CPC Plant Profile: Britton's Bear-grass
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Plant Profile

Britton's Bear-grass (Nolina brittoniana)

A flowering stalk topped with a large, showy cluster of small white flowers. Also notice the symmetrical, 3-lobed capsule fruit. Photo Credit: © 1991 Steve Shirah
Description
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Liliaceae
  • State: FL
  • Nature Serve ID: 144304
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 08/12/1987

Nolina brittoniana is a perennial herb that is a member of the Agavaceae family. It has the typical agave-like long, stiff leaves in a grass-like clump that rise from a bulbous stem. The youngest leaves are erect while the older leaves (up to 6 feet long, 0.5 inch wide) spread on the ground. The flowering stalk reaches from 3 to 6 feet tall, and is topped with a large, showy cluster of small while flowers. Britton's beargrass flowers from March to May, but fruits, leaves, and growth habit are distinctive all year. Male and female flowers are usually borne on separate plants. Both plants are very conspicuous during flowering. The fruits are a papery, symmetrical, 3-lobed capsule, persisting through the summer (FNAI 2000). This species may be mistaken for Nolina atopocarpa, which is a related species that may occur in the same area as Nolina brittoniana. The two species can be distinguished from one another by the shorter leaves, green (rather than white) flowers, and asymmetric fruits characteristic of Nolina atopocarpa. (USFWS 1996)

Participating Institutions
Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 08/19/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

In 2021, CPC contracted Bok Tower Gardens to recollect seed from a population currently held in long term orthodox seed storage as part of an IMLS-funded seed longevity experiment. The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation will evaluate how germination tested viability and RNA Integrity of seed lots decline over time in storage.

  • 09/22/2020
  • Reproductive Research

An on-going study of the demography, breeding system, and genetics of N. brittoniana discusses the use of spatial data to analyze the geographic factors that influence genetic diversity in the species, and aid in protection and restoration efforts for N. brittoniana (USFWS 1999). [Less...]

  • 09/22/2020
  • Demographic Research

An on-going study of the demography, breeding system, and genetics of N. brittoniana discusses the use of spatial data to analyze the geographic factors that influence genetic diversity in the species, and aid in protection and restoration efforts for N. brittoniana (USFWS 1999). [Less...]

  • 09/19/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Menges (1996) found that, while most plants produce either male or female flowers, in a few cases a single plant has been found to produce both male and female flowers (making the plant polygamodioecious).

  • 09/19/2020
  • Genetic Research

An on-going study of the demography, breeding system, and genetics of N. brittoniana discusses the use of spatial data to analyze the geographic factors that influence genetic diversity in the species, and aid in protection and restoration efforts for N. brittoniana (USFWS 1999).

  • 09/19/2020
  • Propagation Research

Germination studies have been conducted at Historic Bok Sanctuary (formerly Bok Tower Gardens) to determine length of viability in seeds stored over a period of time.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

A Florida endemic with a habitat that is decreasing in quality and extent due to housing, citrus, and other development and disturbance. Currently, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory'a database contains 95 occurrence records, scattered along the Central Ridge, from Lake County to southern Highlands County, Florida. Populations generally consist of only a few individuals.

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Habitat loss to agricultural and residential development. Fire exclusion leading to overshading. (USFWS 1999)

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

75 sites were named on a FNAI survey, and of those, 8 to 10 are protected and managed in a attempt to recover the scrub habitat where they occur. (USFWS 1999)

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Germination studies have been conducted at Historic Bok Sanctuary (formerly Bok Tower Gardens) to determine length of viability in seeds stored over a period of time. Nolina brittoniana responds to fire with increased flowering one year post fire (Menges 1996). An on-going study of the demography, breeding system, and genetics of N. brittoniana discusses the use of spatial data to analyze the geographic factors that influence genetic diversity in the species, and aid in protection and restoration efforts for N. brittoniana (USFWS 1999). Menges (1996) found that, while most plants produce either male or female flowers, in a few cases a single plant has been found to produce both male and female flowers (making the plant polygamodioecious). Pollination is required for successful seed production (TNC 1995).

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Nolina brittoniana is protected and managed in 8 - 10 areas in an attempt to recover scrub species. N. brittoniana is present in most of the tracts targeted for acquisition by State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Polk and Highlands Counties. (USFWS 1999) This species is monitored and managed by the Lake Wales Ridge office of The Nature Conservancy.

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Conduct surveys for populations of Nolina brittoniana in Osceloa County. Continue surveys in Polk and Highlands counties and on protected lands. Protect and enhance existing populations. Continue research on life history characteristics. Monitor existing populations of N. brittoniana. Provide public information on Britton's beargrass. (USFWS 1999)

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Maintain ex situ collection. Conserve germplasm. (USFWS 1999)

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Nolina brittoniana
Authority Nash
Family Liliaceae
CPC Number 2960
ITIS 42990
USDA NOBR
Common Names Britton's bear-grass | Britton's beargrass
Associated Scientific Names Nolina brittoniana
Distribution Britton's beargrass occurs in Hernando, Highlands, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, and Polk counties of central Florida (Coile 2000)
State Rank
State State Rank
Florida S3
Habitat

Britton's beargrass occurs in a wide range of habitat types, from relatively open scrub to hammocks with closed canopies. All of the habitats where Britton's beargrass occurs are considered upland sites where soil is droughty and infertile, and are fire-dependent and fire-maintained ecosystems. The wide range of habitat types are very different in appearance, physiognomy, species composition, fire dynamics, and land use history, but are closely linked ecologically and historically (USFWS 1999).Nolina brittoniana is usually associated with evergreen oaks, saw palmettos, various shrub heaths, and xerophytic herbs. Britton's beargrass occurs in association with several rare and/or federally listed species: Polygala lewtonii, Polygonella myriophylla, Polygonella basiramia, Paronychia chartacea spp. chartacea, Persea humilis, Liatris ohlingerae, Hypericum cumulicola, Conradina brevifolia, Calamintha ashei, Bonamia grandiflora, and Ilex opaca var. arenicola. (Wunderlin et al. 1980)

Ecological Relationships

When in flower, N. brittoniana is pollinated throughout the day by a variety of visitors. There have been as many as 34 pollinators from six different families observed visiting N. brittoniana (Menges 1996).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Bees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Honey bees Apis mellifera Floral Visitor Link
Butterflies & Moths
Butterflies Confirmed Pollinator Link
Flies
Diptera Confirmed Pollinator Link

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