We hope that you enjoy this article about Distinctive North American Woody Shrubs. So many plants now find themselves in danger of extinction, that some can occasionally be overlooked. But each and every one deserves our attention and concern. Such is the case with the woody shrubs of North America. Some of these may also be unknown to the majority of people outside of their immediate area of habitation. We hope that after reading this article you will have a new knowledge of yet more species now facing perilous times, as well as a newfound desire to help preserve them.
Nevin’s Barberry Facts
- Leading off our list of Distinctive North American Woody Shrubs is one that we are sure will catch your eye, the impressive Nevin’s Barberry.
- Most notably, the fabulous plant represents a truly visually striking shrub. Sadly, this distinctive looking species also ranks as one of the rarest types of shrub in the world.
- Currently, the plant commonly grows in commercial nurseries, in many parts of North America. However, and quite sadly, in the wild it remains extremely rare.
- Furthermore, only 21 known, naturally occurring populations of Nevin’s Barberry still exist in the wild. But, the sad part of its story does not simply end there, though that would be enough.
- Yet another factors makes its continued existence in the wild even more precarious. That factor is the fact that many of these populations consist of fewer than five individual plants.
- Finally, at last count, only 250 known individual plants remain in the wild. Due to these factors, the IUCN currently list the species as Critically Endangered.
Nevin’s Barberry Physical Description
First of all, the Nevin’s Barberry forms a moderately large species of shrub. That’s because individual plants attain a size of as much as 13 ft (4 m) in height. Most specimens, however, do not quite attain that size in the wild.
Further, the rather impressive species evolved as an evergreen, with firm, spiny-toothed leaflets. In addition, it also produces these leaflets in extremely thickly interwoven groupings.
Also, its distinctive foliage principally displays as a dark green in color. Meanwhile, the flowers the plant produces develop as bright yellow racemes. Additionally, much like the leaflets, these appear in thick layers.
Further, the fruit of the Nevin’s Barberry develops as a small, bright red berry, which it also produces in large numbers. Its berries appear in late summer and serve as a favorite food of local bird populations.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Angiosperms
- Class: Eudicots
- Order: Ranunculales
- Family: Berberidaceae
- Genus: Mahonia
- Species: M. nevinii
Nevin’s Barberry Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Firstly, the Nevin’s Barberry grows endemically in only a small area of southern California, in the United States. Furthermore, within this range, within only two counties, it only exists in harsh habitat types.
The various topographical conditions it inhabits include chaparral, flat sandy washes, rocky canyons, mountain terraces, and summits. Also, the majority of its remaining endemic territory lies within the San Gabriel Mountains.
Given the scarcity of its numbers, as well as its extremely scant numbers, it faces serious danger. In fact, the greatest threats to the continued presence of the Nevin’s Barberry in the wild remains habitat loss. However, climate change now plays a role as well.
Finally, this appears especially true, given a disturbing fact. That holds true because many of the remaining populations occur on privately owned land. These, therefore, remain subject to potential urban development.
Hawaiian White Hibiscus
Hawaiian White Hibiscus Facts
- The second of our choices for Distinctive North American Woody Shrubs, the Hawiian White Hibiscus, might surprise a few people. That’s because many believe it is only a tree.
- Firstly, the truly stunning natural beauty represents yet another rare plant species native to a small geographic range. Quite sadly, the gorgeous species exists on only two islands.
- Secondly, however, even in these locations, this dazzling beauty exists only within a rather specific habitat type. Unfortunately, this fact also renders it highly vulnerable to threats to its existence.
- These primarily include, but are not limited to habitat loss and, of course, climate change. Further, the habitat loss comes largely in the form of man’s use of its habitat for the construction of homes.
Hawaiian White Hibiscus Physical Description
Most notably, the stunningly beautiful Hawaiian White Hibiscus grows in either of two forms. As a result of this ability, it develops as either a small tree or shrub. This places it, much like the Devil’s Walking Stick, among the few plants with this versatility.
Furthermore, in height, it averages between 15-20 ft (4.6-6.1 m). However, exceptional individuals sometimes reach as much as 30 ft (9.2 m). Also, the crowns of these trees often grow as large as 20 ft (6.1 m) in diameter. Its appearance also varies greatly between individual specimens and may be either compact or open in structure.
The leaves typically develop smooth and possess slightly toothed edges that average roughly 5 in (12.7 cm) in length. Meanwhile, the flowers appear white, grow singly, and may be as much as 4 in (10 cm) wide when open.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Magnoliophyta
- Class: Magnoliopsida
- Order: Malvales
- Family: Malvaceae
- Genus: Hibiscus
- Species: H. arnottianus
Hawaiian White Hibiscus Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
First of all, as its very name suggests, the Hawaiian White Hibiscus evolved as native to Hawaii. However, even there it has a limited range, only appearing on the two islands of Oahu and Moloka’i.
Further, it also requires a highly specific habitat to thrive. only serving to compound its precarious position. In its native range, this consists of the very wet forest regions in the mountain areas of these two islands.
But, three distinct subspecies of this beautiful plant, each physically quite similar, also exist. One grows only in the mountains of Oahu, at elevations ranging between 390-2,500 ft (119-762 m).
Another of these typically prefers only altitudes between 650-2,200 ft (198-670 m). The third subspecies, like the Hawaiian White Hibiscus itself, also remains extremely rare. It grows only in a few valleys on the island of Moloka’i.
Flame Azalea Facts
- Its listing as third in this compendium of Distinctive North American Shrubs is in no way a reflection of its relative awesomeness for the Flame Azalea.
- Perhaps most notably, the mesmerizing plant stands out for its exquisite beauty. That occurs partly due to its famous, among Nature lovers, wonderful large, showy, funnel-shaped flowers.
- Amazingly, however, these incredible flowers actually develop almost entirely without scent. Among similar related species, this stands out as a surprising difference, given the strong fragrance of the others.
- Further, its beautifully colored blooms sometimes actually appear either before the leaves do, or simultaneously with the leaves and the flowers. Very few flowering plants display that tendency.
- However, its great beauty conceals a dark secret. All parts of it evolved as highly toxic. In fact, its toxicity is so great, honey produced by bees from these plants may be fatal to humans.
Flame Azalea Physical Description
First of all, the stunning Flame Azalea represents a rather beautiful upright-branched deciduous shrub. Furthermore, it grows much larger than related varieties. In fact, some specimens attain heights of up to 12 ft (3.65 m).
However, its impressive physical statistics do not end there. Because of its growth patterns, individual plants often measure as much in width as they do in height. Therefore, it develops a rather impressive appearance.
In addition, its foliage typically develops as an impressive dark green. Meanwhile, the flowers vary in color across a range of shades of orange and red. These numerous flowers typically develop in clusters of five or more.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Angiosperms
- Class: Eudicots
- Order: Ericales
- Family: Ericaceae
- Genus: Rhododendron
- Species: R. calendulaceum
Flame Azalea Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Firstly, the magnificent Flame Azalea evolved as native to a rather specific region of the United States, in North America. That restricted territorial range consists solely of the southern portions of the Appalachian Mountains.
But, it most commonly appears in the numerous grassy balds that dot the surrounding region. There it makes a striking visual display. In addition, though somewhat less commonly, it also appears in areas of woodland.
Also, like most members of the heath family, this amazing beauty grows most prolifically in acidic soil. Further, for reasons that remain undetermined, the plant appears to be a particular favorite of the Golden Northern Bumblebee.
Four Petal Pawpaw
Four Petal Pawpaw Facts
- The next choice for inclusion on this list of Distinctive North American Woody Shrubs, the Four Petal Pawpaw, has perhaps the most unusual name of those on the list.
- Most notably, the remarkable choice remains a plant that, in some ways, defies explanation. That’s because, to date, evidence indicates that it never existed anywhere beyond its extremely small area of habitation.
- Furthermore, the fabulous plant, not surprisingly, also remains extremely rare in the wild. In fact, only 17 known concentrations of the Four Petal Pawpaw exist anywhere in Nature.
- In addition to only appearing in these few concentrations, its numbers remains scant as well. Due to various factors, only 950 known individual specimens of the amazing species still exist.
- Fortunately, however, 10 of the 17 surviving concentrations reside within the protected confines of the Jonathan Dickinson State Park. This provides them with at least a measure of protection.
- However, the plant still faces serious threats to its existence. Like many other species, its primary threat consists of climate change. Due to these factors, the IUCN currently lists it as Endangered.
Four Petal Pawpaw Physical Description
Firstly, the amazing Four Petal Pawpaw represents another species capable of developing two different ways. Therefore, much like the Devil’s Walking Stick, it develops as either a small tree or aromatic shrub.
Furthermore, regardless of the form it takes, the plant produces a unique and sweet smell. The species also attains a maximum height of as much as 9.8 ft (3 m), though it averages approximately 6.5 ft (2 m).
Meanwhile, the leaves attain an average length of about 4 in (10 cm). Also, these appear green on the upper surface and grayish-green on the underside. In addition, these often have uniquely rolled edges.
Additionally, the flower of the species ranges in color from maroon to pink. This actually changes color as it ages, and also produces a strong, fetid smell. Yet strangely, its small fruit usually produces a banana-like scent.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Tracheophytes
- Class: Angiosperms
- Order: Magnoliales
- Family: Annonaceae
- Genus: Asimina
- Species: A. tetramera
Four Petal Pawpaw Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
First of all, the amazing Four Petal Pawpaw has a rather unique distribution pattern. That’s because of the combination of its scattered populations and the regions in which they appear. This consists of one tiny area in the United States, in North America.
Further, in fact, this fascinating plant only appears in Nature in two counties in the state of Florida. Even there, however, it generally has a very specific type of environment in which it appears.
That habitat, oddly enough, consists of regions of sparse scrub. Additionally, the great majority of known specimens exist alongside of several specific plants. These include saw palmetto, sand pine, and a few types of oak.
Finally, and quite ironically, this remarkable species actually depends on occasional wildfires for its survival. That’s because these remove the brush and various trees that tend to take over its habitat.
Devil’s Walking Stick
Devil’s Walking Stick Facts
- And last, but absolutely not least in any respect, among these Distinctive North American Woody Shrubs comes the, obviously fascinatingly-named, Devil’s Walking Stick.
- First of all, many who encounter it consider the species to be appropriately named. The scientific name of the fascinating, if intimidating species, however, is Aralia spinosa.
- For unknown reasons, it shares several other common names with an unrelated species. This, rather understandably, often causes confusion. However, the two species do share certain natural properties.
- These natural properties include the presence of naturally effective medicinal characteristics. During the American Civil War, doctors discovered its usefulness in preventing infections in battle wounds.
- Finally, and surprisingly, despite the fearsome appearance, the leaves of the Devil’s Walking Stick remain edible. While actually highly nutritious, these must be collected during infancy.
Devil’s Walking Stick Physical Description
Most notably, the Devil’s Walking Stick actually develops as either a large deciduous shrub or a small tree. Quite understandably, this adaptive versatility separates it from the great majority of related species.
Firstly, when it develops as a tree, the species attains a maximum height of about 26 ft (8 m). Meanwhile, the trunk of the plant remains relatively thin. As a result, this attains a maximum diameter of only 8 in (20 cm), even in its tree form.
Yet, the thorns for which it is renowned average a daunting 1/2 half in (1.25 cm) long. Further, the large and aromatic leaves grow as large as an impressive 47 in (120 cm) in length. Also, all of them possess those terrible thorns.
Its flowers also display a creamy white color and remain small, yet develop in large clusters. Finally, the fruit forms a small berry, purple to black in color, and also appears in large groupings.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Tracheophytes
- Class: Angiosperms
- Order: Apiales
- Family: Araliaceae
- Genus: Aralia
- Species: A. spinosa
Devil’s Walking Stick Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Firstly, though not commonly seen, the Devil’s Walking Stick seems quite widespread in its zone of habitation. In addition, that range lies within limited portions of the eastern and mid-west United States.
Further, the species typically only grows naturally along the edges of forests. This, as a result, greatly reduces the chances of humans encountering its thorns. The Devil’s Walking Stick also only develops well in deep, moist soil.
Historically, the local Native Americans also highly prized the formidable plant, for specific purposes. In fact, the Iroquois tribe often planted it around the village as a deterrent to animal incursions.
Additionally, the same tribes also used the fruit of the remarkable plant in a variety of traditional dishes. In addition, the women often wore the strongly lemon-scented flowers in their hair.
We certainly hope that you have enjoyed reading and discovering about these Distinctive North American Woody Shrubs. Obviously, a vast number of species native to the region were not omitted from this article. Far to many exist, each of them fully entitled to appreciation, to be included here. However, we hope we have, at least, whet your appetite for more, and inspired you to investigate further. Within our pages you will find other articles on numerous other species. Many need our protection. Enjoy.