Common name: Common Spicebush
Out of season, a Spicebush plant can easily be overlooked, but it’s a good illustration of the variability and importance of plants in a wetland. The Spicebush is an aromatic, understory shrub which typically grows between 5-10 feet and found in wooded bottomlands, low swamps, and along streams. Like most shrubs, Spicebush has many trunks, and is colonial, or spreads asexually via its roots. Alternatively, the spice bush can also reproduce sexually, as there are both male and female plants (dioecious), something of an oddity in the botanical world. (It is estimated that only 4% -7% of plants are dioecious.)
The shrubs name derives from the spicy/lemony fragrance of the stems, leaves, and fruits when bruised. It has some limited food value as a flavoring or adding scent, but it had been used as an indicator species by early settlers to locate fertile soil.
Beyond its scent, the shrubs other identifying feature are its fruits, or drupes. The drupes are shiny red berries which are eaten by many birds, particularly thrushes, and wildlife. The drupes mature between August and October, and only appear on the female plant if it has been fertilized.
The leaves are dark green, alternate, pointy-tipped, oval-shaped stalked leaves smooth edges that range between 2 and 6 inches long. The Spicebush is one of the first bushes to bloom in March or April, and produces small, pale yellow flowers. During the fall, the leaves turn yellow.
The Spicebush is also a host plant to butterflies in the swallowtail family, especially the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail who lay eggs on the underside of the leaves. When a caterpillar emerges from an egg, it wraps the leaf around itself like a jacket, safely spending most of the day in its leaf shelter, leaving only at night to eat.
The Spicebush It is found throughout east Texas, Oklahoma and eastward through all of the Atlantic states and as far north as Maine and southern Canada.
Additional reading and sources:
USDA Plants Database. Plant Guide “Spicebush: Lindera benzoin (L.) Blume.” http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_libe3.pdf
Photos copyright USDA, NRCS. 2014. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 28 May 2014). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
EPA Proposes new Wetlands Rule
Confirming last year’s leak and rumors, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a rule that clarifies their jurisdiction over wetlands both bordering and isolated from navigable water bodies. Much of the confusion is due to two Supreme Court cases (Rapanos and SWANCC cases in 2001 and 2006 respectively) that provided conflicting information on the EPA's jurisdiction over the waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act (CWA), leaving the authority of the EPA uncertain. The proposed rule would not expand the EPA's reach, but better define its role in part due to the tumultuous effect the U.S. Supreme Court cases have had on wetland losses.
Between 2004 and 2009, an estimated 80,000 acres of wetlands were lost annually in the United States, in part due to the open question if isolated and non-navigable wetlands are indeed protected by the CWA. In prior years, losses were significantly less, at an estimated 60,000 acres annually, due in a large part to these court decisions.
While individual states can, and frequently do, author laws which are stricter than Federal standards in order to protect wetlands, just as many states rely solely upon the Clean Water Act and Federal guidance for determining protected wetlands.
The proposed language changes would offer protections to isolated wetlands that had been previously in question:
The agencies propose for the first time to define the terms ‘‘neighboring,’’ ‘‘riparian area,’’ ‘‘floodplain,’’ ‘‘tributary,’’ and ‘‘significant nexus.’’
The proposal also clarified 54 different exemptions to the rule making, which are most related to farming, but left unspoken is how the EPA will determine jurisdiction on by vernal pools, prairie potholes and playa lakes which are frequently both ephemeral and isolated.
Both the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the proposed rule, now open to the 90 day comment period, on March 24. To date the EPA has received more than 60,000 comments on the proposed rules. The comment period will remain open through July 21, 2014. Please submit your comments by going to regulations.gov and searching for EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880.
We encourage you to submit comments in support of the rule, and to urge the EPA and Corps to publish a final rule that recognizes that isolated wetlands are ecologically important and are connected to downstream waters.
Some additional reading:
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Wetlands in the News
- Wetlands Reveillon planned in Luling, Nutcracker to be presented - NOLA.com (blog)
- DNR announces new wetland restoration plan - Marshfield News-Herald
- Concern over great seawalls of China: once lush wetlands surrounded by 11000 ... - South...
- Photos: Wetlands mitigation project at Roes Island - NJ.com
- Manatee County gets steal of a deal on wetlands restoration project - Bradenton Herald