CPC Plant Profile: Scrub Ziziphus
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Plant Profile

Scrub Ziziphus (Ziziphus celata)

The star-shaped, yellow flowers of Ziziphus celata. Photo Credit: Steve Shirah
Description
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Rhamnaceae
  • State: FL
  • Nature Serve ID: 130164
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/08/1989

Florida ziziphus (Ziziphus celata) is one of the rarest and most imperiled plants in Florida. It is so rare that the taxonomists who named it thought they were describing an extinct species. And given its limited geographic distribution, small populations, lack of genetic diversity and reluctance to reproduce sexually, the taxonomists fear could still prove true. Florida ziziphus was named and described in 1984 from a specimen that had languished in an herbarium drawer for 36 years. No live plant was known to the taxonomists who described it (Judd and Hall 1984). But, beginning in 1987 (Delaney et al. 1989), six small populations of Florida ziziphus were discovered along a 35 mile stretch of the Lake Wales Ridge in Central Florida. Its natural habitat was probably longleaf pine/wiregrass sandhill, but today four of the six known populations are in pastures, where they have been subjected to mowing, periodic (unsuccessful) attempts at eradication, and trampling by cattle. A member of the buckthorn family (the Rhamnaceae), Florida ziziphus is a single or multi-stemmed woody shrub, 3 to 6 ft. in height. It has spiny, zigzag branches with small (less than 1 in. long) alternate leaves, shiny on their upper surface. The leaves are deciduous, falling in December before flowering begins in early January. Flowers are tiny--four fit neatly on the face of a dime--and are perfect, containing both anthers and a pistil surrounded by a nectar ring. Mature plants bloom profusely, with flowers numbering in the tens of thousands. The fragrant flowers attract legions of insects, including flower flies, bees, wasps and butterflies. Some floral visitors are quite noisy and on sunny mornings plants can be heard as well as smelled from several yards away. The fruit is a drupe about 1/2 in. in length that turns yellow as it ripens in late May. Most populations of Florida ziziphus consist of more or less distinct clumps of apparently disparate plants which, once examined genetically, turn out to be a single genetic individual (a clone). These clones are not only self-incompatibleincapable of producing offspringbut many clones are also cross-incompatible. Thus most populations do not reproduce sexually. Sterile populations can persist through vegetative growth, with new stems arising from an expanding root system, but long term viability requires the restoration of sexually-reproductive populations (Weekley et al. 1999).

Participating Institutions
Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 11/26/2021
  • Reintroduction

The known populations of federally endangered Ziziphus celata are in xeric yellow sand habitats along the eastern side of Lake Wales Ridge, FL. Since 2002, the Archbold Biological Station has carried out two major introductions comprising 430 potted transplants and 4728 seeds. Each introduction was an experiment. We compared establishment and vital rates of transplants vs. on-site seedlings emerged from seeds we had sown. In June 2002, we introduced 144 2-3 yr old potted plants and 1728 seeds to Carter Creek. Equal numbers were introduced into each of 36 5 m radius plots with one of 3 experimental treatments: burn-only, saw & burn, and control. At Tiger Creek in June 2005, we transplanted 286 1-2 yr old potted plants and 3000 seeds. In both sites, transplants outperformed seeds; cumulative transplant survival was 76.4% and 72.4% at Carter after 4.5 yrs & Tiger Creek after 2 yrs. Surviving seedlings were 3 or (0.17%) and 47 (1.57%) at Carter & Tiger Creek. Transplant survival was higher at Carter Creek, while seedgermination and seedling survival were higher at Tiger Creek.

Center for Plant Conservation
  • 08/20/2021
  • 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.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Genetic Research

The sexually mature population of Florida ziziphus comprises 11 genotypes (Weekley et al. in press, Godt et al. 1997). It is self-incompatible and many genotypes are also cross-incompatible (Weekley and Race 2001, Weekley et al. in press). Cross-incompatibility in Florida ziziphus is believed to be due to the sharing of self-incompatibility (SI) alleles. Based on current evidence, Florida ziziphus may consist of as few as three SI mating types. Further research is currently being conducted on cross-compatibility of previously untested crosses. Genotyping of 300+ seedlings is underway in preparation for an experimental introduction on a protected site within the historic range of the species.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Living Collection

An in vitro propagation protocol for this species has been developed at CREW (Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden) and research is ongoing to improve the protocol. Plants have been produced and sent to the ex situ collection at Bok Tower Gardens. A shoot tip cryopreservation protocol has also been developed.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Propagation Research

An in vitro propagation protocol for this species has been developed at CREW (Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden) and research is ongoing to improve the protocol. Plants have been produced and sent to the ex situ collection at Bok Tower Gardens. A shoot tip cryopreservation protocol has also been developed.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Cryo

Several genetic lines are maintained as tissue culture lines and as cryopreserved shoot tips at CREW.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Tissue Culture

Several genetic lines are maintained as tissue culture lines and as cryopreserved shoot tips at CREW.

Valerie Pence
  • 01/08/2018

Several genetic lines are maintained as tissue culture lines and as cryopreserved shoot tips at CREW.

Valerie Pence
  • 01/08/2018

An in vitro propagation protocol for this species has been developed at CREW (Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden) and research is ongoing to improve the protocol.  Plants have been produced and sent to the ex situ collection at Bok Tower Gardens.  A shoot tip cryopreservation protocol has also been developed.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

A Florida endemic known from only 2 small populations in Highlands and Polk counties. The region which this species inhabits is under extreme development pressure and both of the known sites are unprotected.

Carl W. Weekley
  • 01/01/2010

Habitat destruction Fire suppression Conversion of sandhill habitat for agricultural purposes

Carl W. Weekley
  • 01/01/2010

Six sites/populations: three populations each comprise a single genotype; two sites have two or three genotypes (Weekley et al. in press, Godt et al. 1997); the number of genotypes on the newly discovered sixth site is not yet known. At least four populations are self-sterile.

Carl W. Weekley
  • 01/01/2010

The sexually mature population of Florida ziziphus comprises 11 genotypes (Weekley et al. in press, Godt et al. 1997). It is self-incompatible and many genotypes are also cross-incompatible (Weekley and Race 2001, Weekley et al. in press). Cross-incompatibility in Florida ziziphus is believed to be due to the sharing of self-incompatibility (SI) alleles. Based on current evidence, Florida ziziphus may consist of as few as three SI mating types. Further research is currently being conducted on cross-compatibility of previously untested crosses. Genotyping of 300+ seedlings is underway in preparation for an experimental introduction on a protected site within the historic range of the species.

Carl W. Weekley
  • 01/01/2010

Two sites for Florida ziziphus are now protected--but these two sites (which are contiguous) comprise only two cross-incompatible genotypes. However, all known populations are currently monitored annually and site maintenance is conducted to control exotics.

Carl W. Weekley
  • 01/01/2010

Research on the reproductive biology, genetics, germination requirements and seed ecology of Florida ziziphus is ongoing.

Carl W. Weekley
  • 01/01/2010

The ex situ population at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, includes most of the known genetic diversity of the species. Additional material for the ex situ population will be collected in January 2002.

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Nomenclature
Taxon Ziziphus celata
Authority Judd & D.W. Hall
Family Rhamnaceae
CPC Number 4458
ITIS 196008
USDA ZICE
Common Names ancient ziziphus | Florida ziziphus | Florida jujube
Associated Scientific Names Ziziphus celata
Distribution Lake Wales Ridge in Polk and Highlands Counties, Florida
State Rank
State State Rank
Florida S1
Habitat

This species is thought to occur naturally on the periphery of turkey oak sandhills or yellow sand oak-hickory scrub communities. (USFWS 1999) However, most known species are persisting in pastures.

Ecological Relationships

In the one remaining natural population, Florida ziziphus co-occurs with sandhill species typical of southern Lake Wales Ridge sandhill.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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