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Crataegus pruinosa var. rugosa

Rare hawthorns rediscovered in Arkansas

     Several rare and interesting hawthorns have been found anew in Arkansas by botanist Jim Keesling. Starting with Jim's work in spring of 2015 and continuing to summer of 2016, at least 5 entities of hawthorns that have been missing from collecton records for many decades are now known from that state in living populations. Additional hawthorns of less overall rarity but still of interest to the state of Arkansas are also involved in Jim's discoveries.

     In April of 2015, Jim Keesling discovered 3 separate colonies of the rare entity Crataegusouachitensis var.minor, which may be a natural hybrid of Crataegus marshallii and C. ouachitensis var. ouachitensis. It was originally described by Ernest Jesse Palmer from the region in 1926.  In spring of 2016, Keesling located what appears to be authentic C. ouachitensis var. ouachitensis on a mountain near Hot Springs, and then a second population was seen in the same area as the var minor plants were found. Both of these hawthorns are significant endemics of the Ouachita Mountain Region and have not been recorded elsewhere. They have not been authenticated in any collections since the time of Palmer's work. 

     Also in spring of 2016, C. padifolia was found by Mr. Keesling in the general region of Hot Springs. The Cherryleaf hawthorn (C. padifolia) is a noteworthy find for the Hot Springs area of the state. It is also known from the Ozarks of Missouri and the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma. Three varieties of C. pruinosa were also found in the Hot Springs Village area, vars. virella, rugosa and dissona.

Photos provided here are by Jim Keesling.

Crataegus ouachitensis var. minor

Crataegus padifolia

Crataegus ouachitensis

An Uncelebrated Resident of Chimney Rock Park, North Carolina

     When it comes to nature appreciation in Chimney Rock Park, anyone having an interest in plants or botany can make happy discoveries. Of over 600 kinds of plants known to grow here, there awaits something green and appealing for every level of vegetative enthusiast. Even so, not all of the Park's plant species are easily accessible, and some are quite rare locally and regionally. One particular example is chosen here for elaboration, its story serving to underscore the uniqueness of this Park.

     Back in 1905, a man named O.E. Jennings noticed an unusual hawthorn growing near Charleroi, Pennsylvania. He sent samples to Charles Sargent (Director of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University), and in 1910 Sargent named the new hawthorn Crataegus fortunata, which means "prosperous hawthorn." This was just one of over 700 hawthorns named by Sargent, and it was destined to be all but forgotten by subsequent botanists who were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of such names. The decision to merely consider this hawthorn a variation of the widespread species Crataegus intricata seemed appropriate. But a few traits about this hawthorn kept it in the background of relevant recognition; it had attractively brilliant yellow fruit, thickish leaves and pink stamens in the flowers. This thorny shrub was either sufficiently rare or purposely ignored by botanists trekking through the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains for years afterward. Only a few sightings of it were recorded in Pennsylvania, then in West Virginia and Ohio.

     Entering the next century, observations were made in 2001 of showy yellow fruits borne on shrubby hawthorns along parts of the Skyline and Cliff Trails of Chimney Rock Park. Since there was scant information and help afforded to identify this plant, several years would pass while closer study was made of the plants at every season of the year. With all the details finally in hand, it was determined that this hawthorn most closely matched Sargent's description of Crataegus fortunata, and Chimney Rock's plants were compared to the herbarium specimens of the original Pennsylvania plants. They matched, expanding the known range of that hawthorn to include North Carolina. Since birds are the chief disseminators of hawthorn seeds, it was not too surprising that these plants can show up in such widely spaced locations.

     There are very few hawthorns included on rare plant lists of any state, mostly due to the problems of hawthorn species recognition. In this case, the "prosperous hawthorn," or "yellow-fruited intricate hawthorn" currently appears on no special plant lists for North Carolina, but is nevertheless unknown from any other place in the state than in Chimney Rock Park.

Rediscovery of a rare hawthorn in Tennessee

     One of only a few hawthorns afforded protection by inclusion on a rare plant list is the Harbison hawthorn, Crataegus harbisonii. This Tennessee endemic was first described in 1899 from the Nashville area, and was found in 4 other west Tennessee counties in 1948. By 1978 it had become scarce enough to be listed as a rare plant in the state. It seemed to have vanished completely from its former range until 2 plants were located in the Nashville area in 1993 and 1994. One of these plants died in 1997.

     In 2014, more Harbison hawthorns were found in west Tennessee, near one of the historic 1948 locations. This rediscovery is good news for this species, as only one living plant was known from the wild, up to now.  A visit to the site in Obion County, Tennessee on April 27, 2015 revealed 40 plants. Probably there are more plants waiting to be surveyed here by state botanists in the near future.