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Croton humilis L.
South Florida Status: Critically imperiled. One occurrence at Big Cypress National Preserve.
Taxonomy: Dicotyledon; Euphorbiaceae.
Habit: Dicotyledon; Euphorbiaceae.
Distribution: Native to South Florida, the West Indies, and Mexico.
South Florida Distribution: Collier and Monroe counties.
South Florida Habitats: Rockland hammocks.
Protection Status: Listed as endangered by FDACS.
Aids to Identification: There are 12 species of Croton in Florida. Wunderlin (1998) has a key. This species superficially resembles Rivina humilis. The IRC Website has a color photo
References: Chapman, 1883; Ferguson, 1901; Small, 1933a; Long & Lakela, 1976; Correll & Correll, 1982; Wunderlin, 1998; Coile, 2000; Liogier & Martorell, 2000.
Synonyms: C. berlandieri Torr.
Historical Context: Alva Bennett first collected pepperbush in 1834 or 1835 on the island of Key West (s.n., NY). It was collected there again by John Loomis Blodgett between 1838 and 1852 (s.n., NY), by Allan H. Curtiss in the late 1800s, and by John Kunkel Small in 1913 (4899, NY; s.n., FTG). In 1952, it was collected at Cactus Hammock on Big Pine Key by Ellsworth P. Killip (41961, NY), and later the same year by “Dickson” (s.n., FTG). Cactus Hammock is located within the National Key Deer Refuge.
Hugh O’Neill made the first collection on the mainland in the Pinecrest area in 1929 (s.n., FTG), either in or near what is now Big Cypress National Preserve. Other vouchers were collected in that area by Frank C. Craighead in 1963 (s.n., USF), by George N. Avery in 1971 (1040, FTG, USF), and by David and Sally Black in 1978 (218, FTG). Black & Black (1980) reported it as rare in Big Cypress National Preserve. Ann Buckley and Ted Hendrickson last vouchered this station in 1984 (46, FAU), but it is assumed to be extant.
It also was collected once in Miami-Dade County in 1978 as a weed at Fairchild Tropical Garden by Donovan S. Correll (50387, FTG). This should not be considered part of its natural range in Florida.
Major Threats: Exotic pest plant invasions.
Comments: Plants with a known provenance from the Pinecrest area are in cultivation by Joyce W. Gann and by Bradley.
Recommendations: • Map and monitor known stations on a regular basis. • Conduct conservation biology and conservation horticulture studies. • Consider establishing an ex situ collection of germplasm. • Consider reintroducing pepperbush to sites within its historical range, including Cactus Hammock in the National Key Deer Refuge. • Consider introducing pepperbush to other sites within its historical range, including Little Hamaca Park. • Review for listing by FNAI.