Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Polystichum munitum


Introductory

SPECIES: Polystichum munitum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Crane, M. F. 1989. Polystichum munitum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].

ABBREVIATION : POLMUN SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : POMU COMMON NAMES : western sword fern Christmas fern sword holly fern TAXONOMY : The currently accepted name of western sword fern is Polystichum munitum (Kaulf.) C. Presl. There are no infrataxa [79]. Sword fern outcrosses frequently and hybrids have been identified from crosses with Anderson holly fern (P. andersonii) [64,69], Eaton holly fern (P. scopulinum) [54], California holly fern (P. californicum), Shasta fern (P. lemmonii) [64], and imbricated sword fern (P. imbricans) [78]. Imbricated sword fern and western sword fern are morpholigically similar, but are considered separate species [74,78]. LIFE FORM : Fern or Fern Ally FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Polystichum munitum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Western sword fern grows along the west coast from southeastern Alaska to Santa Barbara County, California, and eastward through Washington and northern Idaho into northwest Montana [39,40,69]. Disjunct populations have been found in South Dakota and on Guadalupe Island off Baja California [41,69,78]. In British Columbia, it is common west of the Coast Mountains and on the Queen Charlotte Islands [28]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES22 Western white pine FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce FRES25 Larch FRES27 Redwood FRES28 Western hardwoods STATES : AK CA ID MT OR SD WA BC MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 3 Southern Pacific Border 8 Northern Rocky Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest K004 Fir - hemlock forest K005 Mixed conifer forest K006 Redwood forest K012 Douglas-fir forest K013 Cedar - hemlock - pine forest K014 Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest K025 Alder - ash forest K026 Oregon oakwoods K029 California mixed evergreen forest SAF COVER TYPES : 211 White fir 212 Western larch 213 Grand fir 215 Western white pine 221 Red alder 222 Black cottonwood - willow 223 Sitka spruce 224 Western hemlock 225 Western hemlock - Sitka spruce 226 Coastal true fir - hemlock 227 Western redcedar - western hemlock 228 Western redcedar 229 Pacific Douglas-fir 230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock 231 Port Orford-cedar 232 Redwood 233 Oregon white oak 234 Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Western sword fern frequently indicates productive, moist forest habitat types [18,27,33,37]. It may also indicate deep soils [36]. Western swordfern is an indicator of high quality sites for black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) [61] and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) [22]. Published classification schemes listing western sword fern as an indicator species or as a dominant part of vegetation are presented below: Forest types of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex [1] Plant communities and environmental interrelationships in a portion of the Tillamook Burn, northwestern Oregon [7] Synecological features of a natural headland prairie on the Oregon coast [14] Classification of montane forest community types in the Cedar River drainage of western Washington [16] A preliminary classification of the forest communities in the central portion of the western Cascades in Oregon [18] Natural vegetation of Oregon and Washington [22] Ecoclass coding system for the Pacific Northwest plant associations [29] Plant association and management guide for the western hemlock zone: Mt. Hood National Forest [33] Vegetation mapping and community description of a small western Cascade watershed [35] Plant association and management guide: Willamette National Forest [37] Forest ecosystems of Mount Rainier National Park [51] The Quercus garryana forests of the Willamette Valley, Oregon [68].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Polystichum munitum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Wildlife: Western sword fern provides forage for elk, deer, and black bear [28]. In coastal Oregon forests it is one of the ten most frequently used foods of Roosevelt elk [6,24]. On the Olympic peninsula of Washington, the fronds are eaten yearlong and are of medium importance to Roosevelt elk. Its use is moderately heavy in winter when snow depth permits grazing. In one study, it was found in eight of nine Roosevelt elk stomachs sampled and accounted for 9.2 percent of the total food volume eaten [60]. In Oregon western sword fern is a preferred food of mountain beaver [44]. Livestock: Ferns are a very minor part (<2%) of sheep diets in western Oregon [47]. PALATABILITY : The palatability of western sword fern is rated as fair for Roosevelt elk on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington [60]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Western sword fern has particularly high levels of potassium and nitrogen when it occurs as an understory plant in seral red alder (Alnus rubra) stands. Calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium levels are higher in the understory of seral red alder stands than in the understory of Douglas-fir stands [13,76]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Western sword fern is cultivated as an ornamental plant and is well suited to a variety of garden situations. Its fronds are harvested in quantity for florists to use as background greenery [19,40]. The fronds are edible when very young [17]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Western sword fern is not generally considered a serious competitor for conifers. However, in localized areas where it is particularly abundant and vigorous, it can interfere with conifer regeneration and growth. Reduction or removal of western sword fern may reduce competition for moisture and light in these situations [28]. In laboratory and field trials, it did not allelopathically inhibit other plants [15]. In coastal Douglas-fir forests western sword fern cover is greatly reduced by accumulations of heavy slash and soil disturbance during logging [6,24]. Western sword fern dominated only undisturbed microsites following clearcutting in western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), Douglas-fir, and western red-cedar (Thuja plicata) forests with western sword fern-Oregon oxalis (Oxalis oregana) understories. On disturbed plots western sword fern cover was under 10 percent for the first 5 years and then began to increase. Following burning, cover was reduced to 0.5 percent [6]. In Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)-hemlock (Tsuga spp.) forests, overall cover of western sword fern generally increased on thinned plots [3]. Western sword fern is resistant to most herbicides, although its response is intermediate to high glyphosate concentrations [10]. Western sword fern cover was reduced but still abundant following various treatments in Oregon. The treatments included applications of 2,4,5-T and picloram followed by crushing in one area and burning in another. It also recovered well following spraying with glyphosate; however, it almost disappeared from plots that were severely scarified [44]. Dicamba and bromacil are effective herbicides on western sword fern, although dicamba will cause injury to trees [49,67]. Late spring is the most efficient time to treat it with dicamba, as twice as much dicamba is needed in midsummer. In Oregon presence of western sword fern is one of the indicators used to predict the relative difficulty of conifer regeneration. A range of 1 to 14 has been developed, with higher values indicating better regeneration. After clearcutting in Oregon, western sword fern presence had an indicator value of 11, while after partial cuting its value was 2. This same scale is used to indicate relative temperature conditions in undisturbed stands [26]. In southwestern British Columbia western sword fern is an indicator species in two associations used to estimate Douglas-fir site index. These associations indicate moderately dry to wet and generally nutrient-rich sites [27]. In western hemlock forests of Idaho's Clearwater National Forest, clusters of western sword fern or patches of mixed ferns may indicate areas of excess soil moisture and/or mass soil movement [58].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Polystichum munitum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Western sword fern is a relatively large, evergreen, long-lived fern with long fronds arching from a short, scaly, erect rhizome [39,63,69]. The sword-shaped fronds are from 20 to 72 inches long (50-180 cm) and divided pinnately [32]. Individual fronds live for several years and remain attached to the rhizome after withering [32]. The largest leaflets or pinnae are 1.2 to 16 inches long (3-15 cm). Spores are borne in clusters called sori that are found between the midline and the edge of the middle and upper pinnae [39,69]. Amount of light received influences western sword fern form. Following disturbance that removes the overstory or when plants occasionally establish on rocky outcrops at high elevations, the fronds are dwarfed and more erect. This sun form of western swordfern also has pinnae that are crisped and crowded so that they overlap and appear imbricated. When shaded again, these plants return to normal form [69]. In southwestern British Columbia the rhizomes of western sword fern were found to be vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal, although some plants have been found with nonmycorrhizal rhizomes [8]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Chamaephyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Regeneration of western sword fern is mostly sexual; however, only a few small, juvenile plants are present in most populations [63]. Ferns begin to produce spores on a regular, yearly basis when they are between 1 and 5 years of age [28]. From early to midsummer mature ferns produce millions of light, wind-borne spores. Evergreen ferns such as western sword fern may retain some spores over the winter which are released the following spring. The dry spores are very resistant to extreme physical conditions and may remain viable for 2 to 4 years, although their viability and ability to germinate declines with age [57]. The most important factor in spore germination is sufficient moisture. Temperatures between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (15-30 deg C) and a slightly acid to neutral pH are generally best for germination [50]. Western sword fern is one of the few fern species which is capable of germination in the dark, although germination is best in the light [71]. When spores germinate, they produce tiny, bisexual gamete-bearing plants (gametophytes) that do not look like the spore-bearing plants. These tiny plants have no vascular system and require very moist conditions in order to survive and enable the sperm to swim to the egg. The spore-bearing plant, which develops in place from the fertilized egg, is initially dependent on the gametophyte but quickly becomes independent. In many ferns the gamete-bearing plants are self-fertile, but self-fertilization in western sword fern gemetophytes probably occurs less than 4 percent of the time. Outcrossing results in high levels of genetic variability within and between western sword fern populations [63]. Vegetative reproduction of western sword fern is limited but can occur through division of its perennial, woody rhizome [28]. The rhizomes are erect and do not spread, although they branch with age [63]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Light and water relations: Western sword fern is found growing in shade or in small openings within moist coniferous forests, while the morphologically similar imbricated sword fern is found in distinctly drier habitats, including rock crevices and dry coniferous forests [39,69]. Western sword fern can survive very little moisture stress, and thus in places on Vancouver Island where summer moisture deficits are common, it is found only where seepage aguments the soil moisture [28]. It may indicate a high water table in northwestern Oregon [65]. Western sword fern is a minor species in Oregon riparian communities. Its frequency is greatest in outer edges of riparian zones [11]. An ecological study of the coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) region grouped species along environmental gradients of moisture, nutrients, light, and temperature. Western sword fern's distribution placed it in the moderately moist to moist class. It had a low to moderate nutrient requirement. Its ecological optimum light requirement was less than 3 percent, but it grew in areas having up to 40 percent of full sunlight on a logarithmic light intensity scale [70]. Soils: In the Siskiyou Mountains of California, western sword fern is an important mesic species found primarily on soils formed from quartz diorite. Although a few plants are found in submesic conditions on soils formed from olivine grabbro, imbricated sword fern is more common on grabbro, and the only sword fern found on serpentine parent materials [72]. In British Columbia western sword fern grows on a variety of parent material but prefers deep, loamy soils derived from fluvial parent materials. It also prefers nutrient-rich soils and can be an indicator of such soils when it is abundant and vigorous [28]. Soils of most sites in coastal Oregon where western sword fern is dominant are deep and formed from sandstone and siltstone [6]. Elevation: Western sword fern grows from sea level to mid-elevations in the mountains throughout its range [39]. Its elevational limit in Montana is 3,000 feet (914 m). In California it is usually found below 2,500 feet (762 m) [54]. In coastal Oregon it is found below 1,700 feet (518 m) [6]. Common associates: Associated understory species include salal (Gaultheria shallon), salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), thimbleberry (R. parviflorus), vine maple (Acer circinatum), Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), oxalis, false lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum dilatatum), western springbeauty (Montia sibirica), threeleaf foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata), evergreen violet (Viola sempervirens), pioneer violet (V. glabella), red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium), evergreen huckleberry (V. ovatum), and rusty menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea) [22]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species The light wind-borne spores of ferns enable them to swiftly colonize new sites [57]; however, western sword fern's ability to colonize appears limited by its sensitivity to water stress [28]. On Vancouver Island it is not present during the pioneer stage of floodplain succession. Establishment occurs only under the shelter of a red alder canopy, and its frequency is greatest in the climax community [12]. In the Douglas-fir zone of the Oregon Coast Range, seral communities are commonly dominated by red alder/western sword fern. These communities may extend beyond the fog belt [7]. On western Oregon red alder/salmonberry sites, western sword fern is found throughout successional communities but increases with time [38]. In the Coast Ranges of Oregon, western sword fern survives disturbances and becomes an important part of the seral vegetation while in the Cascade Range it is of minor importance in early succession [22]. In southwestern British Columbia forests, western sword fern is absent immediately after disturbance but enters the stand within a few years. It gradually becomes more dominant, regaining postdisturbance cover by the sapling and pole stages [46]. Western sword fern is a dominant plant in initial communities after logging or burning of California coastal redwood forests, and remains dominant throughout succession [77]. In the Olympic Mountains western sword fern colonizes recent clearcuts but only takes its place as a principal understory species in Douglas-fir forests when the stand is 300 years old or older [21]. In coastal southern Oregon western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and western red-cedar forest with western swordfern-Oregon oxalis understories, western sword fern is dominant throughout succession, but its cover is lower in densely shaded, near-climax stands than at any other time [6]. Its greatest cover in such dense forests occurs in canopy gaps [6,65]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : In Oregon western sword fern fronds partially unroll by late May. By late July the spores are near maturity [66].

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Polystichum munitum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Western sword fern has two postfire regeneration strategies. It sprouts from its stout, woody rhizomes [30]. Additionally, a single western sword fern frond may produce millions of light wind-borne spores each year, enabling the species to colonize burn sites [28,57]. Sites where western sword fern is a major understory species are generally resistant to the effects of fire (Barnett 1984 unpub., cited in [36]). POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community) Secondary colonizer - off-site seed

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Polystichum munitum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire top-kills western sword fern. It can survive intense fire [28,30], but aboveground structures may lacking for several years afterwards [30]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Recovery depends upon degree of fire severity. Morris [53] found that western sword fern was equally adundant on burned and unburned sites following slash burning in Washington and Oregon. A study in the Tillamook Burn of northwestern Oregon, however, found frequency in burned areas was about 2 percent, while frequency was 4 percent in the unburned forest [55]. On severely burned sites, western sword fern is greatly reduced and recovers slowly over a period of 15 or more years [30]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : On highly productive sites where competition from western sword fern delays tree seedling establishment, slash burning and prompt forest regeneration allow tree seedlings to establish before western sword fern recovers [73]. On sites where shrubs such as salmonberry are dominant, clearcutting followed by slashburning, conifer planting, and release treatments may convert the understory to western sword fern [36].

References for species: Polystichum munitum


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