Overview

Distribution

Coastal sweetpepperbush occurs from Florida to east Texas, and north to
southern Maine, southern New Hampshire, Massachusetts, southeastern New
York, and eastern Pennsylvania [13,27].
  • 13. Hill, Nicholas M. 1989. Toxicodendron vernix added to the flora of Nova Scotia. Rhodora. 91(867): 242-243. [10902]
  • 27. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]

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Occurrence in North America

AL AR CT DE FL GA KY LA ME MD
MA MS NH NJ NY NC OH PA RI SC
TN TX VA VT WV

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: capsule, shrub

Coastal sweetpepperbush is a native, large, deciduous shrub that grows up to 8
feet (2.5 m) tall [8]. It has woody twigs and stoloniferous roots. The
bark is reddish-brown. The fruit is a capsule divided into three
sections [8,12,22].
  • 22. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606]
  • 8. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 12. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]

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Type Information

Type for Clethra alnifolia Blanco
Catalog Number: US 903690
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Unknown verification or is "ined."
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): N. Catalan
Year Collected: 1914
Locality: Mt. Makiling., Luzon, Laguna, Philippines, Asia-Tropical
Elevation (m): 950 to 950
  • Type: Blanco, F. M. 1845. Fl. Filip. 259.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat characteristics

More info for the term: swamp

Sweet peperbush grows in humid, tropical to temperate climates [3]. It
is found on moderate to poorly drained sites, in acid swamps or in sandy
soils [1,14,27]. Common overstory associates include cypress (Taxodium
spp.), Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), loblolly pine
(Pinus elliottii), slash pine (P. taeda), pitch pine (P. rigida),
eastern white pine (P. strobus), pond pine (P. serotina), spruce pine
(P. glabra), red maple (Acer rubrum), magnolia (Magnolia spp.), and
beech (Fagus grandifolia). Common understory associates include
laurelleaf greenbrier (Smilax laurifolia), switchcane (Arundinaria
tecta), inkberry (Ilex glabra), large gallberry (I. coriacea), zenobia
(Zenobia pulverulenta), swamp cyrilla (Cyrilla racemiflora), southern
bayberry (Myrica cerifera), and saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens) [3,15,17].
  • 1. Allen, Sarah D.; Golet, Francis C.; Davis, Anthony F.; Sokoloski, Thomas E. 1989. Soil-vegetation correlations in transition zones of Rhode Island red maple swamps. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report. 89(8): 47. [12763]
  • 3. Bramlett, David L. 1990. Pinus serotina Michx. pond pine. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 470-475. [13407]
  • 14. Johnson, A. Sydney; Landers, J. Larry. 1978. Fruit production in slash pine plantations in Georgia. Journal of Wildlife Management. 42(3): 606-613. [9855]
  • 15. Kossuth, Susan V.; Michael, J. L. 1990. Pinus glabra Walt. spruce pine. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654.. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 355-358. [13195]
  • 17. Little, Silas; Garrett, Peter W. 1990. Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.) B.S.P. Atlantic white-cedar. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 103-108. [13374]
  • 27. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the term: shrub

Coastal sweetpepperbush is very seldom a dominant species in plant communities.
It is listed as a dominant shrub in only one area in the Coastal Plain
of Virginia [25].
  • 25. Trousdell, Kenneth B. 1970. Disking and prescribed burning: sixth-year residual effects on loblolly pine and competing vegetation. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 6 p. [10190]

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the terms: hardwood, swamp

1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
13 Black spruce - tamarack
14 Northern pin oak
15 Red pine
20 White pine - northern red oak - maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
30 Red spruce - yellow birch
31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce - balsam fir
34 Red spruce - Fraser fir
35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir
37 Northern white cedar
38 Tamarack
40 Post oak - blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
43 Bear Oak
44 Chestnut oak
45 Pitch pine
46 Eastern redcedar
50 Black locust
51 White pine - chestnut oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
57 Yellow poplar
58 Yellow poplar - eastern hemlock
59 Yellow poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
61 River birch - sycamore
64 Sassafras - persimmon
65 Pin oak sweetgum
69 Sand pine
70 Largeleaf pine
71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak
72 Southern scrub oak
73 Southern redcedar
74 Cabbage palmetto
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine - oak
78 Virginia pine - oak
79 Virginia pine
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
84 Slash pine
85 Slash pine - hardwood
87 Sweetgum - yellow poplar
88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
96 Overcup oak - water hickory
97 Atlantic white cedar
98 Pond pine
100 Pondcypress
101 Baldcypress - tupelo
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
108 Red maple
109 Hawthorn

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

More info for the term: bog

K089 Blackbelt
K090 Live oak - sea oats
K091 Cypress savanna
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K094 Conifer bog
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K114 Pocosin
K115 Sand pine - scrub

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch

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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

Coastal sweetpepperbush can build up and create a fire hazard [28]. It can be
controlled with regular prescribed burning [25].
  • 25. Trousdell, Kenneth B. 1970. Disking and prescribed burning: sixth-year residual effects on loblolly pine and competing vegetation. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 6 p. [10190]
  • 28. Wade, Dale P.; Wilhite, Lawrence P. 1981. Low intensity burn prior to bedding and planting slash pine is of little value. In: Barnett, James P., ed. Proceedings, 1st biennial southern silviculture research conference; 1980 November 6-7; Atlanta, GA. Gen. Tech. Rep. SO-34. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station: 70-74. [7332]

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the term: shrubs

Coastal sweetpepperbush will probably sprout after fire. Severe fire or
regular prescribed burning greatly reduces coastal sweetpepperbush and other
common associate shrubs [2,25]. In National Forest lands in South
Carolina, coastal sweetpepperbush gradually increased in areas that had not
been burned for 3 years [5].
  • 2. Boerner, Ralph E. J. 1981. Forest structure dynamics following wildfire and prescribed burning in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. American Midland Naturalist. 105(2): 321-333. [8649]
  • 5. Devet, David D.; Hopkins, Melvin L. 1968. Response of wildlife habitat to the prescribed burning program on the National Forests in South Carolina. Proceedings, Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners. 21: 129-133. [14633]
  • 25. Trousdell, Kenneth B. 1970. Disking and prescribed burning: sixth-year residual effects on loblolly pine and competing vegetation. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 6 p. [10190]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the term: top-kill

Most fires probably top-kill coastal sweetpepperbush. Its stolons may be
killed by fires severe enough to consume the organic soil.

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Post-fire Regeneration

survivor species; on-site surviving rhizomes
off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2

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Fire Ecology

Coastal sweetpepperbush probably survives by sprouting from on-site
surviving stolons [25].
  • 25. Trousdell, Kenneth B. 1970. Disking and prescribed burning: sixth-year residual effects on loblolly pine and competing vegetation. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 6 p. [10190]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: shrub, shrubs

Coastal sweetpepperbush is a shade-tolerant understory shrub. It is a mid to
late seral species. It grows under the canopy of old-growth trees
[6,21]. Coastal sweetpepperbush either does not become a dominant shrub or
does not dominate for very long. Other shrubs such as switchcane
(Arundinaria tecta) dominate, with coastal sweetpepperbush reduced to a
subordinate [24,25,28].
  • 6. Duever, Michael J.; Riopelle, Lawrence A. 1983. Successional sequences and rates on tree islands in the Okefenokee Swamp. American Midland Naturalist. 110(1): 186-191. [14590]
  • 21. Ogden, J. Gordon, III. 1962. Forest history of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. I. Modern and pre-colonial forests. American Midland Naturalist. 66(2): 417-430. [10118]
  • 24. Shepherd, W. O.; Dillard, E. U.; Lucas, H. L. 1951. Grazing and fire influences in pond pine forests. Tech. Bull. No. 97. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State College, Agricultural Experiment Station. 56 p. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. [14546]
  • 25. Trousdell, Kenneth B. 1970. Disking and prescribed burning: sixth-year residual effects on loblolly pine and competing vegetation. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 6 p. [10190]
  • 28. Wade, Dale P.; Wilhite, Lawrence P. 1981. Low intensity burn prior to bedding and planting slash pine is of little value. In: Barnett, James P., ed. Proceedings, 1st biennial southern silviculture research conference; 1980 November 6-7; Atlanta, GA. Gen. Tech. Rep. SO-34. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station: 70-74. [7332]

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Regeneration Processes

Vegetative: Coastal sweetpepperbush sprouts from stolons [4].

Sexual: The flower of coastal sweetpepperbush is insect pollinated; the fruit
is probably distributed by animals [27].
  • 4. Braun, E. Lucy. 1961. The woody plants of Ohio. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. 362 p. [12914]
  • 27. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: geophyte, phanerophyte

Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (nanophanerophyte)
Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (microphanerophyte)
Burned or Clipped State: Cryptophyte (geophyte)

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Life Form

More info for the term: shrub

Shrub

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

Coastal sweetpepperbush flowers between July and August; the fruit ripens from
September to October [10,27].
  • 10. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 27. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Clethra alnifolia

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Clethra alnifolia

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Coastal sweetpepperbush is listed as threatened in Nova Scotia [29].
  • 29. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 1992. Canadian species at risk. Ottawa, ON. 10 p. [26183]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Other uses and values

More info for the term: succession

Coastal sweetpepperbush is sometimes used to arrest succession of tall trees
along pathways. It has been planted after herbicide application along
electrical transmission , telephone, railroad, roadside, and pipeline
right of ways, where low-growth woody vegetation does not interfere with
general operation [20].

Coastal sweetpepperbush has often been planted as an ornamental because of its
attractive and fragrant white flowers [4].
  • 4. Braun, E. Lucy. 1961. The woody plants of Ohio. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. 362 p. [12914]
  • 20. Niering, William A.; Goodwin, Richard H. 1974. Creation of relatively stable shrublands with herbicides: arresting "succession" on rights-of-way and pastureland. Ecology. 55: 784-795. [8744]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Coastal sweetpepperbush is of little value as a livestock or wildlife forage.
It is eaten by deer and cattle when other forage is limited [24].
  • 24. Shepherd, W. O.; Dillard, E. U.; Lucas, H. L. 1951. Grazing and fire influences in pond pine forests. Tech. Bull. No. 97. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State College, Agricultural Experiment Station. 56 p. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. [14546]

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Palatability

The palatability of coastal sweetpepperbush to white-tailed deer is considered
poor [18].
  • 18. Little, Silas; Moorhead, George R.; Somes, Horace A. 1958. Forestry and deer in the Pine Region of New Jersey. Station Pap. No. 109. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 33 p. [11681]

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Wikipedia

Clethra alnifolia

Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush, Anne Bidwell or summersweet), is a species of flowering plant in the genus Clethra of the family Clethraceae, native to eastern North America from southern Nova Scotia and Maine south to northern Florida, and west to eastern Texas.

It is a deciduous shrub growing to 1.5–3 m (4 ft 11 in–9 ft 10 in) tall. The leaves are obovate to oblong, 4-10 cm long and 2-4 cm broad, with a serrated margin; they are green turning yellow-golden during the autumn. The flowers are white or very pale pink, 5-10 mm in diameter, and have a sweet, somewhat cloying fragrance, the flowers attractive to bumblebees; they are produced in racemes up to 15 cm long and 2 cm broad in late summer, depending on the cultivar. The "pepper" part of the common name derives from the mature fruits, capsules which have a vague resemblance to peppercorns, however, with no element of spiciness.

'Ruby Spice' flowers

It grows in wet forests, pine flatwoods, wetlands, bogs and can be seen alongside woodland streams. It prefers a neutral to acid soil. The Nova Scotia population is small and endangered.

Uses[edit]

Sweet pepperbush is typically used as a shrub for natural gardens, or is placed alongside a stream or pond in order to delay erosion. Limiting its landscaping use is the fact that it does not leaf out until very late in the season. Several cultivars have been selected for garden use, including 'Ruby Spice', with strongly pink flowers; 'Hummingbird', for its dwarf size; and 'September Beauty'.

References and external links[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Flora of North America (vol. 8, 2009) accepts Clethra alnifolia and C. tomentosa as distinct species, C. alnifolia occurring from Nova Scotia to Florida, C. tomentosa occurring only in southerns states, from South Carolina to Florida, west to Louisianna. Kartesz (1999) included C. tomentosa in synonomy of C. alnifolia.

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Comments: Flora of North America (vol. 8, 2009) accepts Clethra alnifolia and C. tomentosa as distinct species, C. alnifolia occurring from Nova Scotia to Florida, C. tomentosa occurring only in southern states, from South Carolina to Florida, west to Louisianna. Kartesz (1999) included C. tomentosa in synonomy of C. alnifolia.

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Common Names

coastal sweetpepperbush
sweet pepper bush
clethra
poor man's soap
summer sweet

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The currently accepted scientific name of coastal sweetpepperbush is Clethra
alnifolia L. The Clethra genus is in the family Clethraceae and
consists of two species. There are two recognized varieties of coastal
sweetpepperbush [7,22]:

Clethra alnifolia var alnifolia L.
Clethra alnifolia var tomentosa (Lam.) Michaux
  • 22. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606]
  • 7. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906]

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Synonyms

Clethra tomentosa Lam.

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