Species Profile

Sweet Pepperbush

Scientific Name: Clethra alnifolia
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Nova Scotia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2014
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern


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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Sweet Pepperbush

Sweet Pepperbush Photo 1

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Description

The Sweet Pepperbush is a deciduous woody shrub which measures about 1 to 2 m in height. It has shiny, alternate leaves with toothed margins and a short stalk. Its flowers are white and develop in terminal racemes (flower clusters in which the individual flowers are produced on short stalks along a central elongated axis).

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Distribution and Population

The Sweet Pepperbush ranges from Texas and Florida north to Maine, and a disjunct population occurs in southwestern Nova Scotia. In Nova Scotia, it was initially found on the margins of three lakes: Belliveau Lake in Digby County, and Louis and Canoe Lakes in Yarmouth County. It was discovered on the margins of an additional three lakes later in 1998: Mill Lake, Mudflat Lake and Pretty Mary Lake, all in Annapolis County.Significant numbers of the plant occur on the first two of these lakeside sites while the third location has only a single pepperbush. Extensive stands of the plant occur along the east and west sides of Mill Lake, form a continuous swath around Mudflat Lake, and is scattered around the shore of Pretty Mary Lake.

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Habitat

In Canada, the Sweet Pepperbush occurs on unshaded lake margins, particularly where the movement of winter ice has created slight gravel ridges along the lake shore.

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Biology

The Canadian population of Sweet Pepperbush reproduces mainly by vegetative means (growth of suckers). Flowering occurs from mid August to mid October, but maturation of ovules to seed does not usually appear to occur. Pollinators are abundant and present while the plant is in bloom, so an absence of pollinating agents does not explain the usual lack of sexual reproduction. Recent evidence indicates that some seedling production may occur occasionally.

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Threats

Cottage development poses a threat to the plants on the margins of Belliveau, Mill, Mudflat and Pretty Mary lakes, which are all on privately owned land except for a small cove of provincial crown land on the northwest side of Pretty Mary Lake. The other two sites are on crown land. An intolerance to shade and vulnerability to changes in water level resulting from damming further limit the Sweet Pepperbush. The general absence of viable seed is likely one reason why this plant has such a limited distribution in Nova Scotia.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Sweet Pepperbush is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Sweet Pepperbush is protected by the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, or collect this species.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy and Management Plan for Multiple Species of Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora Recovery Team

  • Sherman Boates - Chair/Contact - Government of Nova Scotia
    Phone: 902-679-6146  Fax: 902-679-6176  Send Email
  • Samara Eaton - Chair/Contact - Environment Canada
    Phone: 506-364-5060  Fax: 506-364-5062  Send Email

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Sweet Pepperbush Clethra alnifolia in Canada (2015)

    Sweet Pepperbush is a deciduous, woody, wetland shrub 1 to 3 m tall that can grow in a clumped form or with single stems arising from a spreading rhizome (underground stem). The dense, narrowly elongate flower clusters are 4 to 12 cm long and composed of small, white, 5-petalled flowers that are strongly fragrant. Fertilized flowers mature into dry, round capsules with many small seeds, though seed production has been reported as sometimes absent or rare in Canada. Sweet Pepperbush is one of many nationally rare, disjunct species of the Atlantic Coastal Plain in southern Nova Scotia. Outreach programs have resulted in fairly wide understanding and appreciation of this rare flora. Sweet Pepperbush is particularly appreciated by some landowners because of its showy flowers and strong, pleasant fragrance, characteristics that have made it a widely used ornamental species with many developed cultivars. Canadian populations are isolated from others by 200+ km and are the northernmost worldwide, suggesting potential significance to the species’ range-wide genetic diversity.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Sweet Pepperbush (2015)

    This disjunct Atlantic Coastal Plain clonal shrub is restricted to the shores of six lakes in a small area of southern Nova Scotia. Newly identified threats from the invasive exotic shrub Glossy Buckthorn and eutrophication have put this species at increased risk of extirpation. Shoreline development also remains a threat.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy and Management Plan for Multiple Species of Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora in Canada (2016)

    Section 37 of SARA requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species and Section 65 of SARA requires the competent minister to prepare management plans for special concern species. For the SARA-listed species of Special Concern, their inclusion in this combined recovery strategy and management plan will also serve in lieu of a separate management plan as required under SARA (Sections 65-67). The Province of Nova Scotia, Environment Canada, and Parks Canada Agency led the development of this document. This recovery strategy and management plan was developed in cooperation or consultation with numerous other individuals and agencies including environmental non-government organizations, industry stakeholders, aboriginal groups, and private landowners.

Management Plans

  • Recovery Strategy and Management Plan for Multiple Species of Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora in Canada (2010)

    Section 37 of SARA requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species and Section 65 of SARA requires the competent minister to prepare management plans for special concern species. For the SARA-listed species of Special Concern, their inclusion in this combined recovery strategy and management plan will also serve in lieu of a separate management plan as required under SARA (Sections 65-67). The Province of Nova Scotia, Environment Canada, and Parks Canada Agency led the development of this document. This recovery strategy and management plan was developed in cooperation or consultation with numerous other individuals and agencies including environmental non-government organizations, industry stakeholders, aboriginal groups, and private landowners.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2017)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2017)

    Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances). Given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2013-2014 (2014)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2013 to September, 2014) from November 24 to November 29, 2013 and from April 27 to May 2, 2014. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 0 Endangered: 23 Threatened: 12 Special Concern: 20 Data Deficient: 0 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 25 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act : Terrestrial Species - January 2015 (2015)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments byApril 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website