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Protecting Pondberry

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Sunday, October 10, 2010

ANHC’s System of Natural Areas protects a number of rare, threatened and endangered plants. One of these plants is pondberry (Lindera melissifolia). Federally listed in 1986, this endangered plant’s survival is significantly threatened by loss, alteration and fragmentation of habitat including land clearing, hydrological alteration, timber harvesting, leveling of mound/depression topography, and road building. St. Francis Sunkenlands Natural Area, one of the newest additions to the System, protects a portion of the largest known population of this shrub.

Pondberry is a medium-sized shrub that grows in a variety of seasonally flooded wetland habitats, including bottomland hardwood forests. It is a perennial, deciduous shrub that grows 1 ½ to 6 ½ feet tall. The plants spread vegetatively and grow in clones of numerous stems. Pale yellow flowers appear on stems in early spring before leaves have developed. Bright red fruits appear in late summer and mature in fall, often persisting on the plants after leaves have died. When crushed, pondberry leaves smell like lemony-sassafras.

Learn how to tell the difference between pondberry and it's relative, spicebush, in this article.


Both images are pondberry growing at St. Francis Sunken Lands.

St. Francis Sunken Lands Natural Area is located in Poinsett County, and ANHC holds a conservation easement on the 80-acre property. The 26,000+ acre St. Francis Sunken Lands Wildlife Management Area (WMA) lies adjacent to the natural area and is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. It protects additional populations of and suitable habitat for this endangered plant.

ANHC also protects pondberry at Stateline Sand Ponds Natural Area (Clay County), Swifton Sand Ponds Natural Area (Jackson County) and Coffee Prairie Natural Area (Ashley County).



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