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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) is a widespread species of terrestrial mangrove along tropical and subtropical coasts of the Americas and West Africa. It grows as a shrub or small tree on on the coastal mainland and on islands of a variety of sizes, down to the smallest vegetated islands (it is sometimes the only species of terrestrial vascular plant on an island). There are both "silver" and "green" morphs (with some intermediates), having highly pubescent (downy) and nearly glabrous (smooth) leaves, respectively. (Schoener 1988; Nettel 2008)

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Distribution

Range Description

This species is widely distributed in coastal communities in tropical America and West Africa (Tomlinson 1986). It can be found throughout Florida and to the Bahamas and West Indies south to Brazil. In the Eastern Pacific, it is present in Mexico through Central America to Ecuador and the Galapagos. It is also found in West Africa (Howard 1989). It was introduced in Hawaii, where it may possibly be invasive (Allen 1998, Chimner et al. 2006).

The distribution of this species throughout the south mid-Atlantic Islands should be confirmed.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: Shores of central and southern Florida including Florida Keys, Bermuda, nearly throughout West Indies from Bahamas and Cuba to Trinidad and Tobago and Dutch West Indies. On both coasts of continental tropical America from Mexico south through Central America and northern South America to Ecuador and Galapagos Islands and to Brazil (Little and Wadsworth 1964). Occurrence also known along the West African coast (Little and Wadsworth 1964 and Record and Mell 1924).

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The geographic range of Buttonwood includes the shores of central and southern Florida, including the Florida Keys; Bermuda; most of the West Indies; both coasts of continental tropical America from Mexico south through Central America and northern South America to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and Brazil; and tropical West Africa. (Little and Wadsworth 1964; Nettel et al. 2008)

Semple (1970) gives the distribution as "along the coasts of west tropical Africa, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of tropical and subtropical North and South America and throughout the West Indies". Semple notes that pubescent-leaved individuals (as well as the typical glabrous, or smooth-leaved ones) are restricted to the northern West Indies, southern Florida, and northern Central America.

Buttonwood has been introduced to Hawaii at least twice and the silver-leaved variety sericeus is still commonly planted as an ornamental. The green-leaved variety was introduced to Oahu before 1910, possibly from Florida, and the variety sericeus was introduced to Oahu from the Bahamas in 1946. Both forms of Buttonwood have escaped cultivation and established small wild populations on some islands. In contrast to Red Mangrove, which was introduced to Hawaii and is now very common and widespread there, Buttonwood has not shown much tendency to spread beyong the initial introduction sites. In Hawaii it is cultivated and sparingly naturalized in coastal areas of Kauai, Oahu, Lanai, and Molokai. (Allen 1998 and references therein)

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Physical Description

Morphology

Buttonwood is often shrubby in form (although it can grow to 6 meters or more in height) and usually grows on the landward side of tidal mangrove swamp forests. In Florida and the Caribbean, it is the only mangrove species with alternately arranged leaves. The lance-shaped or elliptic yellow-green leaves are long-pointed at both ends, leathery and slightly fleshy, 3 to 8 cm long and 1 to 3 cm wide. Leaves have slightly winged petioles, 0.5 to 1 cm long, with 2 dot-like glands. Leaf blade edges are untoothed and usually have several dot-like glands near vein angles on the lower surface. The fragrant greenish flowers are tiny, less than 2 mm across, and crowded in balls less than 6 mm in diameter in terminal and lateral clusters. Flowers are mostly bisexual, but some trees bear heads of male flowers. Purplish-brown rounded cone-like fruits are 1 cm in diameter and are composed of many scale-like 1-seeded fruits about 3 mm long. (Little and Wadsworth 1964)

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species typically grows in the intertidal regions of sheltered tropical and subtropical coasts (Saenger 2002) restricted in areas where the salinity does not exceed 10 g/kg (Chen and Twilley 1999). This species is considered a shrub or tree, growing to 1.5 - 10 m. Growth habit is prostrate in rocky or sandy habitats and erect elsewhere (Howard 1989). This species may demonstrate plasticity in leaf size/shape in response to wind sheer, having most 'streamlined' leaf when compared to the common western mangroves (red, black, and white) making it resilient to high winds (Barrera and Walter 2006).

This species includes ever-growing shrubs to small trees with no protected terminal buds, thus requiring dormancy in winter (e.g. south Florida populations) (Tomlinson 1986). Flowering and fruiting are continuous throughout the year (Hernandez and Espino 1999). C. erectus has non-viviparous seeds which float and can be dispersed by water. Seed production is high but many are aborted or do not germinate (Tomlinson 1986). Seed viability is shown to be <12% (Hernandez and Espino 1999). The stems can sprout vegetatively (post hurricane) but experimental rooting success of cuttings was shown to be limited (Benitez-Pardo et al. 2002).

This species provides habitat for a number of species including crabs and also bald eagles (Curnutt and Robertson 1994). As an integral component of most western mangrove assemblages, C. erectus helps buffer the upper edge of highly valuable intertidal mangrove habitats, thus helping to maintain critical habitat.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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Comments: In Puerto Rico, found in the mangrove swamp forests on silty shores near salt and brackish water, and sometimes also on rocky and sandy shores (Little and Wadsworth 1964). In general occurs along low muddy tide-water shores of lagoons and bays (Record and Mell 1924).

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Depth range based on 4 specimens in 1 taxon.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 1 - 1
 
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Buttonwood is found in mangrove swamp forests on silty shores near salt and brackish water, usually growing on the landward side. It may also occur on rocky and sandy shores (as an ornamental, it grows in much broader conditions). (Little and Wadsworth 1964)

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General Ecology

Ecology

A study of patterns of herbivore damage to Buttonwood leaves on 74 small islands in the central Bahamas found that leaves on islands inhabited by lizards were less damaged than leaves on lizard-free islands and that pubescent (silver) leaves showed less damage than others (Schoener 1988). Furthermore, the silver pubescent form was relatively more common (as measured by percent cover) on lizard-free islands than on islands with lizards (Schoener 1987). There is evidence that at least some insect herbivores prefer green (smooth) leaves to silver (pubescent) ones (Agrawal and Spiller 2004) and much evidence from herbivory studies on other plants that leaf "hairiness" can effectively deter herbivory. Experimental introductions of lizards have reduced leaf damage (Schoener and Spiller 1999). These findings suggest that the presence of insect-eating lizards may reduce damage to Buttonwood leaves caused by insect herbivores, and that in the absence of lizards pubescent-leaved Buttonwoods may be favored over smooth-leaved ones by natural selection as a result of their greater resistance to herbivory. The full story, however, is likely more complex than this. For example, Agrawal and Spiller (2004) note that the silver and green leaves differ in ways other than hairiness (for example, in nitrogen content and leaf toughness). They also report that silver morphs are more common on protected islands, while green morphs are more common on exposed islands, suggesting that the green morph may be favored in the disturbed environment on exposed islands. Thus, some environmental conditions may favor the green form, while other conditions favor the silver form, which could explain the persistence of this polymorphism, but more experimental work is needed to clarify these interactions. Spiller and Schoener (2007) found that after hurricanes, herbivory increased dramatically, as did the disparity between herbivory levels on islands with and without lizards. The authors attributed the increase in herbivory to a reduction in numbers of both lizards and predatory arthropods.

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

In a study of Buttonwood in Mexico, flowering and fruiting were found to be continuous, but seed viability was less than 12%. During the dry season, fewer than 5% of seeds germinated and only 1.6% of seedlings survived to flower after 25 to 28 months (Hernandez and Espino 1999).

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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Systematics and Taxonomy

In the northern portion of its range, silvery pubescent-leaved Buttonwood may occur along with the usual green smooth-leaved ones. These have historically been viewed as a distinct species, but today are treated either as a variety (Conocarpus erectus var. sericeus) or as examples of natural variation that do not warrant any distinct taxonomic status (Semple 1970).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

Nettel et al. (2008) have developed microsatellite markers for Buttonwood.

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Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Conocarpus erectus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 13
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Ellison, A., Farnsworth, E. & Moore, G.

Reviewer/s
Polidoro, B.A., Livingstone, S.R. & Carpenter, K.E. (Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinating Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is widespread and tolerant of a variety of habitats. Relative to the other mangrove species within the wider Caribbean, the conservation status of this species appears to be more stable. However, this species is threatened by the loss of mangrove habitat throughout its range, primarily due to extraction and coastal development, and there has been an estimated 17% decline in mangrove area within this species range since 1980. Mangrove species are more at risk from coastal development and extraction at the extremes of their distribution, and are likely to be contracting in these areas more than in other areas. It is also likely that changes in climate due to global warming will further affect these parts of the range. Although there are overall range declines in many areas, they are not enough to reach any of the threatened category thresholds. This species is listed as Least Concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Shores of central and southern Florida including Florida Keys, Bermuda, nearly throughout West Indies from Bahamas and Cuba to Trinidad and Tobago and Dutch West Indies. On both coasts of continental tropical America from Mexico south through Central America and northern South America to Ecuador and Galapagos Islands and to Brazil. Record and Mell (1924) report occurrence on the West African coast as well. In Puerto Rico, found in the mangrove swamp forests on silty shores near salt and brackish water, and sometimes also on rocky and sandy shores (Little and Wadsworth 1964). In general occurs along low muddy tide-water shores of lagoons and bays (Record and Mell 1924).

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Population

Population
Although there is no species specific population information, it can be assumed that there are areas of population decline throughout its range due to coastal development. However, this species is considered somewhat weedy in southern Florida (Tomlinson 1986).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Although local estimates are uncertain due to differing legislative definitions of what is a 'mangrove' and to the imprecision in determining mangrove area, current consensus estimates of mangrove loss in the last quarter-century report an approximately 17% decline in mangrove areas in countries within this species range since 1980 (FAO, 2007).

All mangrove ecosystems occur within mean sea level and high tidal elevations, and have distinct species zonations that are controlled by the elevation of the substrate relative to mean sea level. This is because of associated variation in frequency of elevation, salinity and wave action (Duke et al. 1998). With rise in sea-level, the habitat requirements of each species will be disrupted, and species zones will suffer mortality at their present locations and re-establish at higher elevations in areas that were previously landward zones (Ellison 2005). If sea-level rise is a continued trend over this century, then there will be continued mortality and re-establishment of species zones. However, species that are easily dispersed and fast growing/fast producing will cope better than those which are slower growing and slower to reproduce.

In addition, mangrove area is declining globally due to a number of localized threats. The main threat is habitat destruction and removal of mangrove areas. Reasons for removal include cleared for shrimp farms, agriculture, fish ponds, rice production and salt pans, and for the development of urban and industrial areas, road construction, coconut plantations, ports, airports, and tourist resorts. Other threats include pollution from sewage effluents, solid wastes, siltation, oil, and agricultural and urban runoff. Climate change is also thought to be a threat, particularly at the edges of a species range. Natural threats include cyclones, hurricane and tsunamis.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
There are no conservation measures specific to this species, but its range may include some marine and coastal protected areas. Continued monitoring and research is recommended, as well as the inclusion of mangrove areas in marine and coastal protected areas. Relative to the other mangrove species within the wider Caribbean, the conservation status of this species appears to be stable.

Recommended conservation measures for this species include more research on population sizes. Conocarpus erectus's range is well established but updates to population sizes, fluctuations or losses need to be continued. It is recommended to expand GIS mapping and remote sensing projects (e.g. Cohen and Lara 2003) and regional scale habitat mapping (e.g. Layman et al. 2006). Demographic modeling could be useful: research is needed to establish a minimum viable population size for the taxon, as past and present exploitative uses threaten to exert continued impacts throughout its range. Continued studies of post-hurricane recovery, restoration performance, in particular restoration of multispecies complexes and mangrove associates, are needed. The value of this mangrove upper boundary species to the protection/buffering of intertidal mangroves from land-based impacts should be better articulated in the literature.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: FIBER, Building materials/timber, Fuelwood, Other fuel, Tannin/dye

Comments: Used locally for fuel and for charcoal and rarely for construction. The bark contains considerable tannin.

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Wikipedia

Conocarpus erectus

Conocarpus erectus, one of two species in the genus Conocarpus, is a mangrove shrub and tree in the family Combretaceae growing on shorelines in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including Florida, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Central and South America from Mexico to Brazil on the Atlantic coast and Mexico to Ecuador on the Pacific coast, western Africa and in Melanesia and Polynesia. It was introduced in Kuwait because it can thrive in high temperatures and absorbs brackish water. English common names include buttonwood, buttonbush, button mangrove, button-tree, false mangrove, Florida button, Florida buttonwood, green buttonwood, grey mangrove and Zaragoza mangrove. See also the section Common names in other languages below.

Description[edit]

C. erectus is usually a dense multiple-trunked shrub, 1–4 m (3.3–13.1 ft) tall, but can grow into a tree up to 20 m (66 ft) or more tall, with a trunk up to 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter. The United States National Champion green buttonwood is 35 ft (11 m) tall, has a spread of 70 ft (21 m), and a circumference of 207 in (530 cm).[2] The bark is thick and has broad plates of thin scales which are gray to brown. The twigs are brittle, and angled or narrowly winged in cross-section. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple and oblong, 2–7 cm (0.79–2.76 in) long (rarely to 10 cm or 3.9 in long) and 1–3 cm (0.39–1.18 in) broad, with a tapering tip and an entire margin. They are dark green and shiny on top, and paler with fine silky hairs underneath, and have two salt glands at the base of each leaf.[3] The fruits are button-like (from which the common names derive), 5–8 mm (0.20–0.31 in) diameter, with no petals; they are produced in stalked panicles of 35-56 flowers. The fruit is a cluster of red to brown, small scaly, two-winged cone-like seeds, 5–15 mm (0.20–0.59 in) long. The seed heads burst when ripe, and the seeds are dispersed by water.

It is generally found growing in brackish water in tidal lagoons and bays, but can grow in inland habitats, with records at up to 745 m (2,444 ft) altitude in Costa Rica.[3]

Conocarpus erectus var. erectus

Taxonomy[edit]

There are two varieties, not accepted as distinct by all authorities:

  • Conocarpus erectus var. erectus - green buttonwood, leaves thinly hairy or hairless
  • Conocarpus erectus var. sericeus - silver buttonwood, leaves densely silvery-hairy

Uses[edit]

The tree is used as an ornamental plant and in bonsai. The variety sericeus, with silvery leaves, is especially prized for landscaping. It is an important host plant for epiphytes. As a result of ornamental planting, it has become naturalized in Hawaii. It has been used extensively in landscaping in Kuwait and became the most abundant tree/shrub. Conocarpus is widely believed to be fodder for the African buffalo, and it is understood that this is the source of their acidic urine.[citation needed]

The wood is sometimes used in cabinets; it is difficult to work but takes a smooth finish. It is also used as firewood, and is reported to be good for smoking meat and fish, as it burns very hot and slowly; it also makes high quality charcoal. The bark is high in tannin, for which it has been harvested commercially.

Common names in other languages[edit]

Conocarpus erectus is known by a variety of other names in various localities, including Asokolo, Asopolo, Botoncahui, Botoncillo, Botonillo, Chene Guadeloupe, Conocarpe Droit, Estachahuite, Geli, Gra Mangrove, Grignon, Grijze Mangle, Grijze Mangrove, Iztac-cuahuitl, Jele, Kaba, Kan-chik-inche, Kanche, Kank-ank-che, Kank-che, Madre de Sal, Mangel, Mangel Blancu, Mangle, Mangle Blanco, Mangle Boton, Mangle Botoncillo, Mangle Cenizo, Mangle Garbancillo, Mangle Gris, Mangle Jeli, Mangle Lloroso, Mangle Marequita, Mangle Negro, Mangle Pinuelo, Mangle Prieto, Mangle Roche, Mangle Torcido, Mangle Zaragoza, Manglier, Manglier Gris, Mangrovia Grigia, Mangue, Mangue Branco, Mangue de Botao, Maraquito, N Ja, Paletuvier, Paletuvier Gris, Pash-chuhnul, Pataban, Saragosa, Taabche, Tabche, Witte Mangel, Witte Mangro, Wortelboom, X-kanche, Xtabche, Yana and Zaragosa.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Conocarpus erectus L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2002-02-25. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  2. ^ "Florida State and National Champions 2009". Florida Division of Forestry. 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  3. ^ a b US Forest Service
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