CPC Plant Profile: Pondberry
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Plant Profile

Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia)

This fruiting, deciduous shrub can grow three to six feet tall. October, 2001, in southern Missouri. Photo Credit: Joe Ditto
Description
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Lauraceae
  • State: SC, AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MO, MS, NC
  • Nature Serve ID: 129236
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 05/28/1986

Pondberry is a pretty, medium sized shrub described by Steyermark (1963) as one of the rarest shrubs in the U.S. The plant flowers in early spring, before leafing out, and produces beautiful bright red fruits in late summer. Pondberry leaves are aromatic and have a strong lemon-sassafras aroma when crushed. This species is dioecious, meaning individual plants produce only male or only female flowers. However, once a male does not mean always a male. One plant growing at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) apparently has changed sexes! After many years of producing only male flowers, the pondberry at MBG produced fruit! Botanists speculate that in the year the plant made the switch, some branches produced male flowers and some branches produced female flowers--hence the ability to produce fruit. Since that time, the plant has produced only female flowers.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 09/19/2020
  • Reproductive Research

MBG collected male stems from the wild and are cultivating them ex situ as a pollen source for the one now-female plant at the Garden. With the production of seeds ex situ, further propagation studies will be conducted.

  • 09/19/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Devall et al. (2001a & b) are studying the ecology and reproductive biology of this species.

  • 09/19/2020
  • Living Collection

MBG collected male stems from the wild and are cultivating them ex situ as a pollen source for the one now-female plant at the Garden.

  • 09/19/2020
  • Propagation Research

MBG collected male stems from the wild and are cultivating them ex situ as a pollen source for the one now-female plant at the Garden. With the production of seeds ex situ, further propagation studies will be conducted.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

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.

Kimberlie McCue, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Habitat loss due to draining for agriculture or pine plantations Limited reproduction in the wild--many colonies are exclusively male

Kimberlie McCue, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Approximately 40 populations remain extant. The majority occur in Arkansas and Mississippi. A single wild population persists in southern Missouri. The number of stems in any given site varies from a few to several hundred.

Kimberlie McCue, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

MBG collected male stems from the wild and are cultivating them ex situ as a pollen source for the one now-female plant at the Garden. With the production of seeds ex situ, further propagation studies will be conducted. Devall et al. (2001a & b) are studying the ecology and reproductive biology of this species.

Kimberlie McCue, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Several colonies of L. melissifolia are being protected in state parks, National Forests, or other public natural areas. An experimental population of Pondberry was established in Missouri on Missouri Department of Conservation property.

Kimberlie McCue, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Prevent further loss of L. melissifolia habitat Study reproductive biology, seed biology, and seedling ecology Establish buffer zones around colonies in management areas

Kimberlie McCue, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Protect the genetic resources of L. melissifolia by establishing seed banks and propagating plants ex situ Implement public education programs

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Lindera melissifolia
Authority (Walt.) Blume
Family Lauraceae
CPC Number 2573
ITIS 194910
USDA LIME7
Common Names pondberry | Southern spicebush | swamp spicebush
Associated Scientific Names Lindera melissifolia | Benzoin melissifolium | Laurus melissifolia
Distribution Populations are scattered across the southeast U.S. The species is presumed extirpated in Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama. (Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission 2002)
State Rank
State State Rank
Alabama S1
Arkansas S2
Florida SX
Georgia S2
Louisiana SH
Missouri S1
Mississippi S2
North Carolina S1
South Carolina S2
Habitat

Given its name, it is not surprising that Pondberry occurs in seasonally flooded wetlands, sandy sinks, pond margins and swampy depressions. In Arkansas and Missouri, Pondberry tends to occupy depressions that form natural swamps or ponds. Populations in North Carolina occur in soil with sandy sediments and high peat content, while in South Carolina the plants occur at the margins of limestone sinks and undrained shallow depressions. (USFWS 1993)Overstory trees at Pondberry sites include, Quercus palustris, Acer rubrum var. drummondii and Liquidambar styraciflua. Also can be found with Pinus serotina and Pinus palustris.

Ecological Relationships

Unknown.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Ground-dwelling bees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Bees Suspected Pollinator Floral Link
Flies
Flies Suspected Pollinator Floral Link

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