MCMASTER, ROBERT T. Department of Botany, Connecticut College, New London, CT 06320. - Ecology and population biology of Ophioglossum pusillum in New England.
Ophiolgossum pusillum, the northern adder's-tongue (Ophioglossaceae),
is a small, inconspicuous fern of wetlands and moist meadows. Once
common throughout the northeastern U.S., it has declined dramatically
in recent decades. Historical records exist from 90 Massachusetts
towns, yet today it is known from only seven localities in the state.
It is listed as endangered or threatened in MA and in a number of
other states. This study sought to relocate historical records in
Massachusetts, examine the population biology of extant populations,
and make management recommendations. Five populations were located in
summer 1991. Starch gel electrophoresis revealed no genetic variation
in plants from four Massachusetts populations. One New Hampshire
population showed possible variation. Low variability may be a result
of the reproductive biology of the species which readily
self-fertilizes and expands vegetatively. While low genetic
variability may explain the decline of the species, habitat loss is a
clear factor in some sites. In fact, genetic variability may not be as
important in this early successional species as the ability to spread
rapidly and disperse to new habitat as conditions change.
Key words: Massachusetts, Northern adder's-tongue fern, Ophioglossum pusillum, population biology