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Florida Skullcap

Florida Skullcap

Scutellaria floridana

Status Threatened
Listed May 8, 1992
Family Lamiaceae (Mint)
Description Perennial herb with swollen storage roots with long, linear leaves and solitary flowers with bell-shaped calyx.
Habitat Grassy vegetation on poorly drained, infertile sandy soils.
Threats Degradation due to cattle pasture development.
Range Florida

Description

The Florida skullcap is a perennial herb with swollen storage roots. This species' stems are little branched, solitary or in small groups. The leaves are opposite, 0.8-1.6 in (2-4 cm) long, linear, with the margins inrolled with a blunt, purplish tip. The solitary flowers are located in the axils of the short leafy bracts. The flower stalks are 0.2 in (5 mm) long. The calyx is bell shaped with a scutellum on its upper side. The bright lavender-blue corolla is about 1 in (2.5 cm) long. The corolla possesses a throat and upper and lower lip. The lower lip is centrally white. Flowering occurs in May and June.

Habitat

This species is restricted to the Gulf coastal lowlands near the mouth of the Apalachicola River. This species inhabits grassy vegetation on poorly drained, infertile sandy soils. The wettest sites are grassy seepage bogs on gentle slopes at the edges of forested or shrubby wetlands. This species also inhabits grass-sedge bogs (savannahs), which are nearly treeless and shrubless but have a rich flora of grasses, sedges and herbs. The Florida skullcap is most commonly found in seepage bog communities or savannahs such bay stringers.

Grassy savannahs and bogs are maintained by periodic fires. Lightning fires usually occur during the growing season. Fire during the growing season can stimulate and/or synchronize flowering in many species. The Apalachicola region has many endemic plant species, most of them are native to savannahs.

Savannahs have a greater economic value when they are planted with pine trees or converted to pasture. Prior to planting pines, the site is prepared by bedding and using other mechanical methods which are destructive to the vegetation.

This species is associated with the Eastern Gulf Coast Flatwoods. The Kuchler system places this species' habitat within the longleaf-slash pine ecosystem, restricted to flat and irregular southern Gulf Coastal Plains. Local relief is less than 300 ft (91.4 m). Much of this area is forested. The elevation ranges from sea level to 82 ft (25 m). This nearly level low coastal plain is crossed by many large streams, lakes and ponds. The average annual precipitation is 52-64 in (132.5-162.5 cm). The abundant rainfall and the many perennial streams are important sources of water. The dominant soils are aquults, aquepts, and aquods. These soils have a thermic temperature regime and an aquic moisture regime. They are also sandy and poorly drained or very poorly drained.

This area supports pine forest vegetation. Chalky bluestem, Indian grass, and several panicum species make up the understory. Palmetto, gallberry, and waxmyrtle are the dominant woody shrubs. Longleaf and slash pine are the major trees. The fauna associated with longleaf-slash pine forest include the white-tailed deer, raccoon, the opossum, tree squirrels, rabbits, and numerous species of ground-dwelling rodents. The bobwhite and the wild turkey are the principal gallinaceous game birds. Resident and migratory nongame bird species are numerous, as are migratory waterfowl.

Distribution

The historic range of the Florida skullcap is not known. The Florida skullcap is extant in Gulf, Franklin, and Liberty Counties, Florida in the Apalachicola National Forest. The limited population numbers and restricted range of this species implies a serious potential for extinction from stochastic events. Limited gene pool may depress reproductive vigor, or a single human-caused or natural environmental disturbance could destroy a significant percentage of extant individuals.

Threats

This species has fallen vulnerable to habitat degradation due to lack of prescribed fire and forestry practices.

Development of improved cattle pastures has probably destroyed habitat of this species. The forest products industry has modified the habitat by planting and harvest of slash pine and by the Forest Service planting of longleaf pine. Site preparation that precedes tree planting may destroy plants. Shading of this species by neighboring grasses and by pine trees after canopy closure most likely adversely affects the species.

Landowner liability for fire has discouraged prescribed burning of pineland in Florida which, also, may have adversely affected this species. The Forest Service conducts some prescribed burns during the growing season to reduce the incidence of brown-spot infection of longleaf pine seedlings.

Conservation and Recovery

The Forest Service is currently protecting this plant and its habitat; however, the area in which this species is found on Forest Service land is suitable for timber management. The current acceptable management practice of the Forest Service, such as intense mechanical treatments and target stocking densities, most likely threatens the viability of the Florida skullcap.

Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or threatened pursuant to the act include recognition, recovery actions, requirements for federal protection, and prohibitions against certain practices. Recognition through listing encourages conservation measures by federal, international, and private agencies, groups, and individuals.

This species is listed as endangered under the Preservation of Native Flora of Florida Law, which regulates taking, transport, and sale of plants but does not provide for habitat protection.

This species will be provided protection for its population located on Forest Service lands. Landowners and involved parties can be notified of the location and importance of protecting this species and its habitat.

Contacts

Regional Office of Endangered Species
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
http://southeast.fws.gov/

South Atlantic Fisheries Coordination Office South Florida
P. O. Box 2676
Vero Beach, Florida 32961
Phone: (561) 562-3909
FAX: (561) 562-4288

Panama Cities Fisheries Resource Office
1612 June Ave.
Panama City, Florida 32405
Phone: (850) 769-0552
FAX: (850) 763-2177

References

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 8 May 1992 "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status for Three Florida Plants." Federal Register 57(90): 19813-19819.

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