomic Comments: Distinct species, but L. benzoin var. pubescens and L. subcoriacea were formerly confused with it.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 29Oct2015
Global Status Last Changed: 29Oct2015
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Mapped and believed extant at about 99 sites, although some of these are in close proximity, so the number of extant populations may be somewhat less. A few extant populations appear quite large, but may contain few different genetic individuals; many sites are small and isolated. Believed extirpated from Louisiana and possibly Florida; extant populations are known from the coastal plain in North Carolina south to Georgia and Alabama and from the Mississippi Embayment in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri. Extensive clearing and drainage of bottomland forests is probably the major factor affecting the species, both historically and currently. Also appears susceptible to the emerging Red Bay or Laurel Wilt Disease; one Georgia population is known to be infected, but the full potential range and impact of the disease is unknown at this time. Limited sexual reproduction, dispersal, and recruitment are also a concern for the species' persistence in its now highly-fragmented habitat.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S1), Arkansas (S2), Florida (SX), Georgia (S2), Louisiana (SH), Mississippi (S2), Missouri (S1), North Carolina (S1), South Carolina (S2)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (31Jul1986)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Chiefly coastal plain, North Carolina south to Florida and west to Alabama and in Mississippi Embayment to southern Missouri and Arkansas. Very scattered distribution. Devall et al. (2001) note the possibility that the species never occurred in present-day Florida - the only evidence for occurrence there are two 1800s specimens labeled "Florida" and "West Florida"; however, the "West Florida" territory of that time includes parts of present-day LA, MS, AL, and FL. Known county distribution is as follows: North Carolina - Cumberland, Sampson, Onslow, and Bladen (historical) counties; South Carolina - Beaufort, Berkeley, and Colleton (historical) counties; Georgia - Baker, Calhoun, Effingham, Taylor, Wheeler, Worth, Chatham (historical), and Screven (historical) counties; Florida - Gadsden (historical) County; Alabama - Covington and Wilcox (historical) counties (Covington County locations were found in 2004, representing a re-discovery of the species in Alabama); Mississippi - Bolivar, Sharkey, Sunflower, and Tallahatchie counties; Louisiana - Union (historical) and Morehouse (historical) parishes; Arkansas - Ashley, Clay, Craighead, Jackson, Lawrence, Poinsett, and Woodruff counties; Missouri -Ripley County; re-introduced population in Butler County. A single range extent polygon was calculated as approximately 500,000 square km using GIS tools.

Area of Occupancy: 26-125 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Using a 2 x 2 km grid, Area of Occupancy was calculated to be approximately 336 square kilometers.

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Approximately 99 extant occurrences are currently mapped, of which 2-3 are reintroductions (2 in Missouri and possibly 1 in Arkansas). An additional 17 occurrences are likely extirpated. However, the true number of extant populations may be less than 99, as some currently-mapped occurrences are in close proximity. For example, 19 EOs in Mississippi derive from one USFS inventory of the Delta National Forest, and 18 EOs in Arkansas derive from one status survey in Jackson and Lawrence counties. If more data on these occurrences were available, perhaps they could be delineated as a smaller number of populations.

Population Size Comments: Census figures for many extant populations are lacking. At least 12 extant sites scattered throughout the range report several hundred to several thousand stems (ramets); one Arkansas site has "tens, if not hundreds of thousands of stems; dominant shrub on 100+ acres." Consistent with this information, the Missouri Natural Heritage Program notes that the species "can occur by the tens of thousands at the best [rangewide] sites." Nevertheless, although some of these populations appear quite large, many of the plants may be clones rather than different genetic individuals. Also, many of the other sites appear to have only small populations; McCue (2002) reports that "the number of stems at any given site varies from a few to several hundred" and Devall et al. (2001) indicate that "many of the existing colonies are small, and occupy only a portion of the apparently suitable habitat."

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some (13-40)

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Loss and alteration of habitat has been and continues to be the most significant threat. Multiple causes of habitat loss/degradation are known, including land clearing, hydrological alteration (drainage, ditching, flooding), timber harvesting, leveling of mound/depression topography, and road building. Uses to which habitats have been converted include tree farming (plantations), crop production, and residential areas. The reduced area and extreme fragmentation of remaining suitable habitat is of concern, especially given incomplete knowledge of the effects of surrounding land practices and the potential impact of climate change (P. McKenzie pers. comm. 2008). Fragmentation also greatly reduces the chances that waning populations will be rescued or replaced by incoming propagules. An important emerging threat to this species is Red Bay or Laurel Wilt disease. This fungal disease, spread by a newly-established ambrosia beetle from Asia, is causing widespread mortality of red bay (Persea borbonia) trees in coastal SC, GA, and FL so far and is spreading rapidly north, south, and inland. This disease can infect Lindera melissifolia as well (Johnson et al. 2007). One L. melissifolia stand in Effingham Co., GA is under attack; it has not yet fully succumbed and is being monitored (T. Patrick, pers. comm. 2008). It is possible that this disease could spread throughout the range of L. melissifolia. Threats of lower magnitude include trampling by domestic animals such as hogs and cattle (affects at least one GA site and one AR site), competition with aggressive non-native plant species, and increased frequency of droughts in the southeast. Less severe dieback of plant stems than that caused by Red Bay disease has also been observed at many sites throughout the range, but it has proven difficult to conclusively link stem dieback to population decline. Overall, threats remain high in most of the range.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Several site extirpations have been documented in the past 30 years, due to factors such as agricultural conversion and land clearing. For example, Richards and Orzell (1987) noted that "many small populations [in Arkansas] have been damaged or destroyed since 1970." Nevertheless, at least some reasonably large populations appear stable. For example, after three years of monitoring, populations in Bolivar County and Delta National Forest, MS did not appear to be declining; in addition, the natural Missouri population studied in 1983 was surveyed again in 1998-1999 and did not appear to have declined (Devall et al. 2001) and still appears to be stable (T. Smith, pers. comm. 2008). Overall, Devall et al. (2001) felt that the species' rangewide status "will [continue to] decline without human intervention."

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Long-term Trend Comments: This species has probably always been [relatively] rare (Devall et al. 2001). Nevertheless, occurrences of the habitat types in which it is known to thrive have been greatly reduced in number and quality in recent and historic times (USFWS 1985). When this species was proposed for Federal listing in 1985, the US Fish and Wildlife Service noted that "almost all populations known in 1985 had declined since their discovery, some severely." Rangewide, 14 occurrences are thought to be extirpated.

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Flower and fruit production can be highly variable. This species appears to require some sort of pollinator (bagged flowers do not set fruit), but does not appear limited by pollinator supply (supplemental pollination does not improve fruit set) (Devall et al. 2001). Even when flower production is high, fruit production may be limited because female clones are absent from many stands, and many sites are isolated. Furthermore, even when fruit production is significant, seedlings are rarely observed (Devall et al. 2001). In combination, these observations suggest a very low rate of sexual reproduction in the wild. Moreover, natural dispersal appears limited (at least in current times), as many populations occur in small habitat patches surrounded by an unsuitable matrix (e.g. agricultural fields), limiting colony establishment opportunities. In the past, seeds could have been disseminated by floodwater, but floodwaters are controlled throughout the species' range today. Devall et al. (2001) believe it unlikely that new colonies will be established without human intervention.

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.
Environmental Specificity Comments: Needs closed canopy and standing water during some part of the year.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Chiefly coastal plain, North Carolina south to Florida and west to Alabama and in Mississippi Embayment to southern Missouri and Arkansas. Very scattered distribution. Devall et al. (2001) note the possibility that the species never occurred in present-day Florida - the only evidence for occurrence there are two 1800s specimens labeled "Florida" and "West Florida"; however, the "West Florida" territory of that time includes parts of present-day LA, MS, AL, and FL. Known county distribution is as follows: North Carolina - Cumberland, Sampson, Onslow, and Bladen (historical) counties; South Carolina - Beaufort, Berkeley, and Colleton (historical) counties; Georgia - Baker, Calhoun, Effingham, Taylor, Wheeler, Worth, Chatham (historical), and Screven (historical) counties; Florida - Gadsden (historical) County; Alabama - Covington and Wilcox (historical) counties (Covington County locations were found in 2004, representing a re-discovery of the species in Alabama); Mississippi - Bolivar, Sharkey, Sunflower, and Tallahatchie counties; Louisiana - Union (historical) and Morehouse (historical) parishes; Arkansas - Ashley, Clay, Craighead, Jackson, Lawrence, Poinsett, and Woodruff counties; Missouri -Ripley County; re-introduced population in Butler County. A single range extent polygon was calculated as approximately 500,000 square km using GIS tools.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, FLextirpated, GA, LA, MO, MS, NC, SC

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL Covington (01039), Wilcox (01131)*
AR Ashley (05003), Clay (05021), Craighead (05031), Crittenden (05035), Jackson (05067), Lawrence (05075), Poinsett (05111), Woodruff (05147)
GA Baker (13007), Bryan (13029)*, Calhoun (13037), Chatham (13051)*, Effingham (13103), Emanuel (13107), Jenkins (13165), Miller (13201), Screven (13251)*, Taylor (13269), Wheeler (13309), Worth (13321)
LA Morehouse (22067)*, Union (22111)*
MO Butler (29023), Ripley (29181)
MS Bolivar (28011), Sharkey (28125), Sunflower (28133), Tallahatchie (28135)
NC Bladen (37017)*, Cumberland (37051), Onslow (37133), Orange (37135)*, Sampson (37163)
SC Beaufort (45013), Berkeley (45015), Charleston (45019)*, Marion (45067)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 New River (03020302)+, Haw (03030002)+*, Lower Cape Fear (03030005)+*, Black (03030006)+, Northeast Cape Fear (03030007)+, Little Pee Dee (03040204)+, Carolina Coastal-Sampit (03040207)+, Santee (03050112)+, Cooper (03050201)+, Salkehatchie (03050207)+, Lower Savannah (03060109)+, Lower Ogeechee (03060202)+, Canoochee (03060203)+*, Ogeechee Coastal (03060204)+*, Little Ocmulgee (03070105)+, Ohoopee (03070107)+, Upper Flint (03130005)+, Middle Flint (03130006)+, Ichawaynochaway (03130009)+, Spring (03130010)+, Yellow (03140103)+, Middle Alabama (03150203)+*, Lower Alabama (03150204)+*
08 Lower St. Francis (08020203)+, Cache (08020302)+, Tallahatchie (08030202)+, Big Sunflower (08030207)+, Lower Ouachita-Bayou De Loutre (08040202)+
11 Current (11010008)+, Lower Black (11010009)+, Upper White-Village (11010013)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A deciduous aromatic shrub 0.5-2 m tall, usually growing in large clonal clumps. The leaves smell like lemony-sassafras when crushed. Small pale yellow flowers bloom in early spring before the leaves have developed, and the bright red fruits often persist on the plants after the leaves have died in the autumn.. Flowering in March-April in the Carolinas; flowers in early spring, before leaves appear. Fruits mature on female plants in early fall, often persisting on the plant after the leaves have fallen. Dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants).


Diagnostic Characteristics: Lindera melissifolia (and L. benzoin) can be distinguished from another rare species, L. subcoriacea, by its thin leaves that are not strongly whitened below. L. melissifolia can be distinguished from the common L. benzoin by leaves that are drooping, as opposed to erect-ascending or spreading, have a much stronger sassafras odor, and have more rounded bases. L. melissifolia also tends to occur in wetter habitats than does L. benzoin (Delay et al. 1993).
Duration: DECIDUOUS
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian, TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Hardwood, Forest/Woodland, Woodland - Conifer
Habitat Comments: Can apparently occupy a variety of habitats as long as hydrological requirements are met. Occurs in seasonally flooded wetlands such as floodplain/bottomland hardwood forests and forested swales, on the bottoms and edges of shallow seasonal ponds in old dune fields, along the margins of ponds and depressions in pinelands, around the edges of sinkholes in coastal areas with karst topography, and along the borders of Sphagnum bogs. Usually in shade, but tolerates full sun.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Continue to monitor known populations for status of threats, site condition, and abundance of plants. Survey potential habitat for new populations. Seek long term protection for exceptional sites. Review most critical threats and consider the feasibility of their removal and how their removal will impact the quality of habitat for the species, as well as other species of interest.

Given the species' habitat requirements and ecology, Kral (1983) believed that selective logging of the swamp hardwood overstory might be compatible with population persistence. However, he cautioned that clear cutting could raise flood levels beyond the species' tolerance, and that drainage of occupied sites would almost certainly eliminate the species. Devall et al. (2001) believed that full recovery of this species would require establishment of new populations. They noted that clonal propagation appears to be an efficient way to generate plants for transplantation without damaging the original clones.

Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 29Oct2015
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Russo, M.J.(1995); rev. Amoroso/Maybury, 6/96, rev. Maybury 2003, rev. K. Gravuer (2008), rev. Treher (2015)
Management Information Edition Date: 16Dec2015
Management Information Edition Author: MARY RUSSO, NCNHP, rev. K. Gravuer (2008), rev. A. Treher (2015)
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 24Mar2003
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): K. Maybury

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Cooper, J.E., S.S. Robinson, and J.B. Funderburg (eds.). 1977. Endangered and threatened plants and animals of North Carolina. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina. 444 pp.

  • DeLay, L., R. O'Connor, J. Ryan, and R.R. Currie. 1993. Recovery plan for pondberry (Lindera melissifolia [Walt] Blume). Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, Atlanta, GA. 43 pp.

  • DeLay, L., R.O. O'Conner, and J. Ryan. 1990. Technical draft recovery plan for pondberry LINDERA MELISSIFOLIA (Walt.) Blume. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, GA. 52p.

  • Dean, B.E. 1988. Trees and shrubs of the Southeast. Birmingham Audobon Soc. Press. Birmingham, AL. 54-56p.

  • Devall, M., N. Schiff, and D. Boyette. 2001. Ecology and reproductive biology of the endangered Pondberry, Lindera melissifolia (Walt) Blume. Natural Areas Journal 21(3): 250-258.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiii + 590 pp.

  • Geo-marine, Inc. 1991. Pondberry profile: endangered species study. Unpub. report to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District. 31 pp.

  • Godfrey, R.K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 30602. 734p.

  • Godfrey, R.K. and J.W. Wooten. 1981. Aquatic and wetland plants of southeastern United States. Dicotyledons. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia. 933p.

  • Johnson, J., L. Reid, B. Mayfield, D. Duerr, and S. Fraedrich. 2007. New disease epidemic threatens redbay and other related species. Georgia Forestry Commision, South Carolina Forestry Commission, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Division of Forestry, and USDA Forest Service. Online. Availablie: http://www.state.sc.us/forest/idwilt.pdf (Accessed 2008)

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Klomps, V.L. 1980. The status of LINDERA MELISSIFOLIUM (Walt.) Blume, pondberry, in Missouri. Trans. Missouri Acad. Sci. 14:61-66.

  • Korte, P.A., and L.H. Fredrickson. 1977. Loss of Missouri's lowland hardwood ecosystem. Transcripts of the North American Wildlands Natural Resources Conference 42: 31-41.

  • Kral, R. 1983. A report on some rare, threatened, or endangered forest-related vascular plants of the South. USDA Forest Service Tech. Publ. RB-TP2, Athens, GA. 1305 pp. (Two volumes)

  • McCue, K. 2002. National Collection Plant Profile: Lindera melissifolia, Center for Plant Conservation. Online. Available: www.centerforplantconservation.org/asp/CPC_ViewProfile.asp?CPCNum=2573 (Accessed 2008).

  • Morris, M. Wayne. 1986. Lindera melissifolia in Mississippi. Castanea 51:226.

  • Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles, and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 1183 pp.

  • Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles, and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 1183 pp.

  • Richards, E.L. and S.L. Orzell. 1987. New locations for pondberry (Lindera melissifolia) in Arkansas. Proceedings Arkansas Academy Science 41: 114.

  • STEYERMARK, J.A. 1949. LINDERA MELISSAEFOLIA (LAURACEAE). RH ODORA VOL 51(608):152-162.

  • Small, J. K. 1933. Manual of the southeastern flora. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 1554p.

  • Steyermark, J.A. 1963. Flora of Missouri. Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames. 1728 pp.

  • Sutter, R.D., V. Frantz, and K.A. McCarthy. 1988. Atlas of rare and endangered plant species in North Carolina. North Carolina Dept. Agriculture, Plant Protection Section, Conservation Program, Raleigh, North Carolina. 174 pp.

  • Tucker, G.E. 1984. Status report on LINDERA MELISSIFOLIA (Walt.) Blume. 41p.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1986. Determination of endangered status for Lindera melissifolia. Federal Register 51(147): 27495-27500.

  • USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, PLANTS Database [USDA PLANTS]. http://plants.usda.gov/. Accessed 2015.

  • Wieland, Ronald. 2000. Grouping of presently delineated pondberry EOR's of the Delta National Forest. Mississippi Natural Heritage Program, Jackson, MS. 1 pp.

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