CPC Plant Profile: Parker's Pipewort
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Plant Profile

Parker's Pipewort (Eriocaulon parkeri)

This plant can form dense stands in the right conditions--seen here as the shorter, white-flowering matrix of plants. Photo Credit: Bruce Sorrie
Description
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Eriocaulaceae
  • State: NY, PA, VA, CAN, CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NB, NC, NJ, ON, QC, RI
  • Nature Serve ID: 137877
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/25/1988

This small, herbaceous aquatic plant has a rosette of delicate, grass-like leaves and tiny, white flowers. It occupies fresh to brackish tidal river shores and deltas along the east coast of the United States and Canada. The plant once occurred from Quebec south to North Carolina. However, the species is declining in most states and provinces where it occurs, especially in the southern part of its range. It is presumed to have disappeared from the District of Columbia, New York, and Pennsylvania. Research and Management Summary: A number of individuals and institutions are researching different aspects of this species and its habitat, and limited management activities are being carried out. Plant Description: Eriocaulon parkeri is an erect herb with thin (2-5 mm wide), tapering leaves 2-6 cm long that grow in a rosette from the spongy base. The leaves are often translucent and show 3-9 nerves with many cross-veins, giving them a distinctive, netted appearance. The two to four leafless flower stalks (or "scapes") produced by a plant have 4-5 ridges; thus, the scape is angular in cross-section. These flowering stalks are 2.5-10 cm long and bear a button-like cluster of minutely hairy (or hairless) terminal flower heads that are 3-6 mm in diameter. Each tiny, unisexual flower has two sepals and two cream-white petals. A gland that produces nectar is positioned just below the tip of the petal. Plants flower from late July to September and produce capsules bearing two, elliptical 0.5 mm-long seeds.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 09/09/2020
  • Propagation Research

Schuster et al. (1999) from the University of Connecticut in Storrs are studying Parker's pipewort phenology and ecology in the Connecticut River estuary. These studies focus on determining the correlation between environmental variables (substrate condition and elevation) and population size and vigor.

  • 09/09/2020
  • Propagation Research

The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) has germinated plants from seed of this species (1994), and the plants flowered. However, all plants died following flowering, indicating that the species behaves as an annual rather than a perennial. The plants germinate after a period of cold, moist storage (either refrigeration/freezing or maintenance over winter outdoors). The closely related congener, Eriocaulon septangulare, germinated with 210 days of cold treatment and a 19oC/15 oC temperature (Muenscher 1936)

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Eriocaulon parkeri is restricted to tidal rivers and estuaries along the east coast of North America; it occurs in Quebec and New Brunswick and from Maine south to North Carolina. Approximately 114 occurrences are believed extant, with the most in Quebec, followed by Maryland, Maine, Delaware, and Virginia. Another 75 occurrences are considered historical, mostly in New Jersey, and 22 have been extirpated, mostly in New York and Pennsylvania. Population sizes vary greatly from year to year; some large, dense populations with over 10,000 plants are know, but many others are small. Population declines have occurred in most states and provinces from which this species is known, especially in the southern part of its range. It apparently was once abundant in the Delaware River Estuary, but has now disappeared from all sites along the River itself and from most other sites in the system; it persists in a few Delaware tributaries in New Jersey, but has been extirpated from Pennsylvania. It has also been extirpated from the Hudson Estuary and thus from New York state. There may also be some loss in the Chesapeake Estuary; it is considered historical in the District of Columbia. In New England, most historical sites are located in urban areas; two thirds of Connecticut sites are historical or extirpated. Threats include habitat loss/degradation due to shoreline development, hydrologic changes (e.g. from dams and floodgates), dredging and landfilling, changes in sediment dynamics (e.g. from management that changes stream velocity), water pollution, shoreline scouring due to ship traffic, ATV activity in the intertidal zone, and sea level rise from climate change.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Changes in hydrology from tide gates, dams, beavers, etc. that alter river levels and flooding regimes (Haines 2001) Changes in sedimentation regimes resulting in shoreline erosion or burial of plants Dredging of habitat and dumping of dredge spoi

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Eriocaulon parkeri is known from 50+ current occurrences, 31 of which are in Maine; 5 in Connecticut; 1 in Maryland; 4 in Massachusetts; 8 in New Jersey; 2 in Virginia (Haines 2001).

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) has germinated plants from seed of this species (1994), and the plants flowered. However, all plants died following flowering, indicating that the species behaves as an annual rather than a perennial. The plants germinate after a period of cold, moist storage (either refrigeration/freezing or maintenance over winter outdoors). The closely related congener, Eriocaulon septangulare, germinated with 210 days of cold treatment and a 19oC/15 oC temperature (Muenscher 1936). Schuster et al. (1999) from the University of Connecticut in Storrs are studying Parker's pipewort phenology and ecology in the Connecticut River estuary. These studies focus on determining the correlation between environmental variables (substrate condition and elevation) and population size and vigor. Donald Les (1999) and Leslie Mehrhoff, both of the University of Connecticut, are researching the effects of docks and piers on population vitality. This study will examine both the effects of existing coastal structures and recolonization rates in artificially disturbed and control sites. Contact Botanist David Snyder with the New Jersey Natural Heritage Program for more information on research activities on Eriocaulon parkeri in that state. Gerry Moore (Brooklyn Botanical Garden), has conducted many botanical surveys documenting occurrences of Eriocaulon parkeri in the Maurice River of New Jersey.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued a guide to minimizing discharges that impact rare aquatic plant species. Volunteer task forces of the New England Plant Conservation Program of The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) monitor populations of Eriocaulon parkeri in New England.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Field surveys to document the true distribution of the species Multi-year demographic studies to assess variability in population numbers and to analyze population viability Studies of correlations between distribution and habitat characteristics Field transplant experiments to determine precise habitat requirements of the species Studies of reproductive biology to determine flowering phenology, pollination mechanisms, pollen viability, seed production, seed longevity, seed dispersal, and seed dormancy and germination

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Studies are needed of its longevity in seed banks and seed storage, as well as the best methods for reintroduction of seeds or plants.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Eriocaulon parkeri
Authority B.L. Robins.
Family Eriocaulaceae
CPC Number 1675
ITIS 39196
USDA ERPA4
Common Names Parker's pipewort | estuary pipewort | ériocaulon de Parker
Associated Scientific Names Eriocaulon parkeri | Eriocaulon rollandii | Eriocaulon septangulare var. parkeri | Eriocaulon septangulare | Eriocaulon pellucidum f. rollandii | Eriocaulon septangulare f. rollandii
Distribution Eriocaulon parkeri is currently reported from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maine, as well as Quebec and New Brunswick in Canada.
State Rank
State State Rank
Canada N2
Connecticut S1
District of Columbia SH
Delaware S2
Massachusetts S1
Maryland S2
Maine S3
New Brunswick S2
North Carolina S1
New Jersey S2
New York SX
Ontario SRF
Pennsylvania SX
Quebec S3
Rhode Island SRF
Virginia S2
Habitat

Eriocaulon parkeri typically grows on firm, mostly submerged mud or silt-covered gravel or cobbles of open mudflats and tidal marshes in fresh to slightly brackish tidal rivers and estuaries. Plants appear to tolerate a variety of water chemistries (including high to low conductivity and fresh to brackish conditions). Plants occupy portions of the tidal zone that are submerged by daily tides and may be subject to scouring and other disturbance. In the northern portion of its range, Parker's pipewort is associated with common three-square, annual wildrice, common water-purslane, estuary beggar ticks, Eaton's beggar ticks, and Atlantic mudwort. Closer to the center of its distribution in southern New England and the mid-Atlantic, Parker's pipewort is associated with annual wild rice, common water-purslane, common arrowhead, pickerel weed, Eaton's beggar ticks, pygmy weed, golden club, and arrowleaf (Haines 2001).

Ecological Relationships

Cook (1996) suggests that plants in the Eriocaulaceae family are autogamous (self-pollinated) or entomophilous (insect-pollinated), while Gleason and Cronquist (1991) assume plants are either anemophilous (wind-pollinated) or entomophilous. Pollination may be affected by tiny mites that crawl around the flower heads of Eriocaulon species (Ruhland 1930, Schuyler 1990). Because these mites are not highly mobile, pollination most likely occurs between flowers on the same head, rather than among plants. Seeds may be dispersed by wind, water (Schuyler 1990), or waterfowl (Haines 2001).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Flies
Longlegged flies Long-legged flies Floral Visitor Link
Syrphid flies Syrphid flies Floral Visitor Link

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