A checklist of the vascular flora of Pike County, Alabama

A checklist of the vascular flora of Pike County, Alabama

Diamond, Alvin R Jr

ABSTRACT

The vascular flora of Pike County, Alabama was surveyed from 1987 to 2001. A total of 1190 species and two named hybrids in 589 genera from 160 families are reported. Forty-five species represented by herbarium specimens or reported in the literature as occurring in Pike County were not re-collected during this study. Thirty-four species appear on the Inventory List of Rare, Threatened and Endangered Plants, Animals and Natural Communities of Alabama as compiled by the Alabama Natural Heritage Program. Two hundred thirty-eight of the species, or approximately 20 percent of the flora, are considered non-indigenous. Families with the largest number of taxa were Asteraceae (140), Poaceae (137), Fabaceae (86), Cyperaceae (68), Rosaceae (40), and Liliaceae (32).

INTRODUCTION

Pike County lies in southeast Alabama approximately midway between Dothan and Montgomery along U.S. Highway 231, the major route between these cities (Figure 1). It is approximately 200 km north of the Gulf of Mexico, has an area of 1759 square km and an estimated population of 29,605 as of 2000 (United States Census Bureau 2001). Located entirely within the Coastal Plain Province, it is drained by the Conecuh-Patsaliga-Escambia and Pea-Choctawhatchee River systems. Both systems originate entirely within the Coastal Plain of Alabama and drain into the Gulf of Mexico at Pensacola, Florida, and Choctawhatchee Bay, Florida, respectively. Major streams within the county (from east to west) include the Pea River, Whitewater Creek, Conecuh River, and Patsaliga River.

The Gulf of Mexico moderates the climate, with temperatures averaging 26.67[degrees]C in July and 8.34[degrees]C in January [United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 1997]. Rainfall averages 132.715 cm annually and is distributed about evenly throughout the year, with October normally being the driest month (USDA 1997). The growing season is 230 + or – 10 days (1997). Land use in the county is divided among cropland (27,200 hectares), pasture and hay land (28,000 hectares), forest and wildlife land (107,600 hectares), and urban land (9,000 hectares). Major crops include peanuts (6,400 hectares), cotton (3,600 hectares), corn (2,600 hectares), small grains (1,200 hectares), vegetables (1,000 hectares) and the balance in rotation of crops (12,400 hectares), (unpubl. data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Troy, Alabama, 2000.)

Soils of Pike County are of sedimentary origin and consist of sand, gravel, clay, silt, siltstone, sandstone, and limestone. Geologic units exposed range in age from Cretaceous to Quaternary. The units, from oldest to youngest, are the Ripley Formation and the Providence Sand, which are of Cretaceous age; the Clayton and Nanafalia Formations and the Tuscahoma Sand, which are of Tertiary age; and terrace and alluvial deposits, which are of Quaternary age. The formations are exposed in bands that generally strike east-southeast. Most of the beds dip to the south-southwest at a rate of about 3 to 25 feet per mile (USDA 1997).

Two major subdivisions of the Coastal Plain Province occur in the county, the Blue Marl or Chunnennuggee Ridge region and the eastern division of the Southern Red Hills region (Harper 1943). Both regions have relatively flat uplands dissected by narrow valleys, with occasional prominent north-facing escarpments. The steep north faces of the escarpments escaped cultivation and the worst effects of logging. Many unusual or rare species have their only known sites within the county on these steep slopes.

History of Botanical Exploration

Although Europeans settled this county in the early 1800’s, it has not been carefully and thoroughly studied botanically. This study represents the first systematic survey of the vascular plants of Pike County in its entirety. Pike County was created in 1821 from portions of Henry and Montgomery counties. Its boundaries changed several times before being set in their current location in 1866 (Owen 1921). The Conecuh River, which enters the county in the northeast corner and exits at the southwest corner, obtains its name from a Creek Indian word and means “land of cane” in reference to the extensive thickets of bamboo [Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl.] that once lined this and many of the other water courses in the area (Riley 1881). One area of the county, known as the Pocosin, has been visited by many of the noteworthy botanist in Alabama over the years. In 1884, the eminent pioneering botanist Dr. Charles Mohr of Mobile published a description of the vegetation of the Pocosin in the ninth volume of the Tenth U.S. Census. The distinguished botanist, Mr. Roland M. Harper visited the area in 1906 in the company of Dr. Eugene Smith. Mr. Harper re-visited the area on November 6th, 1912, and again on March 27th, 1913 to photograph and study its vegetation. He published a list of species including several species not previously known to occur in Alabama (Harper 1914, 1939).

Dietz (1957) described the natural vegetation of Pike County based on witness trees from the General Land Office surveys from 1821 through 1846. He described four principal forest types: upland pines, upland pine-hardwood, upland hardwood, and bottomland hardwood. Of the 5218 witness trees, forty-five percent were pines and forty-nine other tree species were reported.

Delcourt (1980) in a paleoecological study of the sediments at Goshen Springs in southwestern Pike County concluded that the present fire tolerant southern pines had become dominant in the uplands of the area by approximately 4700 years ago.

Woods and Reiss (1998) conducted a study of the vascular flora of the Pike County Lake property located just south of Troy in the central portion of the county. That two-year study reported 274 species and varieties in 198 genera and 86 familes from the property.

Diamond et al. (2002) conducted a study of the flora of the Pocosin Nature Preserve located approximately 10 km east of Troy. They reported 348 taxa representing 247 genera and 97 familes from this eighteen-month study.

The woody plants of Alabama (including Pike County) were treated by Clark (1971), Duncan (1975), and Godfrey (1988). Robert Kral (1966a, 1966b; Kral and Bostick 1969) of Vanderbilt University has collected extensively in Alabama for many years, including Pike County. Short (1978) listed several species of Pteridophytes from Pike County. Additional sources checked for Pike County records include Dean (1961), Freeman et al. (1979), and Mohr (1901).

METHODS

All major plant communities and habitats in the county were sampled in this study. Many of these habitats showed the effects of human activities including roadsides, cultivated ground, waste areas, man-made impoundments, barrow pits, railroad and power line rights-of-way, and pine plantations. Relatively undisturbed habitats included beaver ponds, steep-sided slopes, and mesic hardwood ravines. Voucher specimens of all collections were deposited at the Auburn University Herbarium (AUA) with duplicates at the Troy State University Herbarium (TROY).

Identifications were made using primarily Manual of Vascular Flora of the Carolinas (Radford et al. 1968) and Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle (Clewell 1985). Nomenclature, in most cases, follows that of Kartesz (1994). References for special groups include Cronquist (1980) for Asteraceae, Freeman (1975) for Trillium, Hitchcock and Chase (1950) for Poaceae, Isley (1990) for Fabaceae, Lellinger (1985) for pteridophytes, Luer (1975) for Orchidaceae, Kral (1966a) for Xyris, Russell (1965) and McKinney (1992) for Viola, and Yates (1977) for Chasmanthium. Identification of Panicum and Dichanthelium species was by Dr. Michael LeLong at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Daniel F. Brunton provided identifications for Isoetes species.

Determination of native or non-native status of species was based upon published distributions and species accounts found in Clewell (1985), Cronquist (1980), Gleason and Cronquist (1991), and the Flora of North America (1993, 1997, 2000), as well as the author’s judgment for species native to other regions of Alabama.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

A total of 160 families, 589 genera and 1190 species and two named hybrids were collected or located in searches of the literature and major state herbaria. The largest families were Asteraceae (140 species), Poaceae (137 species), Fabaceae (86 species), Cyperaceae (68 species), Rosaceae (40 species), and Liliaceae (32 species). Taxa reported by others but not collected during the period of this research, a total of fourty-five species, are listed with citation of the reference or herbarium acronym following the entry. It is possible that some of these species have been eliminated due to human activity, e.g., Sarracenia leucophylla (Robert Dietz, pers. comm.). A search of the Troy State University Herbarium, and computerized searches of the collections of Auburn University and the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa were also undertaken. Specimens on file there but not collected during this project are listed with the herbarium acronym (AUA for the John Freeman Herbarium at Auburn University, TROY for Troy State University, and UNA for the Herbarium of the University of Alabama) following the entry. A total of thirty-four taxa from Pike County are listed by the Alabama Natural Heritage Inventory Program as endangered, threatened or of special concern in the state (Alabama Natural Heritage Inventory 2001).

Conecuh County, another county in the Coastal Plain Province of Alabama for which extensive collections exist and a county flora has been published, is located approximately 145 km west-southwest of Pike County (Diamond 1987, Diamond and Freeman 1993, Diamond unpubl.). Conecuh County has an area of 2,220 square km, slightly larger than Pike County’s 1,759 square km. There are 1057 species in 547 genera and 159 families reported from Conecuh County, as compared to Pike County’s 1190 species in 589 genera and 160 families. An estimated 15.6 percent of the Conecuh County flora is considered to be non-indigenous (165 species) as compared to 20 percent of the Pike County flora (238 species). This larger non-indigenous component of the Pike County flora is likely the result of past and present land use. Conecuh County is predominately rural and forested whereas Pike County has more agricultural and urban land. Many of the non-indigenous species collected in Pike County are associated with agriculture, being introduced either intentionally for crops or hay, or unintentionally as contaminants in feed or seed.

Floristic similarity between the floras of Conecuh County and Pike County was obtained by calculating a similarity coefficient as determined by Mueller-Dombois and Ellenberg (1974). This species-by-species comparison shows that the two counties share 75 percent of the total combined species reported from both counties. Given their proximity, and the fact that nearly half of both counties lie in the Red Hills subdivision of the Coastal Plain, this is not surprising. The difference between the two counties is most likely a result of past and present land use and the fact that areas of both counties lie in different subdivisions of the Coastal Plain.

ANNOTATED CHECKLIST OF VASCULAR FLORA

The species are seperated into the divisions Pteridophyta, Coniferophyta, and Magnoliophyta. Family names are arranged alphabetically beneith the divisions, and within each family the generic names and epithets are also alphabetized. An asterisk denotes species believed not to be native to Pike County. Rare species have the Alabama Natural Heritage Inventory global (G) and state (S) ranks indicated after their name in bold type. Species are ranked from one through five with five being the most secure and one being the rarest.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank Michael LeLong for identification of Panicum and Dichanthelium species and Daniel F. Brunton for identification Isoetes species. I would also like to thank the reviewers for their comments and suggestions for the improvemnt of this article.

LITERATURE CITED

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Received June 11, 2002; Accepted September 9, 2002.

ALVIN R. DIAMOND, JR.*

Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Troy State University, Troy, Alabama 36082

* email address: Adiamond@troyst.edu

Copyright Southern Appalachian Botanical Society Jun 2003

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