Overview

Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Md., Mich., Miss., Mo., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Va., W.Va.
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Global Range: This species grows throughout the Eastern United States (Kartesz, 1999) from Connecticut (Brumback and Mehrhoff 1996) and New York to southern lower Michigan (Penskar pers. comm.), southeast Iowa (Pearson pers. comm.); south to Texas and Florida (USDA-NRCS 1999). Found throughout South Carolina (Pittman pers. comm.); throughout Indiana (Homoya pers. comm.).

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Aristolochia hastata Nutt.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Aristolochia serpentaria var. hastata Duch.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Aristolochia serpentaria L.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Herbs , erect to decumbent, to 0.6 m. Young stem ridged, glabrous to hispid. Leaves: petiole 0.5-3.5 cm. Leaf blade lanceolate to ovate, 5-15 × 1-5 cm, base truncate to cordate, sinus depth 0-1.5 cm, apex acute to acuminate; surfaces abaxially glabrous or hispid; venation pinnate. Inflorescences from base of stem, an additional flower in axil of stem leaf, racemes; peduncle bracteolate, to 1.5 cm; bracteoles lanceolate, to 3 mm. Flowers: calyx brown-purple, bent; utricle pendent, pear-shaped to ovoid, 0.5-5 cm; syrinx present, ringlike, 1 mm, oblique; tube bent, cylindric, 1 cm; annulus smooth; limb purplish brown, 3-lobed, lobes 0.5 × 0.5 cm, glabrous; gynostemium 3-lobed, globose to crown-shaped, 1.5 mm; anthers 6; ovary 3-locular, to 1.5 cm. Capsule globose, 0.8-2 × 1-2 cm, dehiscence basipetal; valves 6; septa absent. Seeds rounded, ovate, 0.5 × 0.4 cm. 2 n = 28.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Aristolochia convolvulacea Small; A. hastata Nuttall; A. nashii Kearney; A. serpentaria var. hastata (Nuttall) Duchartre
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Type Information

Isotype for Aristolochia nashii Kearney
Catalog Number: US 228071
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): G. V. Nash
Year Collected: 1894
Locality: Lake Ella., Florida, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Kearney, T. H. 1894. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club. 21: 485.
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Isotype for Aristolochia nashii Kearney
Catalog Number: US 796853
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): G. V. Nash
Year Collected: 1894
Locality: Vicinity of Eustis., Lake, Florida, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Kearney, T. H. 1894. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club. 21: 485.
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Ecology

Habitat

Mesic forests; 50-1300m.
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Comments: This species is found in a wide variety of forested habitat conditions throughout its range, from rich, mesic forests to subxeric woods and clearings (Young pers. comm., Pearson pers. comm., Kunsman pers. comm.). In the core of its range, the species is most frequently found and most abundant in association with limestone (Kunsman pers. comm.), whereas toward the southern and southeastern edge of its range in the piedmont and coastal plain, it is found over other, non-basic substrates (Schafale pers. comm., Schotz pers. comm.). It is frequently encountered on rocky slopes and near summits in oak-hickory or other hardwood forests (Kunsman pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Pittman pers. comm., Pittillo pers. comm.). In Alabama it is often associated with Pinus echinata and Cornus florida (Schotz pers. comm.). It is rare in high-nutrient rich coves, at mid- to low elevations in the mountains and foothills of North Carolina (Kauffman pers. comm.).

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: Likely several thousand populations rangewide. Alabama: >100; Connecticut: 6; Iowa: >6; Illinois: thousands; Maryland: >75; Michigan: >17; North Carolina: about 25 on USFS land (Kauffman pers. comm.); New York: 3; Pennsylvania: hundreds; South Carolina: hundreds; Tennessee: 46+ (Brumback and Mehrhoff 1996, APSU 1999).

This species is obscure and easily overlooked -- probably more occurrences could be found throughout its range (Pearson pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm.); routinely seen throughout Indiana (Homoya pers. comm.). Since this is such a common species throughout much of its range, these numbers can only be estimates. Additional information on species distribution and the number of populations can be gleaned from county occurrence dot maps (USDA-NRCS 1999).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering late spring-summer.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Aristolochia serpentaria

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


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Aristolochia serpentaria

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: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: This species has a very broad range and is frequently encountered in a wide variety of wooded habitats across its range. Populations are often small. Furthermore, steady habitat loss and collection pressure may have led to an overall decline in the abundance of this species, with the trend continuing. Very little is known about the life cycle and dispersal of pollen and seeds for Aristolochia. The uncertainty in abundance and trends in population status suggests concern but also the need for further monitoring. Dellinger (pers. comm.) suggests that the taxon as presently understood may represent multiple entities meriting taxonomic recognition.

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Threats

Comments: Information from reliable sources indicates that the species is collected from the wild throughout its range, at very low levels; Corbin (pers. comm.) indicates that he has heard that much of the collection is centered in rural Kentucky; also collection permits were given out until last year for collection from Hoosier National Forest in Indiana --this species was the 4th most-collected medicinal herb there until all permits were cancelled recently (Jacquart pers. comm.); Suggs (pers. comm.) reports that he has observed intensive collection at sites in North Carolina.

There is presently only a very small market for this species, primarily by alternative medicine practitioners (Blakley pers. comm.). This species is difficult to work with because of its toxicity, which is likely inhibiting its use on a more widespread level (Blakley pers. comm.). At present, its American market is restricted to low levels, primarily as an ingredient in some tonics (Hardy pers. comm.). Apparently, this species is being actively sought on the Chinese and Korean black market, where it gets prices between $15-30 per pound (dry weight; Corbin pers. comm.). Wildcrafters and tradesmen are very quiet and proprietary about how much is collected and where (Suggs pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Corbin pers. comm.), so information on amounts is very difficult to come by. Most or all material on the market is from wildcrafted sources (Blakley pers. comm., Fletcher pers. comm.).

This species is not cultivated for the medicinal market (Blakley pers. comm.). As with many other forest herb species, it is probably cultivated at very small scale levels for regional native plant ornamental markets.

A person knowledgable about the herbal medicinal trade says that the plant receives minor use, on the order of 1000 pounds of dry root per year (M. McGuffin pers. comm.).

As with all native forest herbs, habitat conversion and urban/rural development are significant direct threats (Homoya pers. comm., Pittman pers. comm., Kunsman pers. comm., Pearson pers. comm., Frye pers. comm.). Equally significant threats include habitat fragmentation and displacement by exotic species (Homoya pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Frye pers. comm., Enser pers. comm.). Locally, limestone quarrying is one of the development pressures on this species given its affinity for limestone substrate (Kunsman pers. comm.).

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Management

Biological Research Needs: Further work on the demography of this species is needed to determine minimum viable population sizes. A better understanding of the natural history, breeding system, and genetic variation both within and between populations is also desirable. Better identification and delineation of habitat requirements, perhaps through habitat modeling research, would be an important part of identifying potential sites and guiding searches for this species. Clarification of taxonomic confusion is an important step for the conservation of this taxon (Dellinger pers. comm.). There is also a need to develop adequate propagation techniques for cultivation of this species, and to determine sustainable collection levels from healthy, wild populations (Kauffman pers. comm.; Blakley pers. comm.).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

Production Methods: Wild-harvested

Comments: Prices for this species were found as follows:

Southeast U.S., black market: $15-30/lb (dry)

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Wikipedia

Aristolochia serpentaria

Aristolochia serpentaria is a species of perennial flowering plant in the Aristolochiaceae (birthwort) family. The species is commonly known as Virginia snakeroot and is native to eastern North America, from Connecticut to southern Michigan and south to Texas and Florida.[1][2]

Protection[edit]

Virginia snakeroot is considered an endangered species in New York, where no reports of the species were made for the century between 1895 and 1994, when it was rediscovered in the Hudson Highlands. Since then, other scattered populations have been observed in the state.[3]

The plant is also rare in Connecticut, where it is on that state's list of species of special concern.[4] In Michigan, its status is "Threatened."[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aristolochia serpentaria USDA Plants Profile (2011-11-28)
  2. ^ a b Aristolochia serpentaria Michigan Natural Features Inventory (2011-11-28)
  3. ^ Virginia Snakeroot New York Natural Heritage Program (2011-11-28)
  4. ^ Virginia Snakeroot Connecticut Botanical Society - Wildflowers (2011-11-28)


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Notes

Comments

Inflorescences of Aristolochia serpentaria often bear closed flowers that appear to be cleistogamous. Leaf shape varies greatly between populations, especially with regard to leaf width and size of basal lobes. This variability is especially interesting because eastern pipe-vine swallowtail butterflies, Battus philenor philenor (Linnaeus), use leaf shape as a search image when looking for Aristolochia leaves on which to lay their eggs. 

 The dried rhizome, called Virginia snakeroot or serpentary, is a popular herbal tonic. In small doses, it is a gastric stimulant and diuretic. Large doses can cause violent gastric distress and respiratory paralysis (J. A. Duke 1985). The rhizome contains aristolochic acid and trimethyl amine, both potential carcinogens.

Several Native American tribes used Aristolochia serpentaria for diverse medicinal purposes, including treatment of rheumatism, various pains, obstructions, worms, toothaches, sore throats, fever, sore noses, and colds, as a tonic, and mixed with saliva for snake bites (D. E. Moerman 1986).

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: This species is highly variable in form; Kartesz (1999) does not recognize subspecies or varieties within it. The halberd-leaved individuals are sometimes recognized as a unique variety (A. serpentaria var. hastata) or sometimes as its own species (A. hastata) (USDA-NRCS 1999).

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