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Oxypolis canbyi, inflorescence by Alan Cressler. Image may be subject to copyright.
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Oxypolis canbyi (Coult. & Rose) Fern.

Canby Dropwort

Federal Protection: Listed Endangered

State Protection: Endangered

Global Rank: G2

State Rank: S2

Element Locations Tracked in Biotics: Yes

SWAP High Priority Species (SGCN): Yes

Element Occurrences (EOs) in Georgia: 22

Habitat Summary for element in Georgia: Cypress ponds and sloughs; wet savannas


Perennial herb forming colonies by long, thin underground stems (rhizomes). Stems are up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, slender, erect, smooth, the lower portion purple, branching only near the top.  Leaves are 8 - 12 inches (20 - 30 cm) long, alternate, slender, round in cross-section and tapering to a point, hollow except for cross-partitions; the lower leaves usually drop by flowering time or are underwater. Flowers are held in flat-topped clusters (umbels) containing 7 - 12 smaller, flat-topped clusters (umbelets). The flowers have 5 tiny, white petals that curve up and inward. Fruits are less than 0.25 inch (4 - 6 mm) long, flattened and broadly oblong, with corky ribs and broad, thickened wings, giving the fruit a flattened, rectangular shape in cross-section. All parts of the plant smell faintly of dill.

Similar Species

Common Dropwort (Oxypolis filiformis) occurs in similar habitats but it is a coarser plant, with thicker stems and leaves than Canby’s Dropwort. It retains its lower leaves while flowering, and each umbel contains 10 - 20 smaller umbelets. Mature fruits have narrow, thin wings with only a few corky ribs, giving them a spindle-shape in cross-section.

Related Rare Species

Savanna Cowbane (Oxypolis denticulata, Special Concern) occurs in wet pine savannas and bogs in the Coastal Plain. For more information, see: https://www.georgiabiodiversity.org/natels/profile?es_id=17485


Wetlands, such as cypress ponds and sloughs, Carolina bays, and wet savannas, with acidic, organic soils and fluctuating, though usually high, water levels; there is patchy or no canopy cover.

Life History

Canby’s Dropwort reproduces sexually by seed as well as asexually by the spread of rhizomes, sometimes forming extensive colonies. Canby’s Dropwort flowers are capable of both self- and cross-pollination. Some umbels contain only bisexual flowers while others have female flowers in the outer part of the umbel and male flowers in the inner. Because the stamens typically mature and shed pollen before the pistils become receptive, self-pollination rarely occurs; and, due to the isolation of the small, usually clonal populations, cross-pollination is also limited. As a result, sexual reproduction is uncommon in this species and most reproduction is by spread of rhizomes. Adults of the Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes asterius) lay their eggs on Canby’s Dropwort stems (as well as on the stems of other plants in this genus); once hatched, the larvae (caterpillars) often chew through the stems just below the umbels, further limiting the chance of sexual reproduction. In some populations, as many as 17% of the Canby’s Dropwort stems were eaten through by butterfly larvae.

Survey Recommendations

Surveys are best conducted during flowering (late June–August) and fruiting (August–October). Both flowers and fruits are useful for identification.


Coastal Plain of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware.


Conversion of habitat to pine plantations and agriculture by ditching, draining, and filling wetlands; fire suppression in wetlands and surrounding woodlands; building firebreaks in transition areas between uplands and wetlands; lowering of water table by ground water withdrawal.

Georgia Conservation Status

Oxypolis canbyi is ranked S2 by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, indicating that it is imperiled in Georgia. It is listed as Endangered by the State of Georgia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. About 20 populations have been documented in Georgia, but only 14 have been confirmed in recent years. Only two occur on conservation lands.

Conservation Management Recommendations

Apply prescribed fire every 2 - 3 years and allow fire in uplands to burn into edges of ponds and Carolina bays; avoid placing firebreaks in transition zones between uplands and wetlands and ponds. Avoid ditching, draining, or altering hydrology of ponds, sloughs, and bays. Limit ground water withdrawal.


Chafin, L.G. 2007. Field guide to the rare plants of Georgia. State Botanical Garden of Georgia and University of Georgia Press, Athens.

Kral, R. 1983. A report on some rare, threatened, or endangered forest-related vascular plants of the South. Technical Publication R8-TP2. United States Forest Service, Atlanta.

Kral, R. 1981. Notes on some "quill-leaved" umbellifers. Sida 9(2): 124-134. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41966599?seq=1

NatureServe. 2019. Oxypolis canbyi comprehensive report. NatureServe Explorer. Arlington, Virginia. http://explorer.natureserve.org/servlet/NatureServe?searchName= Oxypolis+canbyi

Patrick, T.S., J.R. Allison, and G.A. Krakow. 1995. Protected plants of Georgia. Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Program, Social Circle.

Tucker, A.O., N.H. Dill, T.D. Pizzolato, R. Kral. 1983. Nomenclature, distribution, chromosome numbers, and fruit morphology of Oxypolis canbyi and O. filiformis  (Apiaceae). Systematic Botany 8: 299-304. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2418483.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Aa8873c307e16d51f658bffe17acbbd21

USFWS. 2018. Canby's Dropwort (Oxypolis canbyi) species profile and related documents. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, D.C. https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?sId=7738

Weakley, A.S. 2015. Flora of the southern and mid-Atlantic States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm

Authors of Account

Linda G. Chafin

Date Compiled or Updated

L. Chafin, Jul. 2008: original account

K. Owers, Feb. 2010: added pictures

L. Chafin, Mar. 2020: updated original account

Oxypolis canbyi, illustration by Jean C. Putnam Hancock. Image may be subject to copyright.
Oxypolis canbyi, fruits by Alan Cressler. Image may be subject to copyright.
Oxypolis canbyi, with Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar by Alan Cressler. Image may be subject to copyright.
Oxypolis canbyi, leaves and stem by Bruce A. Sorrie. Image may be subject to copyright.