Hypericum cumulicola

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Hypericum cumulicola
Hype cumu.jpg
Photo by Shirley Denton (Copyrighted, Use by photographer’s permission only), Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Order: Theales
Family: Clusiaceae ⁄ Guttiferae
Genus: Hypericum
Species: H. cumulicola
Binomial name
Hypericum cumulicola
(Small) P. Adams
Hype cumu dist.jpg
Natural range of Hypericum cumulicola from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common name: Highlands Scrub St. John's-wort

Taxonomic notes

Synonym: Sanidophyllum cumulicola Small USDA NRCS Plants Database


H. cumulicola is a short live perennial herb with stems dying back in winter to non-flowering basal branches.[1] The leaves are needle like and opposite, entire, simple, and gland-dotted. Seeds are pointed, opening into three curved, beaked segments, surrounded by 5 persistent sepals.[2] The yellow flowers are small, bisexual, and arranged in a cyme. It may contain hypericin, which is common of species in this genus.[3] The leaves and flowers are similar to Hypericum gentianoides, but can be differentiated by having a single, winged-angled main stem and lacking a cluster of basal branches.[1]

“Usually glabrous herbs or shrubs. Leaves usually punctate, simple, opposite, entire, usually sessile or subsessile, exstipulate. Inflorescence basically cymose; flowers perfect, regular, bracteates, subsessile or short-pedicellate, sepals 2, 4, or 5, persistent; petals 4 or 5, usually marcescent, yellow or pink; stamens 5-numerous, separate or connate basally forming 3-5 clusters or fascicles, filaments usually persistent; carpels 2-5, stigmas and styles separate or fused, ovary superior, 1-locular or partly or wholly 2-5 locular, placentation axile or parietal. Capsules basically ovoid, longitudinally dehiscent, styles usually persistent; seeds numerous, lustrous, areolate, cylindric or oblong. In general our species form a polymorphic complex with many intergrading taxa.”[4]


It is a federally endangered species due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and fire suppression.[2] It is endemic to the Lake Wales Ridge, with populations occurring only in Polk and Highland counties. However; within these counties, this species occurs in relatively high densities of hundreds or thousands of individuals.[3]



Hypericum cumulicola can be found in openings of rosemary balds and oak scrubs. Rosemary balds are unique vegetative communities that occur as patches within the more expansive scrub ecosystem found in the Lake Wales Ridge.[3] The fire frequency of rosemary balds range from 10 to 100 years (Johnson 1990) and extended periods of fire suppression results in a loss of openings preferred by this species.[3] Associated species include Ceratolia, Selaginella, Pinus clausa, Prunus geniculata, Polygonella, and Paronychia pulvinata.[5]


Flowers July through November and fruits September through November.[2][5][6] The mature seeds are pointed and opening into three curved, beaked segments, surrounded by five persistent sepals.[2] Fruit set alone is not a reliable measure of reproductive output because fruits can form regardless of the number of seeds they contain, as long as there is at least one viable seed.[7] The yellow flowers are bisexual, with approximately 27 anthers, and arranged in a cyme.[3] It is a self compatible species but herkogomaous and requires insect visitors for high rates of pollination.[8]

Seed dispersal

There is no obvious primary dispersal mechanism and seeds are probably dispersed passively by gravity.[3]

Seed bank and germination

H. cumulicola is an obligate seeder and forms long lived seed banks. (Menges and Kohfeldt 1995);[9] Seedling survival and germination are high in recently burned areas, but are low in areas of fire suppression.[10] Stephens and Castro-Morales et al. (2012) found that seed predators (mostly invertebrates) removed more seeds in intact scrubs than in degraded scrubs, because they can use the low shrub cover and associated litter to hide from carnivorous predators. This study also found higher germination rates in bare sand than in litter only or under shrubs.

The biological soil crust in rosemary balds is dominated by algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, and bacteria. Hawkes (2004) found that there was a higher rate of germination in intact soil crusts compared to degraded crusts.

H. cumulicola was highly represnted in seed banks in rosemary scrubs in south central Florida, especially where above ground vegetation was present.[11]

Fire ecology

Fire intervals in rosemary balds range from 10 to 100 years (Johnson 1990). Fire is important in keeping gaps, that allow H. cumulicola to grow without being impacted from allelopathic chemicals leached from Ceratiola ericoides.[12] It is an obligate seeder and is sensitive to fire return intervals due to the timing of seedling recruitment, reproductive maturation, and senescence. The density of H. cumulicola was the highest between the third and fourth year after fire and declined the following years.[13] The smallest individuals have been observed to have the highest growth rate in recently burned patches. Recruitment decreases in patches more than a decade post-fire.[14]


There is limited gene flow among isolated populations due to pollination by specialized bees that move short distances.[15] This species is self compatible, but relies on pollinators to reproduce and is herkogamous.[7] H. cumulicola was observed at the Archbold Biological Station to be pollinated by long-tongued bees from the Apidae family (Bombus impatiens) and sweat bees from the Halictidae family (Augochloropsis sumptuosa, Lasioglossum miniatulus and L. nymphalis).[16] There is significantly lower seed set in self pollinated flowers than in far outcrossed flowers.[7]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Urbanization and agriculture have resulted in habitat loss, fragmentation and fire suppression on the Lake Wales Ridge.[2] Fire suppression results in an accumulation of litter, lichen, and dominate shrubs, limiting the ideal conditions for H. cumulicola fecundity.[1]

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

Hawkes, C. V. (2004). "Effects of Biological Soil Crusts on Seed Germination of Four Endangered Herbs in a Xeric Florida Shrubland during Drought." Plant Ecology 170(1): 121-134.

Judd, W.S. 1980. Status report on Hypericum cumulicola. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Jacksonville, Florida.

Oakley, Christopher G., and Editor: Susan J. Mazer. “The Influence of Natural Variation in Population Size on Ecological and Quantitative Genetics of the Endangered Endemic Planthypericum Cumulicola”. International Journal of Plant Sciences 176.1 (2015): 11–19.

Stephens, Elizabeth L., Luz Castro-Morales, and Pedro F. Quintana-Ascencio. “Post-dispersal Seed Predation, Germination, and Seedling Survival of Five Rare Florida Scrub Species in Intact and Degraded Habitats”. The American Midland Naturalist 167.2 (2012): 223–239.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 [[1]] Florida Natural Areas Inventory Accessed: January 4, 2016
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 [[2]] Center for Plant Conservation Accessed: January 4, 2016
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 [[3]]Accessed: January 4, 2016
  4. Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. 1964, 1968. The University of North Carolina Press. 709. Print.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: October 2015. Collectors: W.P. Adams , Beverly Judd, Walter S. Judd, O. Lakela, James D. Ray Jr., D.B. Ward. States and Counties: Florida: Highlands, Polk. Compiled by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.
  6. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. www.gilnelson.com/PanFlora/ Accessed: 19 MAY 2021
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Trager, Matthew D. et al.. “Outcrossing Effects on the Reproductive Performance of Hypericum Cumulicola, an Endangered Florida Scrub Endemic”. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society132.2 (2005): 204–213
  8. Evans, M.E.K., E.S. Menges and D.R. Gordon. 2003. Reproductive biology of three sympatric plants endemic to Florida scrub. Biol. Conserv. 111: 235-246.
  9. Quintana-Ascencio, Pedro F., Rebecca W. Dolan, and Eric S. Menges. “Hypericum Cumulicola Demography in Unoccupied and Occupied Florida Scrub Patches with Different Time-since-fire”.Journal of Ecology 86.4 (1998): 640–651.
  10. Quintana-Ascencio, P. R. and E. S. Menges (2000). "Competitive Abilities of Three Narrowly Endemic Plant Species in Experimental Neighborhoods along a Fire Gradient." American Journal of Botany 87(5): 690-699.
  11. Navarra, J. J. and P. F. Quintana-Ascencio 2012. Spatial pattern and composition of the Florida scrub seed bank and vegetation along an anthropegenic disturbance gradient. Applied Vegetation Science 15:349-358.
  12. Hewitt, R. E. and E. S. Menges (2008). "Allelopathic Effects of Ceratiola ericoides (Empetraceae) on Germination and Survival of Six Florida Scrub Species." Plant Ecology 198(1): 47-59.
  13. Quintana-Ascencio, Pedro Francisco, Eric S. Menges, and Carl W. Weekley. “A Fire-explicit Population Viability Analysis of Hypericum Cumulicola in Florida Rosemary Scrub”. Conservation Biology 17.2 (2003): 433–449
  14. Quintana-Ascencio, Pedro F., and Marina Morales-Hernández. “Fire-mediated Effects of Shrubs, Lichens and Herbs on the Demography of Hypericum Cumulicola in Patchy Florida Scrub”.Oecologia 112.2 (1997): 263–271.
  15. Menges, E. S., R. W. Dolan, et al. (2001). "Comparative Genetics of Seven Plants Endemic to Florida's Lake Wales Ridge." Castanea 66(1/2): 98-114.
  16. Deyrup, M.A. and N.D. 2015. Database of observations of Hymenoptera visitations to flowers of plants on Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA.