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Plant Profile

Bog asphodel (Narthecium americanum)

Narthecium mamericanum blossom with cricket nymph Photo Credit: Uli Lorimer
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Liliaceae
  • State: DE, MD, NC, NJ, NY, SC, TVA
  • Nature Serve ID: 796945
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/25/1988
Description:

This perennial lily, growing up to half a meter tall, graces pine barrens bogs with its beautiful yellow flowers in June and July. The species' stronghold is in New Jersey, although a few far-flung populations are reported from the Carolinas and Delaware. A few dozen small populations are scattered around the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where they line the margins of streams, cedar swamps, and bog mats that are periodically flooded and flushed by moving water. These plants are threatened by activities that change the local water regime, including dam-building by people and beavers and the conversion of swamps to cranberry bogs. Research and Management Summary: A handful of individuals and institutions have studied this species and it's habitat. No information on management activities is available. Plant Description: This lily rises from a cluster of erect, basal leaves up to 20 cm long. The 4-9 mm-long, bright yellow flowers are crowded in a raceme at the top of the single stem and produce 1 cm-long, pointed fruits with 8 mm-long, elliptical seeds.

Where is Bog asphodel (Narthecium americanum) located in the wild?

Habitat:

Stone (1911, 1912), in describing the species from New Jersey, identified its habitat as wet, sandy bogs, streams, and moist savannahs. Plants also inhabit quaking bog mats that are fed by \"\"\"\"springy seeps\"\"\"\" and the borders of white cedar swamps (Schuyler 1990). In general, Narthecium americanum grows in firm, sandy soils in areas that may be briefly flooded but do not accumulate deep standing water; Narthecium americanum does not tolerate stagnant water. Associated herbaceous species include: Aster nemoralis, Calamagrostis pickeringii, Calamovilfa brevipilis, Juncus caesariensis, Lophiola americana, Muhlenbergia torreyana, Platanthera integra, Pogonia ophioglossoides, Rhynchospora oligantha, Schizaea pusilla, and Tofieldia racemosa (Stone 1912, Schuyler 1990); Sphagnum moss is also well-developed in these sites.

Distribution:

Narthecium americanum is found in bogs and pine barrens of the coastal plain from New Jersey to South Carolina (Gleason and Cronquist 1991, NatureServe 2001). Tatnall (1946) reported two occurrences

States & Provinces:

Bog asphodel can be found in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee Valley Authority

Which CPC Partners conserve Bog asphodel (Narthecium americanum)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

  • 09/19/2020
  • Propagation Research

Leslie Duthie at Norcross Sanctuary (Monson, Massachusetts) has propagated the plants from cuttings.

  • 09/19/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) has successfully germinated seeds of N. americanum. Dried seed will germinate without refrigeration, but chilling improves germination. Stored seed remains viable for at least 7 years

  • 09/19/2020
  • Propagation Research

The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) has successfully germinated seeds of N. americanum. Dried seed will germinate without refrigeration, but chilling improves germination. Stored seed remains viable for at least 7 years

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

This showy wildflower species is confirmed extant only in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where it has been documented from about 70 localized occurrences, of which about 50 are extant. It occurs only in a scarce, specialized habitat, the Pine Barrens savannas which are open, boggy fens along a few slow-flowing Pine Barrens creeks or rivers. This savanna habitat has declined from several thousand acres about 1900 to only a thousand acres in recent decades. The majority of the extant populations are restricted to three adjacent tributaries of the Mullica River, in the center of the Pine Barrens. Although the plant is locally abundant at a few sites, with thousands of individuals, most populations are moderate or small in size. additional populations in New Jersey have been lost, and some of those remaining are currently threatened by woody succession, flooding by beavers, creation of cranberry bogs, or incompatible recreational activities. Those on private lands are also threatened by development. A few highly disjunct populations have been documented from Delaware, North Carolina, and South Carolina, but these are all believed lost, with Maryland and New York reports rejected.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Hydrological change -- Narthecium americanum is primarily threatened by changes to the local hydrologic regime. Increased inundation caused by beaver impoundments or by conversion of swamp habitat to cranberry bogs or recreational lakes has exterminate

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

35 extant populations (the only ones remaining of 60 historic occurrences) are known from New Jersey (NatureServe 2001). Since populations generally consist of fewer than 100 individual plants, the total world population is likely less than 3000.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Links between water chemistry, ecosystem function and plant community composition are being studied as of June 2000 in the Pine Barrens by Matthew Palmer, graduate student at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey (thesis advisor: Dr. Joan Ehrenfeld). The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) has successfully germinated seeds of N. americanum. Dried seed will germinate without refrigeration, but chilling improves germination. Stored seed remains viable for at least 7 years. Leslie Duthie at Norcross Sanctuary (Monson, Massachusetts) has propagated the plants from cuttings.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

No information is available on specific management activities addressing Narthecium americanum.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Field and greenhouse studies to identify factors that inhibit seedling establishment Long-term studies to determine how long populations can persist using only vegetative reproduction Population viability analysis from multi-year studies of several populations Field studies to quantify the prevalence of herbivory in populations and the degree to which this threatens viability Controlled-burn studies to determine thresholds of fire tolerance and the ecophysiology of seed germination and seedling colonization following fire Canopy removal studies that document the responses of plants to clearing and removal of shade Surveys of suitable swamp habitat in Delaware, Maryland, and the Carolinas to potentially identify more populations of the plant Molecular phylogenetic studies to determine relatedness of Narthecium americanum to the congeners N. asiaticum, N. ossifragum, and N. californicum.

Elizabeth J. Farnsworth
  • 01/01/2010

Seed longevity studies to determine whether propagules are recalcitrant or tolerant of storage If storage is feasible, seed should be collected from marginal or threatened populations Seed bank and survival of plants following germination

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Nomenclature
Taxon Narthecium americanum
Authority Ker-Gawl.
Family Liliaceae
CPC Number 2926
ITIS 42981
USDA NAAM
Common Names bog asphodel | yellow asphodel
Associated Scientific Names Abama americana | Abama montana | Narthecium montanum | Narthecium ossifragum var americanum | Narthecium americanum | Abama americana
Distribution Narthecium americanum is found in bogs and pine barrens of the coastal plain from New Jersey to South Carolina (Gleason and Cronquist 1991, NatureServe 2001). Tatnall (1946) reported two occurrences
State Rank
State State Rank
Delaware SX
Maryland SH
North Carolina SNR
New Jersey S2
New York SRF
South Carolina SH
Tennessee Valley Authority S
Ecological Relationships

Narthecium americanum reproduces both by seed and, more commonly, through vegetative propagation via rhizomes. Flowers appear in June and July, and form seed by a combination of selfing and cross-pollination via insect vectors (Summerfield 1974). Although copious amounts of seed may be produced and appear to germinate successfully, very few seedlings are found in wild populations of the plant (Schuyler 1990). This begs the question of whether seedling establishment is hindered by various ecological factors such as seed predation or seedling herbivory, but these factors have not been studied to date. A related lily, the rare swamp pink (Helonias bullata) suffers extensive herbivory by deer in similar Pine Barrens habitats (E. Farnsworth, personal observation); Narthecium americanum is impacted as well, and deer management is being promoted in New Jersey as a means to reduce herbivory on both species (Steve Eisenhauer, Natural Lands Trust, personal communication). Studies of the closely related congener, Narthecium ossifragum (Summerfield 1974), suggest that shading may inhibit both growth and reproduction of N. americanum. Low numbers of flowering stems are found in areas shaded by white cedar, where bogs are succeeding to forest (Schuyler 1990). Conversely, where stands of cedar have been killed by fire, locally dense patches of flowering Narthecium americanum have been observed, according to field forms from the New Jersey Natural Heritage Program. Therefore, Narthecium americanum may benefit from openings in the canopy. This species may also be somewhat fire-tolerant, if its rhizomes remain intact or it may recolonize following moderate burns. Work by Summerfield (1974) on N. ossifragum cautions that more extreme burns (which kill rhizomes) can greatly reduce the viability of populations, however.

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