Rugel's Pawpaw

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Rugel's Pawpaw

Deeringothamnus rugelii

ListedSeptember 26, 1986
FamilyAnnonaceae (Custard-apple)
DescriptionA low shrub.
HabitatCoastal pine flatwoods.
ThreatsHabitat destruction through conversion into residential, commercial, and agricultural land-uses, coupled with habitat degradation caused by trampling and fire suppression.

Rugel's Pawpaw, photograph by Walter K. Taylor and Steve Shirah. Reproduced by permission.


The Rugel's pawpaw is a low-growing shrub with a stout taproot. The pleasantly scented flowers are solitary in the leaf axils, and have straight, oblong, canary-yellow petals. The ripe fruits are cylindrical, yellow-green berries with pulpy flesh, 1-3 in (3-6 cm) long. The seeds are about the size and shape of a bean. The stems are annual or biennial in longevity, and generally 4 -8 in (10-20 cm) tall. The leaves are leathery in texture and are seasonally deciduous (i.e., they are shed in the autumn).

The Rugel's pawpaw is adapted to periodic disturbance by wildfire or windstorms. It resprouts from the roots if the top is destroyed by fire or mowing. Flowering tends to occur only after fire or mowing results in new shoot growth. The flowers are insect pollinated, and the fruits are distributed by animals and gravity.


The Rugel's pawpaw grows in poorly drained, slash pine (Pinus elliotii ) and saw palmetto (Serenoarepens ) flatwoods in sandy soils. It requires periodic disturbance of its habitat, although this must not be so severe as to kill the perennating roots of the plant.


The Rugel's pawpaw is an endemic species that is only known from the vicinity of New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County, Florida.


The Rugel's pawpaw occurs in only two populations located about 12 mi (19 km) southwest of Lake Ashby, and seven others about 5 mi (8 km) to the west within an area of about 3 sq mi (7.7 sq km). The historical range is thought to be similar to the present one, but there are fewer populations now due to habitat loss through residential and commercial development. In the early 1980s, there were nine known populations containing a total of fewer than 500 plants. Most of the populations were on private land, although two occurred along a State road right-of-way. Most of the surviving habitat is used for cattle grazing, and conversion to residential or commercial land-use is an ongoing, severe threat. In addition, fire suppression allows other vegetation to develop a thick canopy, which eventually would result in the local demise of the Rugel's pawpaw. The rare plant has also been affected by trash dumping and damage caused by all-terrain vehicles. Because of its restricted distribution and small population size, it is vulnerable to adverse effects from indiscriminate collecting, and from natural catastrophes such as a hurricane.

Conservation and Recovery

Because it is an endangered species, the Rugel's pawpaw is protected by Florida law from any harvesting, transport, or sale. However, the law does not provide specific protection for the critical habitat of the rare plant, which is vulnerable to residential and commercial development. The most important requirement for conservation of the Rugel's pawpaw is to protect the remaining plants and their habitat from destruction by development. This can be done by acquiring the land and setting up ecological reserves, or by negotiating conservation easements with the private landowners. In addition, the conserved habitat must be managed through periodic light disturbance by prescribed burning or mowing, to maintain its suitability for the endangered plant.


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

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310
Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0958
Telephone: (904) 232-2580
Fax: (904) 232-2404


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. February 1991. "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Endangered Species, Species Accounts: Rugel's Pawpaw (Deeringothamnus rugelii )." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program. ( Date Accessed: July 6, 2000.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 26 September 1986. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Endangered Status for Three Florida Plants." Federal Register 51(187):34415-34420.