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SPECIES: Hudsonia ericoides
© 2002 John E. Maunder, Pouch Cove
Plants database provides a map of pinebarren goldenheather's distribution.ECOSYSTEMS :
Massachusetts: On Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket islands, pinebarren goldenheather occurs in several vegetation types. Pinebarren goldenheather frequency is greater than 50% in native sandplain grasslands characterized by coastal plains blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium fuscatum), flaxleaf whitetop aster (Ionactis linariifolius), toothed whitetop aster (Sericocarpus asteroides), and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi); in communities where wavy hairgrass (Deschampsia flexuosa) is dominant; in heath grasslands dominated by lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and poverty oatgrass (Danthonia spicata), and in heath and huckleberry-scrub oak vegetation types where black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) and bear oak (Quercus ilicifolia) are important. Pinebarren goldenheather frequency is greater than 70% in low shrublands where bearberry and broom crowberry (Corema conradii) are common .
New York: Pinebarren goldenheather, black huckleberry, and hillside blueberry (V. pallidum) are all present in pitch pine (Pinus rigida)-dominated habitats of Long Island. Other possible species in the open canopy of pitch pine-oak-heath woodlands include white oak (Q. alba), scarlet oak (Q. coccinea), and black oak (Q. velutina). In pitch pine-scrub oak communities, the understory is dominated by bear oak . In the pine plains vegetation, stunted growth forms of pitch pine dominate and bear oak is again prevalent [20,29].
New Jersey: The pine plains vegetation described in New Jersey is similar to that in New York. Pinebarren goldenheather is most common in the pine plains dominated by dwarf pitch pine that is normally less than 6 feet (2 m) tall . Other species described in the New Jersey pine plains are blackjack oak (Q. marilandica), bear oak, mountain-laurel (Kalmia latifolia), sheep-laurel (K. angustifolia), black huckleberry, dangleberry (G. frondosa), bearberry, and flowering pixiemoss (Pyxidanthera barbulata) [13,25,41].
Pinebarren goldenheather is also found in pine barrens vegetation of New Jersey. Pine barrens are still dominated by pitch pine, but pitch pine trees are often greater than 33 feet (10 m) tall [24,28]. Bear oak, shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), and dwarf chinquapin (Q. prinoides) are also encountered in this vegetation type. Also present is a shrub layer between 3 and 13 feet (1-4 m) tall dominated by mountain-laurel, dangleberry, piedmont staggerbush (Lyonia mariana), and highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum). In the pine barrens, pinebarren goldenheather is restricted to sandy dry areas and disturbed sites. Pinebarren goldenheather is typical of old-field sites as well [28,40].South Carolina: The isolated pinebarren goldenheather population in South Carolina is described in vegetation dominated by longleaf pine (P. palustris), slash pine (P. elliottii), and/or pineland threeawn (Aristida stricta) that occupies sandy soils and experiences frequent surface fires .
Pinebarren goldenheather is a native, low-growing, mat-forming shrub. Vegetation is dense, spreads to 3 feet (1 m) across, but is rarely over 1.3 feet (0.4 m) tall [4,12,30,34]. Pinebarren goldenheather has a single taproot that extends up to 6 inches (15 cm) deep and numerous fibrous roots concentrated in the top 1 to 4 inches (2.5-10 cm) of soil. After excavating many plants from the New Jersey pine barrens, Laycock  revealed a single occurrence of root grafting by this species. The taproot grew around and fused with another plant's taproot. The species of the other plant was not identified. Pinebarren goldenheather is considered a nonphreatophyte, a plant with roots not reaching the water table and rarely growing on sites with shallow water tables .
Above ground, pinebarren goldenheather has a short thick crown that gives rise to multiple branches . The many branches have alternate, needle-like, evergreen leaves. Leaves measure 2 to 7 mm in length and are less than 0.5 mm wide [4,12,30,34]. The fruit produced is a 1- or 2-seeded, cylindrical capsule that is glabrous except for hairs at the tip. Seeds are 0.6 to 0.7 mm long [4,30,34]. This species is adapted to drought conditions, limited nutrients, and frequent fires .RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Breeding system: Flowers are perfect .
Seed dispersal: The only mention of potential seed dispersal comes from observations by Windisch  who described pinebarren goldenheather seed as "small and non-dispersed."
Seed banking: The seed bank produced by pinebarren goldenheather is long lived .
Germination: Severe fires that remove the organic soil layer may stimulate germination .
Seedling establishment/growth: Canopy removal may encourage seedling growth .
Asexual regeneration: Following high-severity fires in heathlands of Massachusetts and pine barrens of New Jersey, pinebarren goldenheather did not regenerate asexually [6,41]. The excavation of several plants from the New Jersey pine barrens revealed no rhizome production .SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Climate: Mild, humid, and windy conditions prevail in pinebarren goldenheather habitat. In pinebarren goldenheather communities of Long Island, New York, average precipitation is 39.4 to 45.3 inches (1,000-1,150 mm) annually, humidity levels are greater than 50% for most of the year, but summer drought conditions are possible. The typical number of frost-free days ranges from 175 to 215 and wind speeds of 9 to 22 mi/h (15-35 km/h) are common all year (referenced in ). Temperatures in the southern New Jersey pine barrens average a low of 32 °F (0 °C) in January and a high of 76 °F (24.5 °C) in July (referenced in ).
Soils: Pinebarren goldenheather grows in acidic, nutrient-poor, sandy soils. In the pine barrens of New Jersey, pinebarren goldenheather substantially increased on sites with increased loam depth and preferred soils with "exaggerated" sand E horizons. The pH of soils in this area was 3.8 . In the pine barrens of Long Island, New York, pinebarren goldenheather occupied upland pine plains sites with "moderate to excessively drained soils" . Whittaker  describes pine barren soils as acidic and sandy. The large amounts of rainfall on these sites coupled with their rapid drainage allows a substantial leaching of nutrients. Fimbel and Kuser  found upland soils in the New Jersey pine barrens had less than 1% organic matter and a cation exchange capacity of less than 5me/100g. In Massachusetts, researchers analyzed the soils in several vegetation types where pinebarren goldenheather is typical. The soils had pH levels between 3.17 and 3.55, sand contents of 89.7% to 92.5%, clay quantities of between 1.7% and 4.4%, and silt contents of 3% to 6.5%. Soil nutrient content is provided in the table below :
|Parts per million||6.2-9.2||15.1-36.3||1.6-3.2||5.3-9.1||23.3-34.4|
Elevation: Specific pinebarren goldenheather elevation tolerances were not reported; however, this species is narrowly distributed along the Atlantic Coast and presumably found at only low elevations.SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Another researcher considers pinebarren goldenheather a "pyric successional species." The ordination of data from 85 plots and 13 environmental variables in the New Jersey pine barrens revealed that pinebarren goldenheather is most closely associated with sites having more open canopy, more bare sand, and experienced high-severity fires in the past. Pinebarren goldenheather had the greatest abundance on sites that burned most frequently. Increases in pinebarren goldenheather occurred on sites that burned severely following a prolonged absence of fire .
Several studies highlight pinebarren goldenheather's presence in early successional communities. After clearing pine barrens vegetation in Long Island, revegetation by pinebarren goldenheather, bearberry, and grasses occurs within a few years . Pinebarren goldenheather is also described early in the succession of abandoned clearings on dry pine barren sites of New Jersey .
Pinebarren goldenheather may also benefit from historical human-induced disturbances. In Cape Cod, Massachusetts pinebarren goldenheather was most frequent on sites that were severely disturbed historically (ploughed, disturbed soils) . On Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, Dunwiddie  evaluated sites with different disturbance histories in 1990. One site was grazed by domestic sheep until 1948, and the other had not been grazed for more than 100 years. On the historically grazed site, pinebarren goldenheather coverage was 0.6% and frequency was 8.6%. On ungrazed sites coverage was 0 and frequency was 1.1%.SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Fire regimes: Most researchers consider that fire maintains pine barrens vegetation in which pinebarren goldenheather occurs. Lutz  reports that before 1923, in southern New Jersey the pitch pine plains (pitch pine height normally <6 feet (1.8 m)) burned at least once every 8 years, transition communities (pitch pine height 11-25 feet (3.4-7.6 m)) burned once every 12 years, and the pine barrens (pitch pine height 26-55 feet (7.9-16.8 m)) burned once every 16 years. He suggests that the pitch pine plains are a result of frequent anthropogenic fires . Windisch  reports that moderate-severity fires burned at an interval of 5 to 10 years in dwarf pitch pine-dominated ecosystems of New Jersey prior to the early 1900s. This historic fire regime is vastly different from today's. Now fires are less frequent, more severe, and occur at 15- to 54-year intervals. These changes in the fire regime threaten the integrity of the pine barrens ecosystem .
Some suggest that high evaporation rates and not fires are responsible for the maintenance of dwarfed vegetation in the pitch pine plains. Seifriz  points out that evaporation rates on the plains are much greater than those of nearby forests. He alleges that new shoots growing above thicket level experience very high transpiration levels and are essentially "burned off by wind."
However, the prevailing research regarding pitch pine-dominated vegetation suggest a linkage with frequent fire. Following the settlement of Suffolk County, New York, people often used fires to clear grazing and farming land. The amount of area burned increased following the construction of railroads. The engines set fires by spitting out sparks from their coal burning engines. Trains also allowed people to use fire to clear land in previously inaccessible areas. Authors suggest that this widespread burning increased the area covered by pitch pine-oak-heath and pitch pine-scrub oak vegetation from the 17th century until early in the 20th century, when fire exclusion became the practice .
To determine changes in the pine barrens vegetation following the fire exclusion era, researchers compared different-aged aerial photographs. Photographs revealed that from 1938 to present, fire size has significantly (p=0.001) decreased, and average area burned has decreased in central Suffolk County. From 1938 to 1996, approximately 55% of the study area was unburned. Records indicate that spring fires, occurring prior to plant leaf out, were most common. These "high-intensity top-killing" fires burned when winds were high, humidity was low, and fine fuels and litter were readily combustible. Researchers suggest that mimicking this type of fire today is difficult due to the small areas dominated by pine barrens vegetation and their proximity to wildland urban interfaces .
In the longleaf pine-, slash pine-, and/or pineland threeawn-dominated vegetation of South Carolina that is pinebarren goldenheather habitat, fires are frequent. Surface fires on these sites historically occurred at 1- to 10-year intervals .
The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where pinebarren goldenheather is important. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|shortleaf pine||Pinus echinata||2-15|
|shortleaf pine-oak||P. echinata-Quercus spp.||<10|
|slash pine||P. elliottii||3-8|
|sand pine||P. elliottii var. elliottii||25-45 |
|longleaf-slash pine||P. palustris-P. elliottii||1-4 [27,39]|
|pitch pine||P. rigida||6-25 [2,15]|
|chestnut oak||Quercus prinus||3-8|
|northern red oak||Q. rubra||10 to <35|
|black oak||Q. velutina||<35 |
During burning and herbicide treatments in the southern New Jersey pine plains, researchers observed that pinebarren goldenheather occurred only on road edges and on fire breaks that burned 5 times in the past 14 to 18 years. On sites burned only once by a "light" backfire, pinebarren goldenheather occupied only roadside sites .
The 1995 Sunrise Wildfire burned portions of the Long Island pine barrens vegetation. Approximately 70% of the burned area had not burned since 1930, and pitch pines in the area were more than 40 years old. Aerial photographs taken in 1996 revealed an increased abundance of pinebarren goldenheather on burned sites compared to unburned sites .
However, following high-severity spring fires in the heathlands of Nantucket and Cape Cod, pinebarren goldenheather decreased slightly. The fires burned when fuel loads were between 850 and 1,000 g/m² and flame lengths were between 6.6 and 32.8 feet (2-10 m). Before the fire in Nantucket, pinebarren goldenheather coverage and frequency were 3% and 41%, respectively. The 1st postfire year coverage was less than 1%, and frequency was 35%. The prefire coverage and frequency of pinebarren goldenheather on Cape Cod were less than 1% and 9%, respectively. Four years following the fire coverage was unchanged, and frequency was 7% . This study suggests that pinebarren goldenheather coverage and frequency may not increase following fire, may experience short-lived post-fire increases, or may require more than 4 years to exceed prefire measurements on some sites. See the Research Project Summary Vegetation change in grasslands and heathlands following multiple spring, summer, and fall prescription fires in Massachusetts for further information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species, including pinebarren goldenheather, in this study.FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Palatability/nutritional value: No information is available on this topic.
Cover value: No information is available on this topic.VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
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