Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Narrow endemic; confirmed extant as of 2005 in Maine, Maryland, New York, Vermont, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Brunswick and Quebec. Known historically from New Jersey. Incorrectly identified and reported from Connecticut.
POLEMONIUM VANBRUNTIAE is frequently confused with P. CAERULEUM and P. REPTANS, two other Jacob's ladders found in the northeastern United States. P. REPTANS, a native species, has fewer leaflets (11-17) than P. VAN-BRUNTIAE, has openly branching inflorescences and has longer pedicels. P. CAERULEUM, introduces from Europe and naturalized in the U.S., has sessile leaflets (in P. VANBRUNTIAE the leaflets are short-petioled) and has stamens which are barely exserted, in contrast to P. VANBRUNTIAE's lon-exserted stamens. A technical manual such as Fernald (1950) should be consulted when identifying any specimen of POLEMONIUM.
Catalog Number: US 48106
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): A. Van Brunt & C. Van Brunt
Year Collected: 1890
Locality: Balsam Lake., Ulster, New York, United States, North America
- Type fragment: Britton, N. L. 1892. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club. 19: 224.
Comments: POLEMONIUM VANBRUNTIAE occurs from New Brunswick and Quebec south to Maryland and West Virginia. It is nowhere common, but seems to be more abundant in New York state than anywhere else in its range. Approximately 19 current populations are known in West Virginia, totaling over 20,000 stems. In Maryland, approximately 9 populations total over 10,000 stems. The plant was known from a single historical site in New Jersey, and is presumed extirpated from that state. At least five historical populations were known in Pennsylvania; one of these was extant in 1986. One of the Pennsylvania populations (in the western part of the state) is known to have been destroyed by flooding. In New York, approximately 22 contemporary localities total over 50,000 stems. There are an additional 20 historical localities in New York. In Vermont, 5 small populations total over 1300 stems. Maine has a single known population, with fewer than 10 plants. Two contemporary and one historical population are known from the eastern townships in Quebec, but current field data are lacking (Lavoie 1991). A single population is known from New Brunswick, but it is not confirmed to be native (Hinds 1986).
POLEMONIUM VANBRUNTIAE is found in a variety of wetland habitats, including hardwood and softwood swamps, shrub swamps, marshes, bogs, lakeshores, woodland swales and seeps, spring runs, and wet roadsides, mostly at higher elevations (at least in the southern part of the plant's range). The Maryland populations (all in the western, mountainous part of the state) are at elevations between 2300 and 2700 feet. West Virginia populations are mostly at elevations of 2000-4000 feet. Elevations of New York populations range from 1190 to 3870 feet, with most of the populations between 1200 and 2500 feet. In Vermont, elevations range from approximately 350 to 1800 feet. It may be that elevations generally decrease with increasing latitude, but elevations of the Quebec and New Brunswick populations are not available to corroborate this.
It appears that this plant has a rather wide ecological tolerance; it is found in a variety of wetland types. Its rarity can probably not, therefore, be attributed to habitat scarcity. However, very little work has been done to actually quantify the habitat characteristics in successful or vigorous populations of this plant. Conversations with biologists familiar with the species point to some common features of habitats throughout its range: seepage water is a common (though not constant) feature; water is usually not standing above the surface for any significant period during the growing season (flooding seems to cause mortality); and open or partially open wetlands have the largest and most vigorous populations (the plant occurs in shaded sites, but populations tend to be small).
Ed Thompson (1990) and others have measured water pH at several populations in Maryland, finding pH levels of 6.6-6.7. Thompson describes the apparent ideal habitat as open areas influenced by circumneutral springs. He further proposes that the plant's pH range tolerance is rather narrow. Bartgis (1991) notes that most of the Maryland and West Virginia populations are associated with the Greenbrier limestone (the only major limestone formation in that area).
Associated plants listed by recent inventory workers attest to the wide variety of wetland habitats in which this species may be found. Many of these species are generalists, occurring in many kinds of wetlands; others are more habitat-specific. Associates include: ACER RUBRUM, ALNUS INCANA, CAREX STRICTA, OSMUNDA REGALIS, OSMUNDA CINNAMOMEA, CRATAEGUS SPP., CORNUS SPP., VIBURNUM SPP., SAXIFRAGA PENSYLVANICA, CAREX BROMOIDES, GLYCERIA CANADENSIS, VIBURNUM RECOGNITUM, CALAMAGROSTIS CANADENSIS, PHALARIS ARUNDINACEA, EQUISETUM SYLVATICUM, SENECIO AUREUS, URTICA DIOICA, SALIX SPP., LARIX LARICINA, THUJA OCCIDENTALIS, RIBES HIRTELLUM, PLATANTHERA DILATATA, ACONITUM NOVEBORACENSE, ILEX VERTICILLATA, PRUNELLA VULGARIS, SCIRPUS SPP., CAREX SPP., VICIA CRACCA, ONOCLEA SENSIBILIS, SPIRAEA LATIFOLIA, PLATANTHERA FIMBRIATA, IRIS VERSICOLOR, MIMULUS RINGENS, ERIOPHORUM SP., SPHAGNUM SPP., DROSERA ROTUNDIFOLIA, PICEA MARIANA, CIRCIUM MUTICUM, SPIRANTHES SP., ABIES BALSAMEA, TSUGA CANADENSIS, PICEA RUBENS, BETULA ALLEGHENIENSIS, FRAXINUS NIGRA, RHUS VERNIX, THALICTRUM POLYGAMUM, IMPATIENS CAPENSIS, CINNA LATIFOLIA, CAREX LEPTALEA and CAREX CRINITA.
Careful descriptive work is needed before any conclusions can be drawn about the habitat requirements of this species range-wide.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 - 300
Comments: Maryland (9), New York (31), Vermont (9), West Virginia (19), Quebec (9), Maine (1), Pennsylvania (1). There is one population in New Brunswick, CA; this occurrence was rediscovered from the 1800s.
POLEMONIUM VANBRUNTIAE probably reproduces both vegetatively and sexually, although the relative importance of each is not known (and probably varies from site to site).
Plants spread vegetatively by means of horizontal rhizomes, and it may be that large clones are formed in this manner. A preliminary investigation by Elizabeth Thompson in one Vermont population showed that numerous stems were connected underground. The size of the clone was not determined but it may have been as large as several tens of square feet (hundreds of stems). In the same vicinity were observed plants that had clearly originated sexually (they were discrete plants or clumps). Other biologists have not observed obvious clonal behavior; in Maryland, Ed Thompson describes plants as clumped, suggesting that clones are quite small.
The pollination biology of the plant is unknown, but Popp (1990) describes the species as a self-incompatible perennial which is probably bee-pollinated. Both Ed Thompson (1990) and Elizabeth Thompson have observed bumblebees (BOMBUS sp.) visiting flowering plants. Flowers are protandrous (at least in one Vermont population), a possible outbreeding mechanism.
Seeds have been successfully grown under greenhouse and garden conditions. William Brumback of the New England Wild Flower Society collected seeds in Vermont in 1986. They did not germinate well immediately, but germinated well outdoors when held dry under refrigeration until the following spring (1987). Seeds held dry under refrigeration until November 1987 also germinated well outside. Other germination experiments with these seeds were erratic (Brumback 1989). Seedlings from these experiments have been transplanted into the wild in Vermont and have survived a single growing season with mixed results (Popp 1990). Long-term monitoring of this experiment will provide valuable information on the biology of the species.
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled
Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Polemonium vanbruntiae occurs in the northeastern United States, New Brunswick and possibly in Quebec, Canada. The major portion of the range of this species is in New York, where more populations are expected to be found. More than 100,000 stems are thought to occur. Threats to this species have to do with alteration of water regimes, ATV traffic and succession (this species requires some disturbance). Trends are considered stable over time.
Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.
Comments: Open marshed, hillside seeps and wet meadows. This species doesn't appear to require calcareous seepage as it occurs on shale and if confirmed in Quebec it would be on serpentine.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: Some populations are subjected to development are under threat (more info. is needed). Threats in Vermont include mowing (roadside mowing), however, populations are able to reseed themselves from unmowed portions.
Global Long Term Trend: Increase of 10-25% to decline of 30%
Comments: Appears to be stable over time.
Degree of Threat: Medium
Comments: The major identifiable threats to this species are water regime perturbations (such as flooding), ATV traffic, heavy grazing and succession. Many of the sites are remote wetlands, so development is not considered a major threat to the species at this time.
One of Maryland's populations as well as one of Pennsylvania's were flooded by a recreational lakes. In West Virginia some occurrences are becoming shaded by succession and the lack of grazing (pers. comm. P. Harmon).
ATV use has been documented at very few sites, but many of the sites are vulnerable to such use, as well as to alteration by logging equipment.
Sites located in agricultural areas may be vulnerable to grazing, although occasional light grazing may benefit the species rather than harm it. It is unclear whether grazing animals (cattle or deer) eat POLEMONIUM VANBRUNTIAE; biologists have differing observations. One report suggests that grazing in one population has limited flowering (Harmon 1990); other biologists (Bartgis 1990 and Ed Thompson 1990) report seeing no evidence of grazing even in areas of heavy deer use.
There seems to be consensus among biologists familiar with this species that open wetlands are more suitable habitat than closed canopy wetlands. Therefore, succession may be a threat to some populations. Bartgis (1990) indicates that several West Virginia populations occur in areas which were grazed in the past, and he suggests that the plant may be in those areas as a consequence of openings created by grazing. Some of these areas may be threatened by succession. Many of the wetlands in which this species is found, however, are probably naturally open because of their water regime. In closed wetlands, natural perturbations such as windthrow provide openings in the canopy where the plant may colonize. While a subpopulation in one of these openings may become threatened by succession, other openings may appear and the plant presumably "moves around" within the wetland. None of this has been documented, however, so we can only cautiously assume that the plant does better in openings than in shade, and manage accordingly.
Populations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have disappeared for unknown reasons. More information on these populations may help in determining threats to the species.
Some sites may face immediate danger due to development pressure and natural succession. At one site in New York, it was noted that few plants flower under heavy canopy but these plants produce many flowers where sunlight reaches the forest floor. More research is needed to determine how long these plants might survive under heavy canopy without any successful reproduction.
Restoration Potential: POLEMONIUM VANBRUNTIAE has been successfully raised under controlled conditions (Brumback 1989 and Popp 1990) from seed gathered in the wild, and seedlings have been transplanted to the wild with some success. All of the transplants (84 plants in all) survived the first summer, although some of them appeared more healthy than others at the end of the season. None showed evidence of having flowered.
Two transplant sites were used. One was an opening about 100 feet by 40 feet with 100 percent ground cover and little canopy cover. Dominant species were CAREX CRINITA and IMPATIENS CAPENSIS, and BETULA ALLEGHANIENSIS was scattered. In September, the soil at this site was wet and saturated to the surface with some standing water. Many of the transplants at this site were in fair or poor condition at the end of the first season. The second site was an opening about 220 feet by 40 feet, with less ground cover than the first but considerably more canopy cover. In September the soil was moist, but not completely saturated. Most of the transplants here were in very good or good condition (condition was assessed by number of dead leaves on the plant). Because the experiment lacked controls, no conclusions can be drawn regarding habitat preference. However, the experiment does provide some useful information and seems to indicate that the plant can be propagated under greenhouse conditions and transplanted to the wild. The transplants will be monitored in subsequent years, providing more information.
In Pennsyvania, a natural population was transplanted to another site when the original site was to be destroyed by a dam. The transplants have apparently not been successful (Wiegman 1991).
No other recovery experiments are known. It is presumed that some undesirable habitat alterations (such as increased canopy cover, human or bovine traffic, and minor hydrological changes) can be reversed with success, but no restoration experiments have been done in POLEMONIUM VANBRUNTIAE habitat.
Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Protection of POLEMONIUM VANBRUNTIAE populations must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Many of the populations seem to rely upon seepage water; in these populations protection of the water regime would be necessary to protect the populations. In some cases this may require protection of the entire watershed of the wetland in which the population lives.
In general, each population should be provided with enough habitat to insure that activities outside the protected area will not affect the plants.
Management Requirements: It is unknown whether active management would benefit this species, but habitat observations suggest that canopy opening in some populations might be beneficial. More information is needed to verify this.
It is suggested that in some representative shaded populations, limited experimentation with canopy opening be done, and the populations carefully monitored. In certain small, shaded populations (such as the single Maine population), this may be the only hope for securing the population.
Management Programs: No active management for this species is known. The work in Vermont (Popp 1990) is regarded as experimental only.
Monitoring Programs: No formal monitoring programs of natural populations are known in any of the states or provinces where this species occurs (see discussion of introduced population under RECOVERY-POT). The Maine Natural Heritage Program (Department of Economic and Community Development, Augusta, Maine, 04333) intends to initiate monitoring of Maine's single population.
Management Research Programs: In Vermont, a transplant experiment is underway to determine the success of transplanting garden-grown seedlings into the wild. See RESTOR.POTENTL above, and Popp (1990).
Biological Research Needs: The following questions regarding the ecology and biology of this species need to be addressed before it can be managed properly:
Does woody encroachment cause decreases in population size or vigor?
What are the habitat characteristics (water regime, soils, pH, light) of the large and vigorous populations?
Can habitat characteristics of known populations be used with success to locate new populations?
To what extent does the plant reproduce vegetatively as opposed to sexually? Under what conditions is each method favored?
What are the pollinators?
How are seeds dispersed?
Under what conditions do seeds germinate and produce mature plants?
How long does it take a plant to reach sexual maturity? What are the negative and positive effects of trampling by grazing animals?
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Stewardship Overview: This plant cannot be regarded as globally imperiled, but it is rare and worthy of protection and possibly of management.
More information is needed before management programs can be implemented, but it is suggested that opening of the canopy may be advantageous in some populations, and this should be investigated and experimented with.
Preliminary results from transplant experiments in Vermont are encouraging; it appears that seeds gathered in the wild can be germinated and grown under greenhouse/garden conditions and seedlings returned to the wild with at least some degree of success. More information from this experiment will be useful.
Polemonium vanbruntiae is a species of flowering plant in the phlox family known by the common names Appalachian Jacob's ladder and Vanbrunt's polemonium. It is native to eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
This perennial herb grows erect from a horizontal rhizome, reaching one meter in maximum height. The leaves are each made up of 7 to 10 pairs of lance-shaped or nearly oval leaflets. The inflorescence is a corymb of purple-blue flowers with yellow centers. The stamens and style protrude from the bell-shaped corolla. This species is similar to Polemonium caeruleum and P. reptans. The plant reproduces sexually and vegetatively, by resprouting from the rhizome, forming large clumps of clones. Flowering occurs in June and July.
This species grows in wetlands, such as swamps, bogs, marshes, and wet spots on roadsides. It can tolerate a wide variety of wetland habitat types. The habitat is often saturated, but not flooded.
The main threat to the species is the destruction and degradation of wetland habitat, for example, by flooding during dam construction. Habitat is also lost outright in the conversion to agriculture and other uses. Succession may be a threat in some areas, as the plant's open habitat becomes shaded when large and woody vegetation moves in. It is adapted to some level of disturbance in the habitat.
This plant is sometimes cultivated for garden use.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: The species epithet formerly generally spelled 'van-bruntiae'; see cited example in ICBN (1988) Recommendation 73C.4(e): "vanbruntiae after Mrs. Van Brunt"
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