Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Ambrosia psilostachya

Introductory

SPECIES: Ambrosia psilostachya
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Pavek, Diane S. 1992. Ambrosia psilostachya. 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 : AMBPSI SYNONYMS : Ambrosia rugelii Rydb. Ambrosia coronopifolia T. & G. SCS PLANT CODE : AMPS COMMON NAMES : western ragweed perennial ragweed common ragweed ragweed TAXONOMY : The currently accepted name of western ragweed is Ambrosia psilostachya DC.; it is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). There are three recognized varieties [51]: A. p. var. psilostachya A. p. var. californica (Rydb.) Blake A. p. var. lindeheimerana (Scheele) Blank. LIFE FORM : Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Ambrosia psilostachya
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Western ragweed's range extends from southern British Columbia east to Nova Scotia [51,81,107] and southward through the United States from the Appalachians to the West Coast and into central Mexico [38,74,90,104,108].  Western ragweed was introduced from North America into Europe and southwestern Russia [115]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES15  Oak - hickory    FRES21  Ponderosa pine    FRES31  Shinnery    FRES32  Texas savanna    FRES33  Southwestern shrubsteppe    FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub    FRES38  Plains grasslands    FRES39  Prairie    FRES42  Annual grasslands STATES :      AZ  CA  CO  CT  ID  IL  IA  KS  LA  ME      MA  MI  MO  MN  MT  NE  NH  NC  ND  OH      OK  OR  SC  SD  TX  UT  VT  WA  WI  WY      AB  BC  MB  NS  ON  PE  PQ  SK  MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     3  Southern Pacific Border     5  Columbia Plateau     7  Lower Basin and Range    10  Wyoming Basin    12  Colorado Plateau    13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont    14  Great Plains    16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K033  Chaparral    K035  Coastal sagebrush    K053  Grama - galleta steppe    K054  Grama - tobosa prairie    K057  Galleta - three-awn shrubsteppe    K058  Grama - tobosa shrubsteppe    K060  Mesquite savanna    K061  Mesquite - acacia savanna    K062  Mesquite - live oak savanna    K063  Foothills prairie    K064  Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass    K065  Grama - buffalo grass    K067  Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass    K068  Wheatgrass - grama - buffalo grass    K069  Bluestem - grama prairie    K070  Sandsage - bluestem prairie    K071  Shinnery    K074  Bluestem prairie    K075  Nebraska Sandhills prairie    K076  Blackland prairie    K078  Southern cordgrass prairie    K081  Oak savanna    K084  Cross Timbers    K085  Mesquite - buffalo grass    K086  Juniper - oak savanna    K087  Mesquite - oak savanna    K100  Oak - hickory forest SAF COVER TYPES :     40  Post oak - blackjack oak     42  Bur oak     66  Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper     68  Mesquite     72  Southern scrub oak     73  Southern redcedar     89  Live oak    220  Rocky Mountain juniper    235  Cottonwood - willow    238  Western juniper    242  Mesquite    244  Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir    255  California coast live oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Western ragweed is a principal or dominant forb in many grasslands, such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and shortgrass communities [6].  It is of secondary importance in big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii) communities, but it is still the dominant forb [6,113]. It is a dominant forb in the Cross Timbers range, sand plains, and prairies of Texas [44,86].  Western ragweed is dominant in sand tallgrass prairies and sand hills of the Midwest [105,120].  It is the principal forb in the shortgrass-ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) woodlands of north-central Arizona [18,28,60].  Western ragweed is present in the Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) grasslands of the west [29,39].  Western ragweed is codominant in saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) communities and in grasslands found above salt marshes [22,26, 34,42]. In riparian habitat types of Wyoming, western ragweed is listed as codominant with western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) in the Grass/Sedge Meadow subtype [90].  Western ragweed is a important forb, but not an indicator, in steppe habitat types of North Dakota and South Dakota:  (1) needle-and-thread grass (Stipa comata)/threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia), (2) green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)/common chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), and in Montana:  (1) needle-and-thread grass/sun sedge (Carex heliophila), (2) Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis)/sun sedge, (3) bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata)/sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), (4) bluebunch wheatgrass/threadleaf sedge, (5) fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica)/ bluebunch wheatgrass, and (6) fragrant sumac/Idaho fescue [64]. Publications that list western ragweed as dominant are: (1)  The vegetation of the Grand River/Cedar River, Sioux, and Ashland      Districts of the Custer National Forest: a habitat type      classification [64]. (2)  A physical and biological characterization of riparian habitat and its      importance to wildlife in Wyoming [90].


MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Ambrosia psilostachya
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Managers rate the forage value of western ragweed as fair [121].  The foliage and stems contain cinnamic acid and sesquiterpene lactones that deter herbivory [129].  However, western ragweed is not considered a poisonous plant [88].  It is moderately important as ungulate forage [24,31,48,98,103].  Western ragweed is used for food and nesting material, and as a habitat component by small mammals and nongame birds [10,52,63].  Western ragweed is an important food (seeds and foliage) on activity sites for upland gamebirds [11,73,110,123].  In a study of the relationship of grasshoppers to different pasture treatments and range sites in Kansas tallgrass prairie, western ragweed was one of the two most abundantly available and most ingested forbs [78]. PALATABILITY : Ragweeds are normally considered to be unpalatable but when treated with 2,4-D become palatable.  Treated plants may, however, accumulate nitrates to a toxic level [76].  In Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, western ragweed palatability is poor for ungulates and waterfowl.  Its palatability has mixed ratings for the following species:                            MT      UT      WY     Small mammals                 Poor    Good     Small nongame birds   Good    Poor    Good     Upland game birds     Fair    Poor    Fair NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Mature western ragweed seeds from an eastern Texas prairie contained 1 to 3 percent silica, which reduces digestibility; the seeds had 70 to less than 90 percent dry matter digestibility [109].  However, the seeds contained more than 25 percent protein.  Forage quality (seasonal crude protein content and digestibility) of western ragweed on a Texas range was higher after spring burning [17]. COVER VALUE : The degree to which western ragweed provides environmental protection during one or more seasons for wildlife species is as follows:                                 MT      UT      WY         Pronghorn              ----    Poor    Poor         Elk                    ----    Poor    Poor         Mule deer              ----    Poor    Poor         White-tailed deer      ----    ----    Poor         Small mammals          Poor    Fair    Poor         Small nongame birds    Poor    Fair    Poor         Upland game birds      ----    Poor    Poor         Waterfowl              ----    Poor    Poor VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Although western ragweed readily invades disturbed ground and is not considered desirable forage, it is a native forb and is included in prairie restoration plantings.  Adequate seedbed preparation is important for successful plant establishment [37,117].  Western ragseed was seeded for tallgrass prairie restoration in north-central Missouri at 0.08 pounds bulk per acre (91 g bulk/ha) with a rangeland drill [117].  In the reclamation of a sand and gravel pit in Ohio, western ragweed was hydroseeded with native grasses; seeds were covered with less than 0.5 inch (1 cm) of soil [37].  Western ragweed has established on artificial levees made to reclaim marshland along the lower Sacramento River in California [127]. Established western ragweed may have to be controlled when planting other native species in an area.  For example, when fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens) was planted on shrublands in Texas, western ragweed was controlled with herbicides [95]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Western ragweed was used for medicinal purposes by American Indians. Pueblo women in New Mexico drank a tea made from western ragweed during difficult labors at childbirth, and the Cheyenne of the Central Plains used it to treat intestinal problems and colds [12].  Kiowa of Oklahoma rubbed a preparation of western ragweed on the sores of humans and horses [12]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Western ragweed is one of the main hay-fever plants in late summer when it is in bloom [70,74,130]. Western ragweed is a major invader of deteriorating rangeland.  It readily moves into open habitat in prairies [19,121].  Western ragweed is not drought resistant.  It was partially or totally eliminated from mixed-grass prairies during the drought of the 1930s; however, western ragweed recovered by the mid-1940s [40,121]. Livestock:  Western ragweed averaged 1,200 pounds of dry matter per acre (1,342 kg/ha) on a clay upland range site near Hays, Kansas, and was beneficial to grass production [83].  Grass yields were never less than 2,000 pounds per acre (2,237 kg/ha) from sites that produced 7,000 pounds per acre (7,830 kg/ha) western ragweed [83].  A buildup of 3 to 5 inches (8-13 cm) of grass mulch on a lightly grazed rangeland delayed western ragweed growth in the spring; however, litter increased the moisture supply [71,122]. For optimum use of western ragweed on shortgrass rangeland, continuous season-long or year-long grazing at moderate stocking rates, combined with spring burning, is recommended [83].  Launchbaugh and Owensby [83] recommend grazing western ragweed early in the growing season.  Range cattle consume western ragweed by choice most heavily in April [48]. Western ragweed cover increases when it is grazed or disced [44,57,94,123].  There was no significant (P>0.05) difference in relative abundance of western ragweed under moderate or heavy stocking rates [67,69].  However, western ragweed cover was significantly greater on continuously grazed pasture compared with short duration grazing [31,45].  Western ragweed herbage was significantly higher under thinned ponderosa pine compared to unthinned areas [28].  Herbage production of western ragweed decreased as the depth of humus, duff, and litter increased under ponderosa pine canopies [29]. Chemical Control:  Herbicide should be applied to western ragweed during the late vegetative stage before the formation of flowerbuds; western ragweed is moderately or totally resistant during other growth phases [93,111].  Before flowering, it is susceptible and may be controlled with one foliage spray application at 1 pound active ingredient per acre (1.1 kg ai/ha) for 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, Silvex, 2,4,-D-B or 0.25 pound active ingredient per acre (0.28 kg ai/a) Grazon PC and Banvel [43,83,93]. Grazon P + D will give control for more than 1 year [43]. Western ragweed root exudate significantly inhibited the formation of nodules on legume roots, which decreases their ability to fix nitrogen [128]. Western ragweed responds differently to different combinations of disturbance and burning.  Western ragweed occurred significantly more on unburned pocket gopher mounds than on burned; it occurred less frequently on ant hills than on controls [55].  Western ragweed had significantly higher average cover on burned areas immediately outside of buffalo wallows compared to unburned controls [36].


BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Ambrosia psilostachya
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Western ragweed is a warm-season, native perennial forb.  The main stem rises from shallow (2 inches [5 cm]) or deep, branching rhizomes which extend down 3 to 6 feet (0.9-1.8 m) [6,70].  Stems are slender and branched, usually 1 to 2 feet (30-60 cm) tall [59,70].  Plants are monoecious with unisexual flowers; male flowers occur at the top of the plant and female flowers are axillary [41].  Achenes have a short beak and small blunt tubercles on top [41]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :       Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Western ragweed colonizes sites by means of spreading rhizomes in the surface 2 inches (5 cm) of soil, allowing it to propagate when conditions are unfavorable to seedling establishment [6,48,127]. Western ragweed exhibits nonrandom replacement of ramets, which allows it to exploit areas favorable to growth [87]. Seeds are reported to migrate into disturbed areas; however, the means of dissemination was not identified [6].  In a germination trial using 1 square foot (0.09 sq. m) soil samples, western ragweed seedlings did not appear until week 6 or 7 [84].  After this time, seeds continued to germinate for 3 weeks [84]. Once seeded into an area, western ragweed may not set fruit until the second year [37].  Under dry conditions, seed production is somewhat inversely proportional to plant density.  A dense stand of western ragweed in a dry summer resulted in stunted growth, and most plants died without fruiting [72]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Western ragweed grows in grasslands, savannas, and woodlands across North America.  In addition to occurring in its native settings (such as dry prairies, blowouts, washouts, sandy woods, meadows, and hills), western ragweed is a widespread weed in waste places, roadsides, railroads, overgrazed rangeland, and other disturbed places [41,75,99,107,126]. Climate ranges from continental to coastal with short, warm to hot summers and long, cold winters [1,3,16,129].  Often, there are moderately strong surface winds [1].  Humidity is semiarid to moist subhumid [42,44,86].  Annual precipitation ranges from 5 to 34 inches (114-880 mm) with 60 to 80 percent occurring during the growing season [19,23,39,56,75,114,125].  Temperatures vary from an average 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 deg C) in July to a January average of 11 degrees Fahrenheit (-11.5 deg C) [124]. Western ragweed grows at elevations ranging from 850 to 7,400 feet (259-2,256 m) and in many types of soils [18,30,60,66,69].  Soil textures are predominantly loams, varying from silty clay loams to fine sandy loams [23,61,122].  Soil pH ranges from 5.7 to 7.9 [22,105]. Soils often have little organic matter and are low in fertility [34]. Western ragweed occurs in too many grassland ecosystems for associated species to be reviewed here.  Listed below are some typical examples of major grasslands and the plant components found with western ragweed. In addition to this brief listing, the reader is referred to specific examples of more distinct and diverse grasslands in which western ragweed occurs [11,15,18,19,20,22,25,26,28,29,32,33,39,42,49,129]. Southern Great Plains Shortgrass prairie is dominated by buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) with sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus [132].  When trees occur, sand shinnery oak (Quercus havardii) is dominant [45,118]. Mixed-grass prairie is dominated by sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), buffalo grass, little bluestem, and tobosagrass (Hilaria mutica) [132].  When an overstory is present, dominant trees are honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulifera), Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei), post oak (Quercus stellata), blackjack oak (Q. marilandica), and live oak (Q. virginiana) [59,67,86,112].  Shrubs include cholla (Opuntia imbricata), common broomweed (Xanthocephalum dracunculoides), and whitebrush (Aloysia lycoiodes) [47,66,123].  An associated forb is Riddel daisy (Aphanostephus riddellii) [47,65]. Tallgrass prairie is dominated by little bluestem, silver bluestem (Andropogon saccharoides), and fewflowered panic (Dicanthelium oligosanthes) [36]. Central Great Plains Shortgrass dominated by blue grama with buffalograss, sand reedgrass (Calamovilfa longifolia), and prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) [82,122,132].  An associated forb is horseweed (Conyza canadensis) [43]. Northern Great Plains Tallgrass prairie is dominated by big bluestem with little bluestem, Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) [132].  A shrub co-occurring with western ragweed is Louisiana sandwort (Artemisia ludoviciana) [120].  Codominant forbs are heath aster (Aster ericoides), purple prairie-clover (Petalostemum purpureum), and goldenrods (Solidago spp.)  [1,35,106,120]. Western ragweed occurs on floodplain woodlands with sand reedgrass and Canadian wildrye (Elymus canadensis) [4,117].  The overstory is dominated by floodplain cottonwood (Populus deltoides) with green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) [117]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Differing sets of seral stages have been suggested for secondary succession in prairie ecosystems, and western ragweed has been reported to occur in all of them and in climax communities [97,102].  Western ragweed establishes in closed communities that are opened up by heavy grazing or other disturbance [103].  In old field succession, western ragweed was present as a principal forb in stands aged 0 to 5 years and was present with 4 to 15 percent cover after 23 to 29 years [33,48].  On abandoned black-tailed prairie dog towns, western ragweed was codominant with an annual grass, prairie threeawn (Aristida oligantha), in an intermediate seral stage [10,91].  In tallgrass sand prairie, western ragweed was present in pioneer stages, occurred with greatest frequency in an intermediate phase, but had greatest cover in the climax phase [25].  Although reported as a pioneer species, western ragweed occurs on secondary sand dunes but does not occur on less stable sites such as primary dunes or tidal flats [27].  Additionally, western ragweed occurs outside of buffalo wallows, which are considered safe sites for ruderal species [36]. Western ragweed may have allelopathic or other inhibitory effects on other pioneer species.  Leachate from western ragweed leaves and roots significantly (P<0.05) reduced growth of soil bluegreen bacteria (Lyngby spp.)  cultures [102].  While soil collected in July near western ragweed was stimulatory to pioneer weedy species (for example, Japanese brome [Bromus japonicus]), soil collected in January had an inhibitory or no effect on seedlings of the same species [102].  Leaf leachate from leaves that overwintered on western ragweed plants inhibited germination, seedling topgrowth, and mature plant root formation of the pioneer species [102]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Western ragweed is widespread, so specific dates for phenological stages vary; however, stages of growth occur seasonally.  The months in parentheses represent the center of its distribution.  Western ragweed, a warm season plant, overwinters as a rosette [103].  In mid-spring (April), seedlings germinate, and rosettes begin active growth of main stems.  In late summer (August), western ragweed flowers, and seedlings may germinate with adequate rainfall [5].  It is at this time of year that western ragweed usually has its greatest biomass [96].  Flowering continues through autumn [17,41,51,81,89,99].  Fruits form and seeds disseminate through the late fall and winter (October to December) [5]. Aerial stems are killed by frost.


FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Ambrosia psilostachya
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : As a component of North American grasslands, western ragweed has evolved with fire.  Soil can insulate roots from lethal temperatures during a fire.  Surface rhizomes of western ragweed may be killed during a fire; however, the plant also has deep-seated rhizomes which would survive most fires [6]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Geophyte, growing points deep in soil    Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil    Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Ambrosia psilostachya
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Western ragweed is top-killed by fire.  Shallow rhizomes may be killed along with seeds on aerial stems. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Season of burning, community type, and subsequent environmental conditions determine western ragweed response to burning.  In some studies, no significant (P>0.05) difference was found in western ragweed postfire herbage, cover, or occurrence, despite the season burned [4,72,79,82,92,131]. Western ragweed cover was significantly decreased by annual spring burning in tallgrass prairies [2] and by a single spring fire in a tobosa grassland ([66], see the Research Project Summary for more information on this study). However, other studies showed that western ragweed significantly increased in cover or was more abundant on spring burned grasslands and oak savanna [7,13,68,124].  Late spring burning decreased western ragweed cover, and winter burning increased it [4,15,20].  The density of western ragweed was increased by annual fall (October) burning [16,21,106]. One year postfire, western ragweed cover was significantly less on burned areas compared to unburned areas [19].  Prescribed burning in juniper (Juniperus spp.) communities of Texas in late winter or early spring increased western ragweed density 1 year postfire [100].  The second and following years showed no further effects on western ragweed densities [100]. After a spring (May) fire in a Kansas tallgrass prairie, western ragweed increased significantly by year 3 in number of stems per 3.3 square feet (1 sq m) [46].  Other tallgrass prescribed spring fires were conducted annually and on a 4-year rotation.  Western ragweed cover was significantly greater on the 4-year rotation compared to the annual burning [3].  Four-year fire rotation was used to compare vegetative response on shallow upland soils with lowland soils in tallgrass prairie in Kansas.  Western ragweed was significantly more abundant on the shallow upland soils after burning [54]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Response of vegetation to prescribed burning in a Jeffrey pine-California black oak woodland and a deergrass meadow at Cuyamaca State Park, California, provides information on prescribed fire use and postfire response of many mixed-conifer woodland species including western ragweed. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Western ragweed has been classified as an increaser (by 100 percent or more) on burned plots [77].

References for species: Ambrosia psilostachya


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