CPC Plant Profile: Fragrant Prickly-apple
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Plant Profile

Fragrant Prickly-apple (Harrisia fragrans)

This plant is a columnar cactus, showing the beginnings of a flower that will eventually reach 10 cm long and bloom at night. Photo Credit: Meghan Fellows
Description
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Cactaceae
  • State: FL
  • Nature Serve ID: 140375
  • Date Inducted in National Collection:

Harrisia fragrans is a columnar cactus endemic to south Florida. It may reach 3-5 m tall (reports vary), though it frequently has a sprawling, more horizontal growth form (Britton and Rose 1920, Benson 1982, USFWS 1988). The fragrant, showy, pink to white flowers reach 10 cm long and bloom nocturnally (Rae 1995). Fruits are orange-red and reach 5 cm in diameter.

Participating Institutions
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Updates
  • 09/15/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Fairchild Tropical Garden has some propagules, but would need to increase inventory if plans for establishing new populations are to be realized.

  • 09/15/2020
  • Seed Collection

Fairchild Tropical Garden has some propagules, but would need to increase inventory if plans for establishing new populations are to be realized.

  • 09/15/2020
  • Demographic Research

Work by Rae in the 1980's and 1990's have revealed several population and life history traits: long-term demographic studies 1994a) showed a 41% decline in number of individuals, as well as a general failure to recruit. Additional surveys between 1993 and 1996 showed another 40% decline. Reasons for this decrease in fitness are unknown, but may stem from vegetational changes and increasing canopy cover (USFWS 1999).

  • 09/15/2020
  • Demographic Research

Miami's Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) is currently conducting monitoring and research on this species.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

This species' habitat has been almost completely eliminated by development. The plants are also subject to horticultural collection. Only six occurrences, all in St. Lucie County, Florida, are currently reported in the Florida Natural Areas Inventory's database.

Jennifer Possley
  • 01/01/2010

Threats include habitat loss and resulting fragmentation, stochastic events, herbicide in St. Lucie County, off road vehicle recreation (USFWS 1988, 1999), canopy closure, which may lead to reproductive failure (Rae 1995), and possibly poaching.

Jennifer Possley
  • 01/01/2010

In 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that approximately 320 individuals exist in 11 small, disjunct sites in eastern St. Lucie County (these 11 sites were described as 3 sites, prior to habitat fragmentation). The number of individuals in Monroe county is unknown.

Jennifer Possley
  • 01/01/2010

Miami's Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) is currently conducting monitoring and research on this species. Work by Rae in the 1980's and 1990's have revealed several population and life history traits: long-term demographic studies 1994a) showed a 41% decline in number of individuals, as well as a general failure to recruit. Additional surveys between 1993 and 1996 showed another 40% decline. Reasons for this decrease in fitness are unknown, but may stem from vegetational changes and increasing canopy cover (USFWS 1999).

Jennifer Possley
  • 01/01/2010

Responsible agencies in Palm Beach County are private landowners, Savannas State Reserve and Walton Scrub Reserve. The extent of monitoring and management by park staff is unknown. Responsible agencies in Monroe County are unknown.

Jennifer Possley
  • 01/01/2010

Management needs include: habitat protection, a population inventory, continued and regular population monitoring regime (Rae 1994 b, Bradley et al. 2000) Implementation for habitat requirements, such as partial shade preference and communication by land managers in the two disjunct locales.

Jennifer Possley
  • 01/01/2010

Fairchild Tropical Garden has some propagules, but would need to increase inventory if plans for establishing new populations are to be realized.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Harrisia fragrans
Authority Small ex Britton & Rose
Family Cactaceae
CPC Number 873
ITIS 195401
USDA HAFR3
Common Names fragrant prickly-apple cactus | fragrant wooly cactus | Caribbean applecactus | fragrant prickly-apple
Associated Scientific Names Harrisia fragrans | Cereus eriophorus var. fragrans | Harrisia eriophora
Distribution In 1984, only one remaining population of this species was known from a short strip of land in St. Lucie county, Florida, with a second population having recently been extirpated from Malabar (Brevard
State Rank
State State Rank
Florida S1
Habitat

Harrisia fragrans can be found growing on dry sandy soil of coastal berms and early successional sand pine scrub (USFWS 1999, Coile 2000) and also on rockland hammock sites (IRC, personal communication). This species prefers partial shade (Rae 1994).

Ecological Relationships

It is believed that seeds from Harrisia fragrans are probably bird dispersed (USFWS 1999) as is evidenced by a discovery in the late 1980's of a new population on an island in the Indian River (St. Lucie County). It is speculated that young H. fragrans plants may have increased survival rates when associated with a """"nurse plant,"""" which facilitates success of the cacti by providing shade and support (USFWS 1999). Woodpeckers often peck holes in the stems, which may increase rot and stem death (USFWS 1999). H. fragrans can colonize bare sand, and may benefit from periodic mild disturbance (USFWS 1988). Life history traits found show that Harrisia fragrans prefers partial shade. This species reproduces both sexually and vegetatively (Rae 1995). Flowering occurs April-September, with peaks in May and September. Substantial numbers of fruit often remain on stems for 8 months out of the year. One fruit was counted as having over 700 seeds. Major structural growth occurs July through September (Rae 1995).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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