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Asplenium verecundum Chapm. ex Underw.
South Florida Status: Critically imperiled. Three occurrences in two conservation areas (Castellow Hammock Park; Fuchs Hammock Preserve), and one non-conservation area (Warwick Hammock).
Taxonomy: Pteridophyte; Aspleniaceae.
Habit: Perennial lithophytic herb.
Distribution: Native to Florida and Cuba. Wunderlin & Hansen (2000) report is as occasional in Florida in the northern and central peninsula west to the central panhandle, and Miami-Dade County.
South Florida Distribution: Miami-Dade County.
South Florida Habitats: Moist, exposed limestone in rockland hammocks.
Protection Status: Listed as endangered by FDACS and as critically imperiled by FNAI.
Aids to Identification: Chafin (2000) has illustrations and a color photo; Nelson (2000) has color photos; the IRC Website has a color photo.
References: Chapman, 1883; Small, 1938; Lakela & Long, 1976; Long & Lakela, 1976; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 1993; Wunderlin, 1998; Chafin, 2000; Coile, 2000; Nelson, 2000; Wunderlin & Hansen, 2000.
Synonyms: A. myriophyllum (Sw.) Roth ex Mertens, misapplied.
Historical Context: Modest spleenwort was collected several times in the mid-to-late 1800s in Florida, but none of these specimens can be definitely attributed to South Florida (e.g., Chapman, s.n., NY; Rugel, s.n., NY). Isaac Holden made the first collection that can be attributed to South Florida in 1887 at Brickell Hammock (s.n., NY). Several other collections were made in Brickell Hammock in the late 1800s and early 1900s (Munroe s.n., NY; Britton 91, NY; and Small & Carter s.n., FTG). John Kunkel Small and others made the last collection in Brickell Hammock in 1911 (3270, NY).
Alvah A. Eaton collected modest spleenwort in Castellow Hammock, now located within Castellow Hammock Park, in 1903 (s.n., NY). It has been collected there a number of times since then (e.g. Small & Carter 2384, NY; Buswell s.n., FTG; Tomlinson 6-5-62B, FTG; Long 1870, USF; and Avery 1314, FTG). Small and others also collected it in adjacent Ross Hammock (6484, NY), part of which is located within Castellow Hammock Park. The Castellow Hammock Park population is extant and has been observed several times by Roger L. Hammer, Gann and Bradley. Hammer, Director of Castellow Hammock Park, estimates that there are fewer than 50 plants present today (personal communication, 7 February 2001). In 1915, Small and Charles A. Mosier made a collection in Cox Hammock (5520, NY, FTG), which is located less than a mile from Castellow Hammock. Harold N. Moldenke made another collection there in 1930 (645a, NY), but this population has not been observed in several decades.
Small and Mosier also collected modest spleenwort in Fuchs Hammock in 1915 (5492, NY), which is now part of Fuchs Hammock Preserve. Donovan S. Correll collected it again at Fuchs Hammock in 1936 (6094, NY), as did Carol Weymouth and Everett Skinner in 1968 (s.n., FTG). George N. Avery observed five or six sporulating plants there in 1981 (Averys Notes, 11 November 1981), and Alan Cressler observed several colonies in 1993 (Cressler, 1993). Bradley observed several dozen plants there in 2000. Don Keller observed plants in nearby Meissner Hammock in 1987 (personal communication, 8 February 2001), but plants at this station appear to be extirpated. Small made one collection in 1915 at Shields Hammock (6944, NY), which was located to the west of the present-day city of Homestead, but this hammock has been destroyed.
In 1922, Small and others made a collection at Warwick Hammock, which is located along Old Cutler Road to the north of the Deering Estate at Cutler (10731, US). In 1959, Frank C. Craighead and Monroe R. Birdsey made another collection along Old Cutler Road (s.n., FTG), presumably at the same location. This hammock was later subdivided and developed for single-family residences. In 1995, Gann found plants there that were persisting on exposed limestone in a private garden (s.n., FTG). About 25 plants were observed. Subsequently this property was sold. While the status of the plants at this station is unknown, modest spleenwort may be present on other properties in Warwick Hammock.
Small made one last collection in 1923 in Addison Hammock, now part of the Deering Estate at Cutler (11104, NY). While modest spleenwort has not been collected there since that time, Donovan S. Correll and others made a collection of A. xbiscaynianum in 1974, suggesting that modest spleenwort may have been present (see Asplenium xbiscaynianum account in Part One of this Chapter). Don Keller reports that he observed a few plants in Addison Hammock in 1987 (personal observation, 8 February 2001), but no one has seen any plants recently, despite a great deal of botanical activity.
Major Threats: Long-term drainage on the Miami Rock Ridge; exotic pest plant invasions; off-target damage from exotic pest plant control programs; habitat degradation and destruction at Warwick Hammock; poaching.
Comments: A. verecundum may be conspecific with A. myriophyllum of the West Indies and South America (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 1993; Nelson, 2000). Modest spleenwort is one of the parents of the endemic Biscayne spleenwort (A. xbiscaynianum), which is discussed in Part 1 of this chapter. Due to the lowering of the regional freshwater table, it does not seem feasible to attempt to reintroduce modest spleenwort to Brickell Hammock at this time.
Recommendations: Survey Warwick Hammock. Map and monitor known stations on a regular basis. Develop conservation agreements with the Warwick Hammock station owners, and provide technical assistance. Conduct conservation biology and conservation horticulture studies. Consider augmenting known populations. Consider reintroducing modest spleenwort to other sites within its historical range, including the Deering Estate at Cutler. Consider introducing modest spleenwort to other sites within its historical range. Promote a higher regional water table on the Miami Rock Ridge.
Gann, G.D., K.A. Bradley and S.W. Woodmansee. 2001-2013.