CPC Plant Profile: Piratebush
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Plant Profile

Piratebush (Buckleya distichophylla)

The compound leaves and green cylindrical fruit of this tree. Photo Credit: Tom Ward
Description
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Santalaceae
  • State: NC, TN, VA
  • Nature Serve ID: 137794
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 01/01/1985

The American Buckleya, a rare shrub of the Santalaceae family, has a very limited distribution (Sutter et al. 1987). Trees and herbs in this family are usually found in the tropics and are often parasitic or semi-parasitic (Harper 1947). Buckleya distichophylla has dioecious flowers and is semi-parasitic on hemlock roots (Musselman 1982). In addition to the American buckleya, a few more Buckleya species exist in China and Japan.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 08/31/2020
  • Propagation Research

Vegetative propagation: Sargent (1890) reported no success; Fordham (Arnold Arboretum) managed to obtain rooted cuttings by treating them with Amchem (5,000 ppm). Seed propagation: Fordham (Arnold Arboretum) successfully grew seedlings from seeds (over 50% germination after 2 or 3 months of cold stratification at 40F; no germination if started immediately).

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Currently there are only 30 occurrences ranked as viable with thirteen other extant occurrences. However, many populations are small, with only about 20-30 stems.

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

Urban development Road construction Over-collection Lack of frequent fire causing habitat succession Bankline erosion Falling limbs from the upper canopy

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

Current populations are unknown.

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

B. distichophylla was reported to also have an association with a number of pines, broad-leaf trees, forbs, grasses, and ferns. It is not known precisely at what stage of development, for how long, and to what degree this species is dependent on its host plant (Musselman and Mann 1979, Mowbray 1985).

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

An intensive monitoring and inventory project at Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve includes permanent sampling plots for Buckleya distichophylla. One intended outcome of the project is to delineate management units for future stewardship efforts. (VANHP 2000)

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

A management plan needs to be designed and implemented. Further research in B. distichophylla's parasitic biology and how it relates to the plant's various life stages. Fire ecology may play an important role in population stability and need to be investigated (Mowbray 1985). Identifying and monitoring populations would be useful in devising a protection plan.

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

Vegetative propagation: Sargent (1890) reported no success; Fordham (Arnold Arboretum) managed to obtain rooted cuttings by treating them with Amchem (5,000 ppm). Seed propagation: Fordham (Arnold Arboretum) successfully grew seedlings from seeds (over 50% germination after 2 or 3 months of cold stratification at 40F; no germination if started immediately).

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Nomenclature
Taxon Buckleya distichophylla
Authority (Nutt.) Torr.
Family Santalaceae
CPC Number 642
ITIS 501086
USDA BUDI
Common Names piratebush
Associated Scientific Names Buckleya distichophylla | Borya distichophylla
Distribution Found only at a few locations in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia (Howard 1977, Mowbray 1985, Ramakrishnan 1999).Eastern Tennessee: the type locality at Paint Rock (near North Carolina line);
State Rank
State State Rank
North Carolina S2
Tennessee S2
Virginia S2
Habitat

B. distichophylla inhabits mountain woods at river banks (low elevations). Locations with periodic wildfires appear to have the healthiest populations of this species (VANHP 2000).

Ecological Relationships

B. distichophylla has been long known to be semi-parasitic on hemlock roots. In Biltmore Herbarium, there exist specimens (collected as long ago as 1897) that demonstrate the haustorial connection with Tsuga canadensis. Since the ranges of B. distichophylla and Tsuga caroliniana overlap, Buckleya is assumed to live on Carolina hemlock, too. Indeed, some botanists consider the Carolina hemlock to be the original host plant.During the 80's, Buckleya was reported to also have association with a number of pines, broad-leaf trees, forbs, grasses, and ferns. It is not known precisely at what stage of development, for how long, and to what degree Buckleya is dependent on its host plant. The Japanese botanist S. Kusano provided information on Buckleya hosts as early as 1902. According to Kusano, the haustorial connections had been found with species of Cryptomeria, Abies, and Chamaecyparis, as well as 9 genera of dicotyledonous trees and shrubs. He was also able to establish Pinus and Torreya species as Buckleya host plants during his experiments. Seedlings grown in 1962 in the Arnold Arboretum flourished in their containers without Tsuga or any other host plant. More than 30 were planted in 1963 on Hemlock Hill, in the natural hemlock grove on the grounds, but all perished by the next year.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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