|beartongue, Eastern turkeybeard, grass-leaved helonias, mountain asphodel|
|Elizabeth J. Farnsworth|
The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
New England Wild Flower Society
The conservation of Xerophyllum asphodeloides is fully sponsored.
Elizabeth J. Farnsworth contributed to this Plant Profile.
Xerophyllum asphodeloides is a very unusual plant, and one of only two species in its genus in North America. Its various common names (beardtongue, turkeybeard) refer to the tuft of grass-like, long leaves that rings the base of the single, tall inflorescence bursting with showy white flowers. Its genus name, Xerophyllum, means "dry-leaved" and refers to the anatomical adaptations it has made to its xeric, rocky habitat, principally in mid-elevation sparse oak-pine glades along the Appalachian range. Its stronghold lies in 22 counties of interior Virginia, but it is found sporadically from New Jersey to West Virginia and Tennessee. It has been extirpated from Delaware and Kentucky.
Research and Management Summary:
A small number of studies have been performed on this species, and, to date, no information on management activities is available.
Xerophyllum asphodeloides is an herbaceous perennial with perfect, white flowers borne atop a stout spike that projects up to 1.5 meters from the base of the plant. A tuft of grass-like basal leaves (up to 40 cm long and 2 mm wide) arises from the thick rhizome. Flowers 1 cm wide open from bottom to top along the raceme, which can reach 30 cm in length.
Distribution & Occurrence
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Xerophyllum asphodeloides is found in two disjunct habitats that share the same features of dry, acidic sandy or gravelly soils. These two locations are the pine barrens of Ocean County, New Jersey, and mid- to high-elevation (1000 m or 2000-3000 feet) quartzite or granite ridges with xeric oak-pine glades along the Appalachian mountains of Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Both habitat types are dominated by various species of Pinus and Quercus with a sparse canopy, and a park-like understory with scattered shrubs and herbaceous species (including other rare and specialized species) that can tolerate dry, nutrient-poor conditions. In the mountains, these communities tend to occur on west or northwest-facing slopes, where the primary source of water to the system is rainfall and fog.
According to reports from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1983), Mueller (2001), Rawinski et al. (1994), and the reports of other botanists, Xerophyllum asphodeloides tends to co-occur with: Quercus prinus (chestnut oak), Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak), Pinus echinata (shortleaf pine), Quercus stellata (post oak), Sassafras albidum (sassafras), Pinus rigida (pitch pine), Aster dumosus (aster), Aster paternus (white-topped aster), Cypripedium acaule (pink lady's-slipper), Polygonella articulata (jointweed), Solidago odora var. odora (sweet goldenrod), Solidago puberula var. puberula (goldenrod), Trichostema dichotomum (blue curls), Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry), Hudsonia ericoides (golden heather), Hudsonia montana (mountain heather) Ilex glabra (inkberry), Kalmia angustifolia (sheep laurel), Leiophyllum buxifolium (sand myrtle), Lyonia mariana (staggerbush), Myrica pennsylvanica (bayberry), Pyxidanthera barbulata (pyxie-moss), Quercus ilicifolia (bear oak), Rhus copallinum (winged sumac), Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry), and Vaccinium pallidum (hillside blueberry). Kuser and Zimmerman (1995) also record Xerophyllum asphodeloides from around the margins of Atlantic white cedar swamps in the New Jersey pine barrens.
|Xerophyllum asphodeloides is reported from 41 counties across its range (USDA 2001), with unknown numbers of additional occurrences in New Jersey and Alabama. Data are insufficient for estimating the global population.|
Conservation, Ecology & Research
Its seeds may be able to form a dormant seed bank; ex situ studies indicate long-term viability of seed in storage (W. E. Brumback, New England Wild Flower Society, personal communication).
This species is well adapted to its dry habitat, as its thin, coarse leaves are clumped densely together in a compact tussock, which conserves water by minimizing evaporation.
The strikingly tall inflorescence of this species produces white, nectar-producing flowers, making it unique among the flora typical of this dry habitat. The flowers may attract moths and other flying pollinators; however, no literature has been published to date on pollination. Perfect (hermaphroditic) flowers may also be capable of self-pollination.
Patterns of herbivory, seed predation, and seed dispersal, are unknown.
The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) has successfully propagated Xerophyllum asphodeloides from seed and tissue culture, and maintains plants in the collection at Garden in the Woods. Seed collected in 1988 was still germinable in 1995, indicating that the species is capable of seed-banking. Dormancy can be broken using cold, moist refrigeration.
Norman A. Bourg and Douglas E. Gill at the University of Maryland have documented positive effects of fire on Xerophyllum asphodeloides (Bourg and Gill 2000).
Identification of pollinators, herbivores, and dispersal agents
Management trials in protected areas using controlled burns to promote establishment of Xerophyllum asphodeloides
Controlled reintroduction trials
Bourg, N.A.; Gill, D.E. Abstract presented: Ecological effects of fire on Xerophyllum asphodeloides, a rare Appalachian lily. Society for Conservation Biology Annual Meeting; Missoula, Montana. 2000.