Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pondberry pursuits

Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia) is a federally endangered shrub, and Missouri has just one population on the Arkansas border at Sand Pond Conservation Area (and adjacent TNC property). I got to see it in bloom yesterday.

The area was hard hit by a severe ice storm in January of 2009. The largest overstory trees came crashing down, and the remainder were stripped of all their branches. You can see a large canopy gap in the photo below.

The pondberry was thriving in ankle-deep water at the base of this behemouth blown-down tree. See the person in the background for scale.

The pondberry appears to do best with specific hydrology: it tolerates being innundated with water, but apparently doesn't want water that is too deep (you can see here that it is growing only on the edges of this deeper pond. The water levels are most likely lower than usual this year: southern MO has had a relatively dry winter/spring). In other areas of the preserve, it is growing in somewhat drier areas. Although the pondberry has responded well to the canopy opening created by the ice storm, it is being outcompeted in the drier locations by greenbriar, poison ivy and other shrubs and vines which have also benefitted from the greater light levels. Pondberry seems to thrive only where it is just wet enough to keep the competition down.


Mike Whittemore said...

Never knew about this species. Spicebush is one of my favorites around SE Ohio. Hoping to see this species one day as well.

Susan said...

Pondberry differs in that it is shorter (2 m at most), branches less, has greener twigs, narrower brighter green leaves, and usually grows in habitats that are too wet for spicebush (although we saw them within 100 yards of one another at one of the colonies). Not known from Ohio, I'm afraid, so you'll have to come south to see it!