*The following is based on Gann, G.D., K.A. Bradley & S.W. Woodmansee. 2002. Rare Plants of South Florida: Their History, Conservation, and Restoration. The Institute for Regional Conservation: Miami. For updated species accounts, see Citation below. For the original text, follow the link in the Update field. If no Update field is displayed, then cite as the original publication.


Picramnia pentandra Sw.

Florida bitterbush


South Florida Status: Critically imperiled. Five occurrences in five conservation areas and adjacent non-conservation areas (Alice Wainwright Park; Sewell Park; Simpson Park; The Barnacle State Historic Site; Vizcaya Museum and Gardens).

Taxonomy: Dicotyledon; Simaroubaceae.

Habit: Shrub or small tree.

Distribution: Native to South Florida, the West Indies, and South America.

South Florida Distribution: Miami-Dade County.

South Florida Habitats: 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; the IRC Website has a color photo.

References: Chapman, 1883; Small, 1933a; Long & Lakela, 1976; Little, 1978; Tomlinson, 1980; Correll & Correll, 1982; Nelson, 1994; Nelson, 1996; Wunderlin, 1998; Chafin, 2000; Coile, 2000; Liogier & Martorell, 2000.

Synonyms: None.



Historical Context: Abram P. Garber first collected bitterbush in 1877 in Miami (s.n., NY), presumably in Brickell Hammock. Allan H. Curtiss made another collection on an unspecified date in the 1880s. This collection also probably was from Brickell Hammock (441, NY). Many botanists have collected specimens from Brickell Hammock since that time. It is extant in several fragments of Brickell Hammock, including Alice Wainwright Park, Simpson Park, and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, as well as at Sewell Park to the west of Brickell Hammock. It is often a common understory shrub at these sites and is commonly found on adjacent private properties.

The natural range of this species in southern Florida has been obscured by its use in landscaping and its habit of spreading from areas where it has been planted. Its natural range is known, with certainty, to end two to three miles to the south of the southern limits of Brickell Hammock in the Coconut Grove area, where it is present at The Barnacle State Historic Park, a site that needs to be vouchered. It was vouchered in Coconut Grove at the Kampong by Richard A. Howard in 1968 (17076, GH) and William T. Gillis in 1969 (8084, FTG).

A number of specimens of this species from farther south and west in Miami-Dade County represent locations where bitterbush has been planted and escaped: Camp Owaissa Bauer (Thomas 4919, NY), the Deering Estate at Cutler (Correll et al. 47064, FTG, NY), Fairchild Tropical Garden (Thomas 4914, NY), Florida International University (Mahr 7, FTG), the Homestead area (Craighead s.n., FTG; Lakela 54800, USF), and USDA Tropical Research and Education Center (Bradley 643, FTG). It also has been reported for Everglades National Park (Reimus, 1999), where it has escaped from cultivation.

Major Threats: Exotic pest plant invasions.

Comments: This species has been reported for the Florida Keys by Small (1913), Sargent (1922), and Long & Lakela (1976). We have been unable to find specimens to substantiate these reports.


Recommendations: • Voucher plants at The Barnacle State Historic Park. • Map and monitor known stations on a regular basis.