Rough-leaved Loosestrife

views updated

Rough-leaved Loosestrife

Lysimachia asperulaefolia

ListedJune 12, 1987
FamilyPrimulaceae (Primrose)
DescriptionPerennial herb with whorls of three or four leaves at intervals on stems.
HabitatTransitional zone between pine uplands and pond pine thickets.
ThreatsLoss of wetlands, fire suppression.
RangeNorth Carolina


Rough-leaved loosestrife, Lysimachia asperulaefolia, is a perennial herb that grows from a rhizome. A cluster of slender stems grow from 1 to 2.6 ft (30-80 cm) tall. Three or four leaves are arranged in a whorl at intervals along the stems. Showy yellow, five-petaled flowers bloom from mid-May through June. Fruits develop from July through October.

Rough-leaved loosestrife can be distinguished from a similar species L. loomisii by its broader, glandular leaves and larger flowers.


This species generally grows in a transitional zone between longleaf pine uplands and lower-lying pond pine thickets, called pocosins. This transitional zone is typically composed of moist, seasonally saturated sands or of shallow organic soils overlaying sand. It has also been found on deep peat in the low shrub community of "Carolina bays," which are shallow, poorly drained depressions that dot the Carolina landscape. This grass-shrub zone is maintained by periodic wildfire. Associated vegetation includes pine-scrub oak, savannah, flat-woods, and pocosin.


In North Carolina, the plant was historically documented from seventeen sites, eight of which no longer support the plant. Three populations in Brunswick County, and others in Pender, Cumberland, Beaufort, Pamlico, and Onslow counties have been eliminated.

Rough-leaved loosestrife was collected as early as 1817 from Richland and Darlington counties, South Carolina. But a survey of these collection sites in 1984 did not locate the plant at either location, and it appears to have disappeared from the state.

Rough-leaved loosestrife is currently known from nine population centers, totaling 58 sites in North Carolina and one site from South Carolina. Thirty-three of these sites occur on land owned by the military, nine on land owned by the U. S. Forest Service, five on state-owned (North Carolina) land, and 12 on privately owned land, including five populations on Nature Conservancy land and one in a registered natural area.

In 1991, a very large population was found on Fort Jackson, in Richland County, South Carolina. This was the first population to be found in South Carolina in this century. In North Carolina, perhaps the most vigorous population of loosestrife is found in Brunswick County at a site owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy.


By the late 1980s, more than 50% of the known populations of this plant had been eliminated, largely by drainage and conversion of wetlands for agricultural, residential, or industrial development. Altered water flows at some sites has affected plant vigor. However, since that time, efforts such as controlled burning at some sites have helped restore habitat, and federal legislation protecting wetlands and restricting the draining of wetlands have been enacted.

Prior to the mid-1980s, fire suppression, especially at military bases such as Fort Bragg, had been practiced for perhaps 30-50 years; the only areas burned were those where training activities caused fires that were confined and extinguished. Fire suppression is a serious problem for the species. Without fire, the habitat is gradually overtaken by the shrubs of the adjacent pocosins. Shrubs increase in height and density until they overtop the loosestrife, which is intolerant of shade.

Conservation and Recovery

Renewed use of prescribed burning practices were instigated at military bases in the Carolinas, however, in part to preserve and increase habitat for another endangered species, the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis ). In 1991, for instance, more than 38,000 acres (15,378.1 hectares) were burned at Fort Bragg, and such burning is believed to have restored vast areas of rough-leaved looses-trife habitat; as a result, recent searches have located additional plant colonies.

Surveys are crucial to restoration efforts, and, since the majority of populations occur on U. S. military bases, efforts have been focused on gaining a better understanding of the plant populations on those properties. In 1988, the Nature Conservancy and the Department of the Defense entered into an agreement which provided that the Nature Conservancy and the natural heritage programs would assist the Department of Defense in planning for, monitoring, and managing significant natural resources on military bases. Partly as a result of this agreement, the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program conducted a pilot survey of portions of Fort Bragg; the project was continued by a more extensive survey of the base, conducted by the Nature Conservancy. A rare plant survey of more than 25,000 acres (10,117.2 hectares) on the Sandhills Gamelands, which the Army uses for training activities, was completed in 1994. In addition, federal environmental funding is allocated to Fort Bragg for environmental purposes, including the management of listed species.

The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program has also conducted rare plant surveys on Camp Lejeune (where the species was found in 1988) and Cherry Point, and, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, has conducted surveys of the Croatan National Forest. Since 1985, thorough searches for the plant have been undertaken, funded by the Department of Defense, on a number of military bases located on the coast and in the sandhills, including Camp Lejeune, Fort Bragg, Camp MacKall, and Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal in North Carolina; and Fort Jackson in South Carolina. As a result of these extensive surveys, numerous additional populations have been found.

The 1995 Recovery Plan for the species, from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has the ultimate goal of delisting the species. The species will be considered for downlisting from endangered to threatened when colonies within the nine population centers have been stable for five years and management plans are being implemented. Delisting will be considered when, in addition to the downlisting criteria, a binding management agreement is in place for each population center.

To achieve these goals, the plan calls for a number of actions, including the survey of suitable habitat for additional populations; the monitoring and protection of existing populations; and research on the biology of the species. Other needed actions include the establishment of new populations or the rehabilitation of marginal population to the point where they are self-sustaining, and the investigation and implementation of necessary management activities at all key sites.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345


Barry, J. 1980. Natural Vegetation of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia.

Radford, A. E., H. E. Ahles, and C. R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.

Ray, J. D. 1956. "The Genus Lysimachia in the New World." Illustrated Biological Monographs 24: 1-68.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1995. "Recovery Plan for the Rough-leaved Loosestrife." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta.