Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Dwarf Locust - Robinia nana   Elliott
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Section 6 » Family Fabaceae
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AuthorElliott
DistributionOccurs nearly throughout the southern 60% of the Coastal Plain – mainly in the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) belt from the Sandhills east to Beaufort and Onslow counties. Also found regularly in the southeastern part of the Piedmont, west to Union County; scattered occurrences westward over most of the Piedmont and rarely the southern mountains. Some of the occurrences in the western half of the state might be non-natural.

This is essentially a South Atlantic Coastal Plain species, ranging from eastern NC to southern SC, and sparingly south to GA and AL. It does range into the Piedmont and foothills of NC and SC and as far as northern AL. It is not known from VA, TN, or FL.
AbundanceFairly common to common in the Sandhills region, and can be at least locally numerous in proper habitat east to Onslow County. Uncommon in the central Coastal Plain. It is rare to very uncommon in the southeastern Piedmont, and very rare west to Stokes, Alexander, and Henderson counties.
HabitatThis is a characteristic species of Longleaf Pine sandhills, especially in Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill vegetation. It also grows in other sandy pinelands, and in the Piedmont it can also occur in Chestnut Oak forests. It is able to withstand fire suppression fairly well, as it is a shrub, though in some places it can be overgrown by taller woody vegetation without fire.
See also Habitat Account for General Dry-Xeric Hardwood Forests
PhenologyBlooms in April and May. It seldom fruits, however, and reproduces mainly by rhizomes; if and when it fruits, usually from July to October.
IdentificationThis is a very low deciduous shrub, growing only to 1-2’ tall, and frequently occurs in colonies. With its 7-13 rounded leaflets and essentially smooth stems, it should be easily identified, especially in the Coastal Plain. When in bloom, the large, bright pink to rose flowers draw attention, especially for such a small woody plant. In the Piedmont, it could be confused with seedling Black Locust (R. pseudoacacia) plants. However, the latter species seldom grows in colonies and does not flower when just knee high; it also has white flowers.
Taxonomic CommentsMany references still use the broad brush for Robinia species, probably wrongly to botanists who live in the Carolinas. They still name this taxon as Robinia hispida var. nana, and NatureServe has its Global Rank with a “Q” for questionable taxonomy. On the other hand, some older references named R. elliottii as a valid species (e.g., RAB 1968). Most recent references have R. elliottii completely subsumed within R. nana and not even included as a variety. Thus, the RAB (1968) records for R. elliottii are included now with R. nana; thankfully, their ranges are similar.

Other Common Name(s)Dwarf Bristly Locust
State RankS4
Global RankG4Q
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