Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Tough Bumelia - Sideroxylon tenax   L.
Members of Sideroxylon with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Ebenales » Family Sapotaceae
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DistributionExtreme southeastern Coastal Plain only; known only from barrier islands of Brunswick and New Hanover counties. Currently there are barely 2-3 sites for it in NC, with very small populations at each locale. In fact, it might be gone from NC now (2018); more surveys are needed. SERNEC contains specimens for Brunswick and New Hanover counties; the NCNHP database contains 5 records, about 3 still extant (though barely). Better documentation of this species in the state is strongly needed.

A remarkably small range, mainly coastal. Ranges from southeastern NC to southern FL, and west to southern GA. Found only in NC, SC, GA, and FL.
AbundanceExtremely rare in NC, and barely hanging on in the state. This is a State Threatened species.
HabitatThis species is strictly found on coastal shell middens, in maritime forests and thickets adjacent to tidal marshes, on barrier islands. The similar S. lycioides is known to grow in the same habitats on Bald Head Island.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits in September and October.
IdentificationThis is mainly a medium-sized shrub in NC, rarely to a small tree; grows mainly to 8-10 feet tall. The leaves are evergreen, thick and glossy dark green, and strongly rusty-haired below. They are oblanceolate to obovate and clearly rounded at the tip and are smaller (and more top-shaped) than those of the other bumelia (S. lycioides), being only about 1.5-2 inches long. As with S. lycioides, the leaves are clustered on short spur shoots, the stems have small thorns, and the sap of broken twigs is milky. Apparently the shrubs in NC are not as strongly rusty below as those in FL and there may be a bit of hybridization with S. lycioides going on in the northern part of the range.
Taxonomic CommentsThis and other species formerly in the genus Bumelia have been moved to the genus Sideroxylon in recent decades.

Other Common Name(s)Tough Bully, Tough Buckthorn
State RankS1
Global RankG3?
State StatusT
US Status
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B.A. SorriePhoto taken in Highlands County, FL, in 1990s. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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