Bartram's Ixia, Salpingostylis (=Sphenostigma) coelestinum, a rare endemic plant species of north Florida ( Botany circ...


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Bartram's Ixia, Salpingostylis (=Sphenostigma) coelestinum, a rare endemic plant species of north Florida ( Botany circular 25 )
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Botany Circular 25. Fla. Dept. Agric. & Consumer Serv.
March-April 1992 Division of Plant Industry

Bartram's Ixia, Salpingostylis (=Sphenostigma) coelestinum
a Rare Endemic Plant Species of North Florida.

Kenneth R. Langdon' and Nancy C. Coile'

INTRODUCTION: To see these rare plants in flower, you must get your feet wet with dew because the plants
bloom soon after the light of dawn and close before noon. According to Small (7), flowering is mostly over by
9 o'clock. However, flowers of Bartram's Ixia can remain open longer on cloudy days. Time of the year is also
important, because the flowering season is May and June. The territory where you dampen your shoes is
significant because this endemic is limited to a small area of northeast Florida centering on Clay County and
extending into most of the adjacent counties.
Photograph #56 in the "Wildflowers of Florida" brochure (3) is Bartram's Ixia and was taken by the senior
author in Clay County, SE of Penny Farms. The photograph presents a lovely 2 inch wide lavender-blue flower
with 3 petals and 3 petal-like sepals (6 tepals). The specific epithet of the species refers to the heavenly blue color
of the perianth.
This rare species, currently known as Salpingostylis coelestinum (Bartram) Small, is a member of the Iris
family. William Bartram introduced the species as Ixia caelestina [sic] in 1791 by using seven descriptive words
and an illustration (6). Because the genus Ixia is known to occur naturally only in Africa, botanists began to
switch Bartram's Ixia into several different genera in an attempt to clear up the taxonomic problems. The species

Fig. 1. Close up of individual flower of Bartram's Ixia.

'Retired Botanist and Botanist, respectively, Office of Systematic Botany, P.O. Box 147100, Gainesville, FL 32614-1700.

remained largely unknown in the wild, primarily because of early flower closing, until it was rediscovered in 1931
by John K. Small who was led to a population in Clay County by botanists from the University of Florida. To
accommodate the unusual species, Small erected a new genus, Salpingostylis. Foster (1945) recognized the
distinctive characteristics of the anthers and the style and placed our species into the genus Sphenostigma, a genus
whose other species are in Mexico and South America. Since Sphenostigma became the seventh genus into which
the species had been placed, Foster stated that he regretted the necessity of moving the species yet another time.
You may have seen Sphenostigma used for Bartram's Ixia, but that entire genus has been changed to Gelasine.
According to Dr. Peter Goldblatt of the Missouri Botanical Garden (2), Small's Salpingostylis may be used until the
taxonomy of the group is clarified.

DESCRIPTION: Plant from a bulb-like corm, about 1.5 cm diameter, with dark brown covering; basal leaves 1-3,
rarely 4, usually narrowly linear, plicate, glabrous, sheathing at the base, up to 30 cm long and 1-4 mm wide; cauline
leaves 1 or 2, 2.5-9 cm long and 1-2 mm wide; scape erect, simple or rarely branched, terete, 18-36 cm tall;
inflorescence 1 or 2 flowered with 2 bracts, the outer 2.5-4 cm long, the inner 4-5.5 cm long, both acute, convolute;
pedicels recurved at anthesis placing flowers lateral to scape, erect in fruit; flowers listed by different authors
variously as blue, blue-purple, lavender, lavender-violet, or violet, usually with a white eye, 5 cm across; tepals 6,
subequal, obovate, obtuse, 3.5 cm long, 1.7 cm wide; filaments free, about 4 mm long, anthers about 5 mm long,
sagittate at base; style about 8 mm long, declined, stigma lobes 3, about 3 mm long, reniform with ciliate teeth,
stigma and style together trumpet-shaped; ovary inferior, glabrous, oblong-clavate, about 3 mm long; mature capsule
ellipsoid, 1.5-2 cm long, seeds brick-red or dark brown, angular, about 2.5 mm long.

Fig. 2. Habitat view showing numerous Bartram's Ixia plants in flower.

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT: Clay and Bradford counties are at the center of the distribution with
populations also occurring in adjacent Union, Baker, Duval, St Johns, and Putnam counties. The plants grow in
moist grassy flatwoods subject to periodic burning. If fire is withheld, these areas become covered with dense
grasses, herbs and brush, with the result that Salpingostylis ceases to flower. In the season following a fire,
Salpingostylis will again flower abundantly, because the bulbs were well protected in the soil. Any disturbance
of the habitat, except fire or occasional mowing, appears to be destructive to the plants.

Bartram's Ixia is listed as "Endangered" by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
(4) and as "Threatened" by the Florida Committee on Rare and Endangered Plants and Animals, Volume 5 (8).
Changing land use is why it was listed as threatened. For example, Dr. Ward states that-the site where Small
rediscovered the species is now an automobile junk yard. Most other documented populations along the St. Johns
River are now pastureland or used for crops. Elsewhere, populations have been impacted or destroyed through
lumbering, agriculture, and plantations of slash pine. However, the species was withdrawn from the Federal
Register (2) where it had been under consideration for listing as federally endangered. The main reasons for
withdrawing the species from federal consideration were that Bartram's Ixia persisted in pine plantations and that
the largest populations occurred in counties which lacked immediate urbanization pressures. However, the U. S.
Fish and Wildlife Service also stated that there is a need to better understand the response of the plant to
management practices. The Service plans to work with the foresters in monitoring the long-term response of
Bartram's Ixia to the forest management practices.
Salpingostylis coelestinum is easily grown from seeds obtained from wildflower suppliers and is well
suited for rock gardens, flower beds and greenhouse cultivation (1). Plants may bloom in the second year from
seed sowing. The soil should be fertile, sandy, somewhat acid, with humus, and well-drained but moist. Plants
die back after seeds are mature, but the plants will return the next year from the gladiolus-like corm.

1. Everett, T. H. (ed.) 1982. The New York Botanical Garden Illustrated Encyclopedia of Horticulture,
Volume 9. Garland Publ. Company, NY.
2. Federal Register. 1990. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; withdrawal of proposed rule to list the
plant Salpingostylis coelestina (Bartram's Ixia) as endangered. 50 CFR Part 17. Vol. 55 (218) Nov. 9, 1990.
U. S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service.
3. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 1989. The Wildflowers of Florida,
Document #PI89G-05.
4. Florida Department of Agriculturel & Consumer Services. 1991. Rules of the Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, Chapter 5B-40, Preservation of Native Flora of Florida.
3 December 1991.
5. Foster, R. C. 1945. Studies in the Iridaceae-III, Part II. The North American species of Sphenostigma
Baker. Contributions, Gray Herbarium, Harvard Univ. 155:9-17.
6. Harper, F. 1967. The Travels of William Bartram. Yale University Press, New Haven, CN. 727 p.
7. Small, J. K. 1931. Bartram's Ixia coelestina rediscovered. Journal of the New York Botanical Garden
8. Ward, D. B. 1979. Volume Five: Plants. IN: Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida, P. C. Pritchard (ed.)
University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, FL. 175 p.