Sunday, November 30, 2014

New(ish) to Carolina & Not Wanted: Spurred Anoda

Spurred Anoda in Catawba County, NC
Image Date: 9/12//2013
Spurred Anoda (Anoda cristata) is poorly documented in the Carolinas and was listed as "rare" and known only from Mecklenburg Co, NC in the Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas (Radford, Ahles, Bell, 1964).

The native range of Spurred Anoda is unclear but likely includes the southwestern US, and South America (where it is also considered an agricultural pest). In Mexico, there are numerous references documenting the uses of this species for food and medicine; the plant apparently contains significant amounts of ascorbic acid, retinol, iron, proteins and carbohydrates (see Bautista-Cruz et al., 2011; Journal of Medicinal Plants Research).

In Virginia, the species has been documented relatively widely in the coastal plain but only rarely in the Piedmont ( An online search of the South Carolina atlas turned up only a single collection. In NC, the second documented report of the species comes from the northern Mountains,  "one of the three adventive species derived from bird seed waste" found growing under a bird feeder near Boone (see Poindexter et al., 2011; Phytoneuron).  I located what appears to be the 3rd known station for the species in NC in the Piedmont region (Catawba County) growing at the margin of a corn field along with a number of other agricultural weeds such as Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium), Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), Red Morning Glory (Ipomoea coccinea), and Pigweed (Amaranthus sp.).
Habitat location for Spurred Anoda in Catawba County along Carolina Thread Trail;
plants were growing at the very edge of the corn crop

Surprisingly, given the botanical status mentioned above, Spurred Anoda was listed as one of "Ten Most Troublesome Weeds In Cotton" in both NC and SC (see 2005 Proceedings, Southern Weed Science Society, 58).  In the Carolinas, it is unclear if the species is simply overlooked and under-collected by botanists or remains truly rare in NC & SC. The fact that Spurred Anoda appears to spread from commercial seed mixes is troubling and perhaps doesn't bode well for its future status in the state.

In the field, plants have light bluish/lavendar, 5 petaled flowers with radial symmetry, forming in the axils of leaves. Leaves are widest at the base, sometimes developing three lobes. Fruits, sometimes referred to as hemispheric schizocarps, are flattened, circular, segmented structures. Dense hairs are found on the stems, fruits, and less so on the leaves.  This is an annual which apparently spreads well from seed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Large-flowered Milkweed (Asclepias connivens)

Large-flowered Milkweed is one of the more distinctive milkweeds of the southeastern states, due to the unusually large, deeply cupped, individual flowers, that may reach nearly an inch across.

Individual flower (corona) of Asclepias connivens, displaying the "connivent" hood
Phylogentically, A. connivens is intermixed with African Milkweed species in clades developed by Fishbein (1996), providing some suggestion that our North American species may be derived from Africa; perhaps this implies this is also one of our more ancient species?

Large-flowered milkweed is a relatively narrow southeastern coastal plain endemic, ranging from extreme southeastern SC through coastal GA, into extreme southern AL, and across most of Florida, In the northern Florida panhandle, Asclepias connivens can be found in poorly drained, silty soil habitats that have been called wet flatwoods or prairies (Carr 2007); these sites have sparse tree canopies and well developed herbaceous layers.  The images included here are from two regularly burned sites taken on the same date. Plants at the most recently burned site were somewhat delayed in flowering compared to the site burned earlier in the season.

A. connivens coming into bloom in
standing water, recently burned savanna
(July 04, 2014)
A. connivens flowering in dense sward of grasses and herbs
under sparse canopy of longleaf pine
(July 04, 2014)

One of the sites could also be called a "wet savanna".  It had a sparse tree canopy of longleaf pine and a few Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendans), including the two tallest stems shown in the midground below.  Some naturally occurring slash pine (Pinus elliotii) were present (seeding in from the adjacent forested wetland), but most of the smaller stems were killed by the last prescribed fire. In addition to numerous stems of Large-flowered Milkweed other notable species included Toothache Grass (Ctenium aromaticum), Parrot Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia psittacina), Pale Grass Pink (Calopogon pallidus), and Tracy's Sundew (Drosera tracyi)
Awesome wet savanna on St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Thanks to Jeff Glitzenstein for getting me there!


Carr, S.C. 2007. Floristic and Environmental Variation of Pyrogenic Pinelands in the Southeastern Coastal Plain: Description, Classification, and Restoration. PhD Dissertation.

Fishbein, M.  1996. Phylogenetic Relationships of North American Asclepias and the Role of Pollinators in the Evolution of the Milkweed Inflorescence.  PhD Dissertation.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A few Southeastern Coastal Plain endemics

Shiny Woodoats (Chasmanthium nitidum)
Wet hardwood hammock,
limestone close to surface
St. Marks NWR, July 2014 

Probably the rarest Woodoats grass or Chasmanthium species in North America, the natural range of Shiny Woodoats (Chasmanthium nitidum) is almost entirely found in Florida. The grass barely finds its way into NC where it is considered threatened, being known only from Pender County. 

Chasmanthium latifolium;
the most widespread member of the genus

Scareweed (Baptisia simplicifolia)
Pine Flatwoods, regularly burned
St. Marks NWR, July 2014

One of the Wild Indigos,  or sometimes called "Scareweed", Baptisia simplicifolia is a narrow endemic confined to a couple counties in north Florida's panhandle.

Limited to open pinelands, this is one of the many fire-adapted species found in longleaf pine flatwoods. At the end of the growing season, stems break off above ground and the plant blows around like tumbleweed, helping to distribute seeds still found in the capsules. The vast majority of the world's population is found on the Apalachicola National Forest.


Eurybia eryngiifolia 
Apalachicola National Forest
July 2014
Bristly heads and leaves of Eurybia eryngiifolia

Thistle-leaved Aster (Eurybia eryngiifolia) is nearly endemic to the Florida panhandle, just barely extending into adjacent Georgia & Alabama. It is another pine flatwoods & fire-adapted species, closely associated with longleaf pine.  The scientific epithet (eryngiifolia) is a clear reference to the vegetative similarity to Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Green Silky Scale

Green Silky Scale (Anthaenantia villosa) is a southeastern coastal plain endemic grass species, ranging from eastern Texas to Florida and northward into NC.
A. villosa upright habit and dense, flowering panicle
Note charred longleaf bole and open wiregrass dominated habitat
Image date: Nov 06, 2012

In our area I have observed it only in recently burned longleaf-wiregrass habitats in the inner coastal plain and sandhills regions. Within these generally dry, deep sandy soil sites, the grass occurs in gentle depressions (sometimes called "bean dips") or gentle, almost imperceptibly subtle slopes which are slightly moister than the surrounding uplands.

It occurs in dense swards of grasses where it can be easily overlooked unless flowering. Like a number of other species in these habitats, it may only flower (or at least most profusely) the growing season immediately after burning and may increase as a result. Kush et al. 2000 (in Alabama longleaf pine) documented much greater frequency for this species in biennially burned stands as compared to unburned stands with the greatest frequencies in summer and winter burn units.

Green Silky Scale (foreground), amidst dense wiregrass (Aristida stricta)
Sampson Co., NC (October 20,2011)

Silky Scale clumps turning color in Fall
Nov 06, 2014


Silky scale develops small rhizomatously spreading clumps which appear to expand slowly. Basal leaves are narrow, smooth, and tapering to a narrow tip. According to Grelen & Duvall (1966) leaves are nutritious and palatable forage.

Inflorescences form tight, narrow panicles on upright stems (maybe 3.5' tall) late in the growing season. Individual spikelets are densely pubescent and tightly packed along the upper 8 or so inches of the stem (See image right).


Grelen and Duvall 1966, Common Plants of Longleaf Pine - Bluestem Range, Southern Forest Experiment Station Publication
Kush, J.S., R.S. Meldahl, and W.D. Boyer. 2000. Understory Plant Community Responseto Season of Burn in Natural Longleaf Pine Forests. Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference 21:33-39

Flooded Pitchers

Top Image: Mountain Sweet Pitcher (Sarracenia jonesii), Small tubes completely underwater, larger tubes barely emergent
Bottom Image: Purple Mountain Pitcher (Sarracenia purpurea var. montana) , Large rosette completely submerged by flowing water.. 
Both images taken October, 14, 2014.

Previous posts have introduced these Pitcher Plants, which occur on frequently saturated "boggy" substrate. I imagine they are rarely submerged, however, these images document this can happen. This Fall (October 2014), the site experienced a heavy rainfall (approximately 6"), causing an adjacent stream to spill over its banks and directly impact some individuals of both species. Surface water levels receded quickly and the next day there was no standing water remaining.

Both are important conservation targets due to their localized distributions, restricted habitat, very limited numbers of known populations and inherent risk for extirpation. Gaining a better understanding of the hydrology of occupied and historic sites may help us determine ways to permanently protect, and ultimately increase the populations.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Florida Paspalum - Where o where has it gone?

Florida Paspalum with stigmas and anthers (9/07/14)

Florida Paspalum (Paspalum floridanum) is one of our premier native, warm season grasses. Tall & robust, reaching heights of ~ 5 ', it produces large mature spikelets and seeds. These seeds are (or were) important food sources for quail, doves, and turkeys (Grelen and Duvall 1966).

Ranging throughout most of the lower eastern US, Florida Paspalum occurs and occasionally becomes dominant in a range of high quality, remnant habitats. A few of these include:
  • Florida dry prairies (Orzell & Bridges 2006) 
  • Texas Blackland prairies (Collins et al. what date), 
  • Arkansas & Missouri tallgrass prairies (Ruby 1953, Kelting 1982)
  • Longleaf pine forests & savannas of Georgia (Drew etal. 198), se LA (Roth et al. 2008)) and east Texas (Phillips et al. 2007)
  • Coastal or "cajun" prairies of south Louisiana  (Allen et al. 2001) 
  • Calcareous prairies of Georgia (Echols & Zomlefer 2010), Mississippi (Campbell & Seymour 2011) and Louisiana (Allen et al. 2004)
In Illinois, Verts (1965) found that all (remaining) stands of P. floridanum occurred within 25 yards of railroad rights-of-way, suggesting the sorry state of prairie-like remnants in that state.

In the North Carolina Piedmont, I have observed this species in the only frequently burned longleaf pine forest remaining in the state (near Troy, NC) and in a few remnant burned woodlands near Durham, one of which has been burned biennially for 10 years. It is also found on open roadsides such as the one shown below.

Florida Paspalum (8-13-14) on floristically rich roadside remnant in Granville Co, NC

P. floridanum in biennially burned "savanna" (9/09/13)

At a distance, the young leaves often display a bluish cast, reminiscent of Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium).

This tall grass species occurs with the remnant & disjunct prairie flora under the power-lines known as Picture Creek Diabase Barrens where Stanley (2013) listed it as "infrequent".  Interestingly, P. floridanum is apparently absent from a number of sites where other major prairie grasses are found in the southern Piedmont (Tompkins et al. 2010a, Tompkins 2013), as well as the infamous Suther Prairie (Tompkins et al. 2010b). Perhaps most surprisingly, it was not identified in a recent floristic study of 31 "rural rights-of-way" across the Piedmont (Adams 2012), a study region which including the locations of the pictures included on this page.

As P. floridanum begins to bolt and flower, spikelets emerge seemingly from the midst of the main stem leaves. They eventually overtop the stems but remain tightly arranged around the main stem (left below), later developing much more spreading (3-7 or so) branches (right below).  

P. floridanum bolting (9-07-2014), some nearby inflorescences already spreading
Following images: (left): 8/13/14 Granville Co, NC, (right): 9/07/14 Durham Co, NC

Paspalum floridanum spreading branches have begun to droop (8-23-14),
 note abundant bluish lower leaves in background


Adams, N.S. 2012. A Synthesis of Rights-of-way Native Plant Communities: 
Identifying Their Relevance to Historical and Contemporary Piedmont Savannas. Unpublished MS thesis.
Allen C.M., S. Thames, and L. Chance, and C. Stagg. 2004. Proc. 19th North American Prairie Conference 19-22.
Allen C.M., M. Vidrine, B.Borsari, and L. Allain.  2001. Proc. 17th North American Prairie Conference 35-41.
Campbell, J.J.N., and W.R. Seymour. The Vegetation of Pulliam Prairie, Chickasaw County, Mississippi: a Significant Remnant of Pre-Columbian Landscape in the Black Belt. Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences 56:248-263.
Collins, O.B., F.E. Smeins, D.H. Riskind. Plant Communities of the Blackland Prairie of Texas.
Drew, M.B. L. K. Kirkman, and A. K. Gholson.  The Vascular Flora of Ichauway, Baker County, Georgia: A Remnant Longleaf Pine/Wiregrass Ecosystem. Castanea 63: 1-24.
Echols, L, and W.B. Zomlefer. 2010. Vascular Plant Flora of the Remnant Blackland
Prairies in Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area, Houston County, Georgia. Castanea 75:78-100
Grelen and Duvall 1966, Common Plants of Longleaf Pine - Bluestem Range, Southern Forest Experiment Station Publication
Kelting, R. W. 1982. The Wah-Sha-She Prairie near Asbury, Jasper County, Missouri. Proc. 8th North American Prairie Conference 80-83.
Orzell & Bridges 2006.  Floristic Composition of the South-Central Florida Dry Prairie Landscape.  Proceedings of the Florida Dry Prairie Conference.
Phillips, T.C., S. B. Walker, B.R. & M.H. MacRoberts. 2007. Vascular Flora of a Longleaf Pine Upland in Sabine County, Texas. Phytologia 89:317-338.
Roth, et al. 2008. How Important is Competition in a species rich savanna. Ecoscience; 94-100
Ruby, E.S. 1958.
Stanley, J. S. 2013. Guide to the Vascular Flora of Picture Creek Diabase Barrens (Granville County, North Carolina). Unpublished MS Thesis.
Tompkins, R.D., W.C. Stringer, K.H. Richardson, E.A. Mikhailova and W.C. Bridges, Jr. 2010a. Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii: Poaceae) communities in the Carolinas: Composition and ecological factors. Rhodora 112:378-395.
Tompkins, R.D., C.M. Luckenbaugh, W.C. Stringer,K.H. Richardson, E.A. Mikhailova and W.C. Bridges, Jr. 2010b. Suther Prairie: Vascular flora, species richness and edaphic factors. Castanea 75:232-244.
Tompkins, R.D. 2013. Prairie-relict communities of a Piedmont monadnock. Castanea 78:185-197.
Verts, B.J. 1965. Notes on the ecology of Paspalum floridanum in Illinois. American Midland Naturalist 73