Waldsteinia fragarioides var. fragarioides
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Basis for Listing
Waldsteinia fragarioides var. fragarioides has a widespread distribution in eastern North America, ranging from New Brunswick and Maine to western Quebec, south to Arkansas, and to mountainous regions of Georgia and Alabama. While the species is considered stable and secure over its entire range (NatureServe 2011), it is relatively rare and potentially vulnerable in Minnesota, which is at the far western edge of its range. The same is true in other edge-of-range states and provinces such as Arkansas, New Brunswick, Maine, and Connecticut (Gleason and Cronquist 1991; NatureServe 2011).
Waldsteinia fragarioides var. fragarioides is a low-growing perennial plant that is 10-18 cm (3.9-7.1 in.) tall (Fassett 1976). Its appearance resembles that of strawberries (Fragaria spp.). The evergreen leaves arise from a central base and each leaf is 3-parted. Leaflets are narrowed to their bases at an acute angle. Leaflet stalks are very short and the leaflet tips are irregularly toothed and lobed. The yellow flowers have 5 petals, 5 distinct sepals, and a profusion of stamens. Flowers are borne on leafless stalks arising from the base of the plant (several flowers per stalk). There are 2-6 dry achenes, each containing a single seed (Fassett 1976; Gleason and Cronquist 1991).
In Minnesota, W. fragarioides var. fragarioides grows both in fire dependent forests and in mesic hardwood forests. It is often found in forests dominated by pine, including Pinus resinosa (red pine), P. strobus (white pine), or P. banksiana (jack pine). It is also found in mixed pine and hardwood forests, often with Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen), as well as in hardwood forests dominated by Acer saccharum (sugar maple). It is sometimes observed growing in deep shade, but perhaps most often in woodlands with small openings or relatively open tree or shrub canopies. It is also found growing in full sun along roadsides. Waldsteinia fragarioides var. fragarioides seems to tolerate quite a range of soil types and soil moisture conditions ranging from mesic to dry-mesic. It is not found in peat, muck, or wet soils.
Biology / Life History
Nothing specific is known about the biology and life history of W. fragarioides var. fragarioides except what can be inferred from its morphology and habitat. For example, it seems to spread extensively by rhizomes, forming large colonies by the lateral growth of these underground stems. It produces only a few seeds per plant per year. Each flower produces two to six seeds and there are few flowers per plant (U.S. Forest Service 1999). Vegetative reproduction may be more important for the local spread of the plant rather than sexual reproduction. This may make it difficult for the plant to spread longer distances, simply by the limitation of having few seeds produced. Sexual reproduction is probably accomplished by insect pollination but specific pollinators are unknown (Hill 2003). The species appears well adapted to early and mid stages of forest succession (sometimes including disturbed habitats such as roadsides) and it also persists under mature forest canopies (NatureServe 2011).
Conservation / Management
Waldsteinia fragarioides var. fragarioides tolerates some disturbance and may even benefit from certain types and levels of disturbance, especially those that are within the the range of natural disturbance which shapes the landscapes where this species is found. Several of the known populations are in pine plantations and along roadsides where the nature of the disturbance was such that at a minimum it did not eliminate W. fragarioides var. fragarioides from the site. It is possible the species benefits from fire. However, the role of fire in the life history of W. fragarioides var. fragarioides is poorly understood and any use of fire as a management tool should probably be infrequent since the landscape where the species is found would not have burned frequently (U.S. Forest Service 2000).
Conservation Efforts in Minnesota
Efforts have been made by the U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota Biological Survey to search for W. fragarioides var. fragarioides. Over half of the known populations (including some of the largest ones) are on public land owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota DNR. Several known sites have been protected from logging on U.S. Forest Service lands.
Fassett, N. 1976. Spring flora of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin. 424 pp.
Gleason, H. A., and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. Second Edition. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.
Hill, S. R. 2003. Conservation assessment for Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides ssp. fragarioides) (Michx.) Tratt. U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Accessed 21 January 2011.
NatureServe. 2011. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia.
U.S. Forest Service. 1999. Population viability assessment in forest plan revision. Statement of purpose and reason. Draft species data records: Waldsteinia fragarioides. United States Forest Service, Region 9, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 8 pp.
U.S. Forest Service. 2000. Population viability assessment in forest plan revision. Questions for plant population viability assessment panel: Waldsteinia fragarioides. United States Forest Service, Region 9, Duluth, Minnesota. 4 pp.