CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Matelea alabamensis

Terri Hogan

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Matelea alabamensis

Common Names: 
Alabama anglepod, Alabama spiny-pod
(Vail) Woods.
Growth Habit: 
Vine, Forb/herb
CPC Number: 


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 Fish & WildLife

Matelea alabamensisenlarge
Photographer: Terri Hogan

Matelea alabamensisenlarge
Photographer: Terri Hogan

Matelea alabamensis is Not Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Terri Hogan contributed to this Plant Profile.

Matelea alabamensis

The Alabama spiny-pod is a climbing or trailing deciduous perennial vine. Each plant produces an aerial stem (1-2 m tall) from an underground rhizome. Leaves are opposite, and can be up to 15 cm long. Small clusters of flowers are borne in the leaf axils on the upper stem. The flower is 15-23 mm wide and is comprised of 5 green petals. (from CPC...)

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Matelea alabamensis
  This species appears to be a habitat specialist, restricted to a narrow band between the dry upper slopes and the mesic lower slopes of ravines within southeastern deciduous forests. Although plants are shade-tolerant and will persist for long periods in areas of reduced light, fruit production in these individuals is low.

  AL, FL, GA

Number Left
  8 sites, approximately 20 populations, two thirds of the populations consist of fewer than 50 plants each (USFWS 1996, Drapalik Pers. Comm.)


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Alabama S1 8/1/1996  
  Florida S1 LE 4/1/1998  
  Georgia T 7/27/2002  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  Although plants are shade-tolerant and will persist for long periods in areas of reduced light, fruit production in these individuals is low. Canopy disturbance appears to be an important factor in maintaining appropriate habitat for this species. Hurricane and tropical storm activity provide this disturbance at the southern-most sites.

  Destruction or modification of habitat appears to be a major threat to the persistence of this species: habitat fragmentation through development or forestry practices, canopy closure, possibly competition with exotics (TNC 1991; USFWS 1996).
Small population size may lead to low reproductive success and erosion of genetic variability.
Herbivory from insects and deer (TNC 1991;, USFWS 1996; Gordon Pers. Comm.) appears to be significant within some populations.

Current Research Summary
  Population Surveys:
1) Four populations are censused annually at The Nature Conservancy's Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve (ABRP) (Thomas et al. 1998). Information is collected on survival, recruitment, stem length and height, flowering and fruit production, vine climbing characteristics, extent of populations, percent canopy cover, and degree of herbivory.
2) Populations are censused annually within one population along the Altamaha River in Georgia (Tassin Pers. Comm.).
Ecological requirements: In a study examining the relationship between environmental factors (light, slope, aspect, and climbing characteristics) and components of plant vigor (Hogan 2000), flowering individuals were growing in significantly greater light environments overall. It was also found that climbing individuals are more likely to flower than prostrate ones.
Genetic analysis: Fourteen Matelea alabamensis populations were included in a genetic study to examine the distribution of genetic variability within and among sites and populations, population differentiation, the relationship between components of plant vigor and genetic variability, and relationships among populations of M. alabamensis (Hogan 2000). The majority (85.33%) of the genetic variation was located among individuals within populations and 15.29% of the variation resided among populations within sites. Also, all fourteen of the populations were quite different from each other. However, differences among populations within sites were often greater than differences among populations across sites. No significant correlation was detected between plant size and genetic variability or between geographic and genetic distance.
Site management: One population was partially burned at ABRP in 1993. The burn appeared to have had no detectable effect on the plants within this population (Thomas et al. 1998). Mid-canopy and small upper-canopy trees were removed in one population at ABRP reducing percent canopy cover from 5% to 39% (Thomas et al. 1998). Although little detectable effect was recorded by TNC (Thomas et al. 1998), individuals were noted to be more robust (larger, more flowers and fruits per individuals) in the cleared areas than at other populations at ABRP (Hogan 2000).
Systematics: Drapalik (1970) conducted a taxonomic study of the nine southeastern species of Matelea including Matelea alabamensis.

Current Management Summary
  2 sites are annually surveyed (Thomas, et al. 1998, Tassin Pers. Comm.).
Manual thinning of the midstory has been conducted at one site (Thomas et al. 1998).
Fire has been introduced to two sites to examine its effect on components of vigor (Thomas et al. 1998; Bentley Pers. Comm.).

Research Management Needs
  Gather basic life history information such as individual longevity and length of time individuals persist under closed canopy
Examine the effects of fire on species
Investigate the role of soil characteristics on components of plant vigor
Determine effects of herbivory on reproduction
Study potential pollen and pollinator limitation
Conduct additional searches for new populations

Ex Situ Needs
  Vegetatively, the Alabama spiny-pod strongly resembles a number of other Matelea species. Establishment of biochemical or genetic procedures to aid in positive identification of non-flowering individuals would be valuable (USFWS 1996).
Establish propagation protocols.


Books (Single Authors)

Clewell, A.F. 1985. Guide to Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida State University Press. 605p.

Coile, N.C. 2000. Notes on Florida's Regulated Plant Index (Rule 5B-40), Botany Contribution 38. Gainesville, Florida: Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry.

Small, J.K. 1933. Manual of the southeastern flora. New York, NY: Hafner Publishing Company. 1505p.

Ward, D.B. 1979. Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida Volume 5: Plants. Gainseville, FL: University Presses of Florida.

Books (Sections)

Hogan, T. 2000. Controls on fruit production and plant vigor in the rare alabama spiny-pod (Matelea alabamensis) at the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. In: Gordon, D.R.; Slapcinsky, J.L., editors. Annual Research Report: A Compilation of Research Conducted or Supported by The Nature Conservancy in Florida. Florida Science and Stewardship Programs and The Nature Conservancy.

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Seamon, G.; Gordon, D.R.; Harper, B.; Slapcinsky, J. 2000. Monitoring of Alabama spiny-pod (Matelea alabamensis) on the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. In: Gordon, D.R.; Slapcinsky, J.L., editors. Annual Research Report: A Compilation of Research Conducted or Supported by The Nature Conservancy in Florida. Florida Science and Stewardship Programs and The Nature Conservancy.

Electronic Sources

(2002). Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. [Web site] University of South Florida Institute for Systematic Botany. http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/isb/default.htm. Accessed: 2008.

Vaughan, E. (2001). Restoration of longleaf pine and wiregrass at the Apalachicola Bluffs Preserve (Florida) in Volume 7- Fall 2001: Lessons Learned From Long-Term Restorations. Restoration and Reclamation Review, Student On-Line Journal (Hort 5015/5071). University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota. http://www.hort.agri.umn.edu/h5015/rrr.htm. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Freeman, J.D.; Causey, A.S.; Short, J.W.; Haynes, R.R. 1979. Endangered, threatened, and special concern plants of Alabama. Journal of the Alabama Academy of Sciences. 50: 1-25.

Vail, A.M. 1903. Studies in the Asclepiadaceae. VII. A new species of Vincetoxicum from Alabama. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 30: 178-179.

Woodson, R.E. 1941. The North American Asclepiadaceae I. Perspective of the genera. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 28, 193-244


1996. Priorities for Conservation: 1996 Annual Report Card for U.S. Plant and Animal Species. The Nature Conservancy.

Allison, J.R. 1996. Status survey of Matelea alabamensis (Vail) Woodson: Alabama spiny pod. Social Circle, Georgia: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Natural Heritage Program.

Gordon, D. 1991. Response of two rare species to manipulation: effects of fire on Matelea alabamensis and effects of transplanting and shade on Conradina glabra. Gainsville, Florida: The Nature Conservancy. Unpublished.

Kral, R. 1983. A report on some rare, threatened, or endangered forest-related vascular plants of the South. Athens, GA: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service. p.1305. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service Technical.

McDaniel, S. 1982. Status report on Matelea alabamensis. Endangered and threatened plant status surveys: Region IV. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Office, Region 4.

Thomas, K.; Harper, B.; Gordon, D.R. 1998. Monitoring Report: Matelea alabamensis, Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Gainesville, FL: The Nature Conservancy. p.16.

TNC. 1991. Element Stewardship Abstract (ESA) for Matelea alabamensis (Alabama spiny-pod). The Nature Conservancy.

USFWS. 1996. Status survey of Matelea alabamensis (Vail) Woodson Alabama spinypod. Social Circle, GA: Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the Georgia Natural Heritage Program. p.14p. + appendices.


Drapalik, D.J. 1970. A biosystematic study of the genus Matelea in the southeastern United States. [Ph.D. Thesis]: Univ. of North Carolina. Chapel Hill. 220p.

Hogan, T.L. 2000. Controls on plant size and reproductive vigor in the rare Alabama spinypod Matelea alabamensis (Vail) Woodson. University of Florida. Gainesville, FL.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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