Ecology and reproductive biology of the endangered pondberry, Lindera melissifolia (Walt) Blume
Lindera melissifolia [Walt] Blume (pondberry) is an endangered woody plant that grows in seasonally flooded wetlands and on the edges of sinks and ponds in six States of the Southern United States: Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It is a stoloniferous, clonal shrub up to 2 m in height and is dioecious, with small yellow flowers that bloom in spring. Information on its ecology and reproductive biology is sparse. The species has been affected by habitat destruction and alteration, especially timber cutting, clearing of land, and drainage or flooding of wetlands. Stem dieback was noted in populations in five States, but populations monitored for three years do not appear to be declining. Three fungal pathogens were isolated from stems. Flowers covered with mesh bags produced no fruit, and flowers that received supplemental pollination did not set more fruit than open-pollinated flowers. Seed production was erratic in populations in Mississippi and Arkansas, and no seedlings were noted even after seed production was high. Individual ramets can be easily transplanted and multiply rapidly. Successful dispersal is very limited now due to restrictive land use in areas surrounding pondberry populations and to changes in hydrology. Introduction of plants to new areas may be necessary if the species is to recover.