Current Issue (86-2)

Natural and Cultural History of Xanthorhiza simplicissima

Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima Marshall, Ranunculaceae) is a low-growing deciduous shrub native to hardwood forests in the eastern United States. This review synthesizes existing knowledge about yellowroot’s natural and cultural history including traditional uses, contemporary applications, and future implications. Emphasis is placed on the southern Appalachian mountain region, which is the core of its cultural importance. Natural history and ethnobotanical knowledge about yellowroot were collected from published literature, oral histories, and field observations. While it was first described by botanists in the 18th Century, yellowroot was already a well-established and culturally significant plant to the Native peoples of southern Appalachia for centuries. At least 34 Indigenous medicinal and craft uses are documented, confirming that yellowroot was, and to an extent still is, a culturally significant plant for Indigenous people in the southern Appalachian region. European and African American settlers to the region also incorporated the plant into many of their folk traditions, and wild harvesting and cultivation continues to this day. Modern analytical techniques have identified key phytoactive compounds in yellowroot extracts, lending credence to its traditional medicinal uses and potential applications in modern medicine.

Modeling Habitat Suitability for Stewartia ovata Across the Southeastern United States

Mountain stewartia (Stewartia ovata) is a rare shrub or small tree endemic to the higher elevation regions of Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama with isolated populations occurring in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Mississippi. The species is often misidentified or overlooked by land managers and conservationists. As a result, mountain stewartia’s habitat and distribution descriptions are limited for restoration and conservation use. Modeling a species’ habitat suitability has become a critical first step in conserving rare and imperiled plant species. These models allow conservationists to locate previously undocumented populations and prioritize populations and habitats for conservation. This study presents a habitat suitability model for mountain stewartia across its known natural range based on maximum entropy (Maxent) modeling with nine environmental predictor variables and 60 occurrences from herbarium records (n=22), research-grade iNaturalist observations (n=25), and other author identified locations (n=3). The resulting habitat suitability map was classified into bins for spatial analysis. A total of 376,030 ha (0.44% of the study area) was designated within the top tier bin with the highest suitable habitat. Further, 133,344 ha (0.16% of the study area) of the top bin was found on publicly owned lands, indicating approximately 35.56% of the highest habitat suitability occurs within public lands. The presented model could allow plant conservationists to prioritize areas for conservation, reintroduction, and may lead to the discovery of previously undocumented populations.

Vascular Flora of the Christmount Preserve, Buncombe County, North Carolina

The Christmount Preserve is a botanically diverse and ecologically rich area of approximately 155 ha of southern Appalachian forest held in conservation easement. We conducted a floristic inventory of the preserve to inform conservation efforts on the property. Although the plant diversity within the preserve is an important attraction for residents and visitors, information on its flora is limited. This study builds upon a brief but informative 1996 report of the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program summarizing the preserve’s attributes as a natural area. A total of 317 specimens of vascular plants were collected during 2018–2020 to develop a vouchered flora of the preserve. These specimens documented 221 species in 165 genera and 84 families, 4.5% of which are not native to the Appalachian Mountain region. We found three plant taxa that are listed by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program: Coreopsis latifolia, Hypericum buckleyi, and Robinia hispida var. fertilis. Plant community types found on the property include large areas of Rich Cove Forest, Acidic Cove Forest, and Montane Oak-Hickory Forest, but also included small patches of Pine-Oak/Heath–High Elevation Subtype, a globally imperiled plant association, along the high ridgelines. The information presented here will be used to help guide management efforts as well as educational programming by the managing organization, Christmount Christian Association (CCA).