SPECIES: Apocynum androsaemifolium
Table of Contents

2005 Saint John's Arboretum

Groen, Amy H. 2005. Apocynum androsaemifolium. 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/ [].


Apocynum ambigens (Greene)
Apocynum pumilum (Greene)
Apocynum scopulorum (Greene)


spreading dogbane
flytrap dogbane

The currently accepted scientific name for spreading dogbane is Apocynum androsaemifolium L. (Apocynaceae) [7,22,23,39,42,61,64,73,74,75,77,81,85, 86,87,96,98,113,127,128,137,167,190,191,200].Varieties are as follows:

A. a. var.androsaemifolium
A. a. var.ambigens (Greene) Rydberg [64]
A. a. var. incanum DC [64,137]
A. a. var. pumilum Gray [75,77,98,137,191]
A. a. var. glabrum Macoun [64,77,105,174]
A. a. var. griseum (Greene) Beg. & Bel. [64]

Hybrids: Hybridization is common within the genus Apocynum [6,39]. Spreading dogbane commonly hybridizes with Indian hemp (A. cannabinum) to produce intermediate dogbane (Apocynum medium Greene) [23,61,113,137,189,191]. Sources which recognize intermediate dogbane as a separate variety include [75,87,98,167,200].





SPECIES: Apocynum androsaemifolium
Spreading dogbane is widely distributed throughout North America. It occurs in every U.S. state except Hawaii, Kansas, and the southeastern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina [182]. Spreading dogbane can be found in most Canadian provinces [74] and occurs in Mexico [137]. A. a. var. incanum can be found scattered throughout Nova Scotia [137] and A. a. var. pumilum is found in west-central Montana [98]. Intermediate dogbane is found primarily in areas where spreading dogbane and Indian hemp habitats overlap [137,189,190,191]. Plants database provides a distributional map for spreading dogbane.

FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES11 Spruce-fir
FRES19 Aspen-birch
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir-spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES39 Prairie

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)



1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

K002 Cedar-hemlock-Douglas-fir forest
K005 Mixed conifer forest
K007 Red fir forest
K008 Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest
K010 Ponderosa shrub forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K014 Grand fir-Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest
K074 Bluestem prairie
K093 Great Lakes spruce-fir forest
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce-fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce-fir forest
K102 Beech-maple forest
K107 Northern hardwoods-fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods-spruce forest

1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
13 Black spruce-tamarack
15 Red pine
16 Aspen
18 Paper birch
20 White pine-northern red oak-red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine-hemlock
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry-maple
38 Tamarack
42 Bur oak
44 Chestnut oak
45 Pitch pine
51 White pine-chestnut oak
55 Northern red oak
63 Cottonwood
107 White spruce
108 Red maple
109 Hawthorn
201 White spruce
202 White spruce-paper birch
203 Balsam poplar
204 Black spruce
206 Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir
207 Red fir
210 Interior Douglas-fir
211 White fir
212 Western larch
213 Grand fir
215 Western white pine
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
224 Western hemlock
227 Western redcedar-western hemlock
228 Western redcedar
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
230 Douglas-fir-western hemlock
235 Cottonwood-willow
236 Bur oak
237 Interior ponderosa pine
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
244 Pacific ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir
245 Pacific ponderosa pine
246 California black oak
247 Jeffrey pine
249 Canyon live oak
251 White spruce-aspen
252 Paper birch
253 Black spruce-white spruce
254 Black spruce-paper birch

101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
109 Ponderosa pine shrubland
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
210 Bitterbrush
216 Montane meadows
302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
319 Bitterbrush-rough fescue
411 Aspen woodland
420 Snowbrush
601 Bluestem prairie
710 Bluestem prairie
802 Missouri prairie
920 White spruce-paper birch
921 Willow

Spreading dogbane is common in dry, open areas and is often found after a disturbance. It is recognized as dominant or codominant in the Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca)/white spirea (Spiraea betulifolia) habitat type of central Idaho [160] and as dominant in old jack pine (Pinus banksiana) stands in the boreal forests of Saskatchewan [112].


SPECIES: Apocynum androsaemifolium

Mike Baker @ www.mikebaker.com

This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available [22,42,43,60,61,64,73, 74,75,86,98,113,127,128,167,190,191,200].

Spreading dogbane is a native perennial that can grow to 40 inches (100 cm) in height [39]. Stems are erect and diffusely branched, glabrous, and lack a central axis [73,86,98,116,191]. Leaves are opposite, spreading or drooping, glabrous above and pubescent beneath. Leaf size ranges from 0.4 to 5 inches (1-12 cm) in length and 0.2 to 2 inches (0.5-6 cm) in width [64,81,98,189,190,191].

The flowers of spreading dogbane are erect or nodding and small, 0.2 to 0.3 inch (6-8 mm) long [127,147]. The corolla is typically 0.2 to 0.5 inch (4-12 mm) long, broadly campanulate, and approximately 3 times the length of the calyx [61,64]. Spreading dogbane follicles are 1.6 to 6 inches (4-15 cm) long and pendulous or erect when mature [116,191]. Epidermal hair around the head of the stigma ensures that pollen is not lost [56]. Seeds are numerous, 2 to 3 mm long with a 0.4 to 0.8 inch (1-2 cm) long coma [60,64,70].

Spreading dogbane has rhizomes that have been detected to depths of greater than 10 inches (25 cm) and are located primarily in mineral soil [195].

Intermediate dogbane can grow to 40 inches (100 cm) in height [98]. It produces progeny with low pollen fertility [39] and can appear identical to either of the parent species, spreading dogbane or Indian hemp [6].

The inflorescence of A. a. var. pumilum is often larger and the corolla more tubular than that of spreading dogbane [74].


Spreading dogbane reproduces vegetatively and by seed [9]. Vegetative reproduction is through rhizomes [53]. Flowering and reproductive success is negatively effected by exposure to ambient ozone [20].

Pollination: Spreading dogbane is insect and self-pollinated [83]. Insects transfer pollen from the anther to the stigma upon withdrawal of the proboscis. Cross-pollination occurs when pollen remains adhered to the proboscis and is transferred to the stigma of another flower [56].

In Colorado, approximately 71 species of insect were recorded visiting spreading dogbane over a 15-hour period. None had detectable amounts of pollen from Apocynum spp. plants [83]. A study in South Dakota concluded that behavior of 2 bumblebee species was determined by the density of spreading dogbane plants and availability of alternative food sources [126].

Breeding system: No information is available on this topic.

Seed production: Spreading dogbane produces "numerous" seeds [39,116,127].

Seed dispersal: Spreading dogbane seed is wind dispersed [4,159,161,180].

Seed banking: There is no indication that spreading dogbane stores its seed in soil [158,159,160,161].

Germination: Germination requirements for spreading dogbane are not well known [161]. Seed collected from the prairies of Wisconsin in 1946 had 56% germination rates when stratified for 2 months and 36% germination rates when not stratified. The seed was planted in flats and exposed to temperatures of 65to 70 F (18-21 C) for 2 months before being stratified outdoors or kept indoors at 40 F (4 C) for 2 to 3 months [65].

In a study to determine the viability of seeds after submersion in water with temperatures ranging from 33 to 81 F (0.5-27 C), most spreading dogbane seeds either germinated and/or deteriorated in the first 3 months of submersion. Those that remained firm had germination rates ranging from <1% to 8% following 3 to 24 months of water submersion while germination rates for seed that was not submerged ranged from 53% to 91%. None of the seeds germinated after 36 or more months of submersion [33]:


Months after test initiated

3 6 9 12 24 36 48 60

% of firm seeds

7 8 8 1 1 0 0 0

% germination of fresh-water stored seeds

2 4 6 1 <1 0 0 0

% germination of dry stored seeds

53 74 91 91 87 63 6 1

Apocynum spp. are able to germinate on newly-burned soil [171].

Seedling establishment/growth: No information is available on this topic.

Asexual regeneration: Asexual reproduction of spreading dogbane is attained through rhizomatous sprouts [9,161]. Sprouting from rhizomes has also been observed following disturbance [29,165].

Spreading dogbane has a broad distribution encompassing a wide variety of site characteristics. It is most common in dry, open areas [181], but can also be found in riparian zones [106] and shady, moist areas with clayey soils [92]. Spreading dogbane is located at elevations ranging from sea level to 11,000 feet (3,400 m) [181] with temperatures ranging from 18 to 90 F (-8 to 32 C) [1,107], and pH levels of 5.0 to 7.7 [41,88]. Additional site characteristics for spreading dogbane are provided in the table below:

  Location description Elevation range Precipitation range
Alaska woods and hot springs [81]    
Arizona open pine forests [87] 7,000 to 9,000 feet (2,000-3,000 m) [87]  
California dry, open slopes and flats [116] 700 to 9,000 feet (200-3,000 m) [73,116] north-central: 68 inches (1,700 mm) annually [107]
Colorado open woods; gravelly soils [189,190]
shallow, coarse loam soil of igneous or metamorphic parent material; south aspects [91]
Idaho well-drained soils in hot, dry areas [122]
silty loam soils covered by a 6 to 30 inch (15-80 cm) loess mantle [163]
rocky, sandy, and silty areas [138]
3,000 to 4,300 feet (900-1,300 m) [163] 40 to 60 inches (1,000-1,500 mm) annually [163]
Michigan disturbed mesic sites [134]   northern: 30 inches (770 mm) of rainfall annually, 70 inches (1,800 mm) of snowfall annually [1]
Minnesota clay or sandy soils; fine sandy loams; clayey till [89]    
Montana riparian zones [106]
dry valley and montane sites; lower sub-alpine sites [97]
wooded or dry, open areas in the foothills [98]
Nevada dry mountains and meadows, open road banks [86]    
New York open fields and roadsides [96] 200 to 3,500 feet (60-1,100 m) [96]  
North Carolina mountains, open woods and meadows, and roadside banks [128]    
Oregon soils formed from sandy alluvium and pumice flow deposits [108]
well-drained soils, 25 to 30 inches (60-80 cm) in depth; 5% to 25% slopes [41]
4,900 to 6,500 feet (1,500-2,000 m) [41]  
South Dakota clay and loam soils derived from limestone [119]
mesic, xeric, and transitional sites [19]
shallow to moderately deep soils derived from metamorphic rock [183]
4,900 to 5,900 feet (1,500-1,800 m) [119,183] 24 inches (600 mm) annually [183]
Tennessee limestone soils [136]   southern: 134 inches (3400 mm) annually [136]
Utah open slopes [173] 1,500 to 3,400 feet (460-1,000 m) [191] northern: 16 inches (410 mm) annually [173]
Washington deep sandy loam soil; 20% to 40% slopes [103]
deep, coarse soils; eastern aspect; steep topography [175]
mostly dry soils; valleys and foothills to sub-alpine slopes [180]
2,000 to 5,200 feet (600-1,600 m) [53] eastern: Infrequent summer precipitation; snow accumulations of 40 to 80 inches (1,000-2,000 mm) annually [53]
north-central: 22 inches (560 mm) annually [103]
central: 18 inches (460 mm) annually [175]
West Virginia high flood plains [35]    
Wisconsin fine sands approximately 8 inches (20 cm) thick, underlain by sandstone rock [186]
clay or sandy soils; fine sandy loams; clayey till [89]
Wyoming shallow to moderately deep soils derived from metamorphic rock [183] 5,200 to 5,900 feet (1,600-1,800 m) [183] 24 inches (600 mm) annually [183]
Canadian Provinces  
British Columbia poorly developed soils on south and west aspects [3]
dry sites with limited nutrient availability [90]
Manitoba sandy soil types [203]    
Ontario limestone bedrock overlain by thin soils; predominantly loam soils [88]
sandy to clayey soils bordering forested lands [104]
Intermediate dogbane  
Arizona dry slopes and meadow borders [22]
moist soils on or near riverbanks [98]
5,000 to 7,900 feet (1,500-2,400 m) [23,87]  

Spreading dogbane can occur in various successional stages. It does well in full sun or partial shade [161] and is considered a representative mid-seral species in multiple habitat types [158,159,160,161]. Spreading dogbane often provides important cover in locations with sparse vegetation [199] such as recently disturbed areas [187]. In Indiana, it was identified along with other forbs and shrubs in the early stage of prairie encroachment by trees [149]. Spreading dogbane is found in early successional stages on the shores of Lake MacDonald in northwestern Montana [67] and is considered a "secondary" species in Michigan aspen (Populus spp.) associations [58].

In Manitoba, wooden screens were placed to allow 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% shade over plots which had been fire-pruned, burned with a propane burner resulting in ground temperatures of 260 to 480 F (125-250 C)). Spreading dogbane sprouted in plots allowing 75% shade with 10% frequency and 6% cover and did not return to any of the other plots [76], suggesting shade tolerance in spreading dogbane. Variability in light tolerance may exist across populations and/or locations.

Flowering dates throughout the range of spreading dogbane vary over a 4-month period. Fowler and Tiedemann [53] found that 1st bloom and peak bloom of spreading dogbane occurred when soil moisture content of the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil reached 3% and 5%, respectively. Flowering dates for spreading dogbane are summarized below:

  Flowering dates
IL late May-early September [198]
AZ June-July [87]
CA, NC, NY, OH, SC, UT June-August [8,48,61,96,116]
Great Plains region June-September [64]
Nova Scotia and intermountain west July-August [39,137]

Flowering dates following 6 years of observation in southeastern North Dakota were as follows [26]:

Earliest first bloom

Latest first bloom

Median date of full flowering

Median date when 95% of flowering complete

Length of flowering period (days)

9 June 21 June 29 June 22 July 32

Intermediate dogbane flowers from May to August in Arizona [87]. Fruits develop from September to October in the Carolinas [128].

A. a. var. incanum in northeastern Oregon was in bud the 3rd week of July, flowering the 4th week, flowering and fruiting the 1st and 2nd weeks of August, and fruiting the last 2 weeks of August and the 1st week of September where it occurred with vine maple (Acer circinatum) associations. Within coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii) associations, A. a. var. incanum was in bud the 1st week of August and flowering the 2nd and 3rd week of August [133].


SPECIES: Apocynum androsaemifolium
Fire adaptations: Spreading dogbane recolonizes burned sites immediately after fire through rhizomes [9,29,51,163,165,166,166]. The position of perennating parts below the soil surface allows spreading dogbane to survive short (12 to 15 year) fire intervals in boreal forests [140]. Spreading dogbane may also recolonize a site through seed germination from off-site seed sources [4], although examples have not been documented.

Fire regimes: Spreading dogbane is found in communities that experience long and short fire return intervals. It is most common in dry environments with short fire intervals [9], but has been found among interior ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum) stands with historic mean fire return intervals of 20 to 23 years that had not burned in 96 years [197]. Where spreading dogbane occurs in interior ponderosa pine-Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir habitat types, grazing has resulted in the promotion of younger, denser stands of even-aged trees that are more susceptible to disease and insect outbreaks and consequent increases in high severity fire risks [202].

Where spreading dogbane is found with quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), the longevity of stands is dependant upon the time of fire following germination. Short fire intervals discourage aspen regeneration where extensive root masses have had insufficient time to develop [58]. Although the effect of fire on spreading dogbane within these associations has not been reported, it is unlikely that variable fire return intervals would affect its presence. Spreading dogbane in white fir (Abies concolor) habitat of southern Oregon is able to withstand periods of 15 years or more without fire and was detected in areas that had not burned in 134 years [108].

The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where spreading dogbane is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.

Community or ecosystem Dominant species Fire return interval range (years)
grand fir Abies grandis 35-200 [12]
maple-beech Acer-Fagus spp. 684-1,385 [32,188]
sugar maple Acer saccharum >1,000 [188]
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [94,123]
birch Betula spp. 80-230 [170]
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum <10 [124,192]
California montane chaparral Ceanothus and/or Arctostaphylos spp. 50-100 [123]
beech-sugar maple Fagus spp.-Acer saccharum >1,000 [188]
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum <35 [123]
tamarack Larix laricina 35-200
western larch Larix occidentalis 25-350 [13,18,40]
Great Lakes spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35 to >200 [44]
northeastern spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35-200
southeastern spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35 to >200 [188]
Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir Picea engelmannii-Abies lasiocarpa 35 to >200 [12]
black spruce Picea mariana 35-200 [44]
jack pine Pinus banksiana <35 to 200 [32,44]
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. latifolia 25-340 [17,18,172]
Sierra lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. murrayana 35-200 [12]
Jeffrey pine Pinus jeffreyi 5-30
western white pine* Pinus monticola 50-200
Pacific ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [12,16,100]
Arizona pine Pinus ponderosa var. arizonica 2-15 [16,34,146]
red pine (Great Lakes region) Pinus resinosa 3-18 (=3-10) [31,55]
red-white pine* (Great Lakes region) Pinus resinosa-P. strobus 3-200 [32,71,102]
pitch pine Pinus rigida 6-25 [24,72]
eastern white pine Pinus strobus 35-200 [170,188]
eastern white pine-eastern hemlock Pinus strobus-Tsuga canadensis 35-200 [188]
eastern white pine-northern red oak-red maple Pinus strobus-Quercus rubra-Acer rubrum 35-200
quaking aspen-paper birch Populus tremuloides-Betula papyrifera 35-200 [44,188]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains) Populus tremuloides 7-120 [12,66,110]
black cherry-sugar maple Prunus serotina-Acer saccharum >1,000 [188]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 [12,14,15]
coastal Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii 40-240 [12,114,131]
canyon live oak Quercus chrysolepis <35 to 200 [12]
California black oak Quercus kelloggii 5-30 [123]
bur oak Quercus macrocarpa <10 [188]
chestnut oak Quercus prinus 3-8
northern red oak Quercus rubra 10 to <35
eastern hemlock-white pine Tsuga canadensis-Pinus strobus =47 [32]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Geophyte, growing points deep in soil
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)


SPECIES: Apocynum androsaemifolium



Kerry Metlen, Fire/Fire Surrogate Study, Lubrecht Experimental Forest

Fire likely top-kills spreading dogbane. Rhizomes located greater than 10 inches (25 cm) in depth make destruction of spreading dogbane by fire unlikely [196]. The location of perennating parts below the soil [140] may allow it to tolerate high temperatures and frequent fires.

Spreading dogbane has been observed sprouting vigorously 1 year after fire (121) and was observed flowering within 2 months of a high-severity fire in Oregon [193].

Spreading dogbane responds well to fire disturbance [187]. It maintains comparable pre and postfire frequencies through its ability to sprout from adaptive rhizomes [9,29,51,163,165]. Spreading dogbane has been reported after fall and spring burns [30] and following low- [78] and high-severity fires [10]. Coverage of spreading dogbane has been reported to increase with increasing fire intensity in interior ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir forest types in Montana [11].

Reports indicate that spreading dogbane is able to germinate on recently burned soil [171], likely from off-site seed sources [4]. In the absence of frequent disturbances, populations of spreading dogbane are reported to die out [9], although populations have been reported up to 134 years following fire [108].

Due to its broad distribution, accounts of spreading dogbane following fire are widespread and vary throughout a range of ecosystems. Adverse postfire effects on spreading dogbane appear to be temporary with reports of fluctuating population cover and frequency in the years following fire. A large percentage of studies fail to report the significance of the increase or decrease of populations, likely due to a lack of prefire data. Where spreading dogbane occurs, it is commonly found on both burned and unburned sites [9] such as Pacific ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa) stands in Oregon [141], jack pine stands in northwestern Wisconsin [186], chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) stands in south-central New York [171], and clearcuts in eastern Ontario [196].

California: Spreading dogbane has been observed after fires in northern California [93,169]. Following fire in the hardwood forests of northwestern California, it was reported to have 1.5% and 3.4% mean relative cover on 2 sites [169].

Idaho: Spreading dogbane cover increased from 0.5% to 0.9% following a shelterwood cut at the Priest River Experimental Forest in northern Idaho. Areas subsequently treated with a "moist" burn (duff was moist and fire was conducted 1 day during the warmest, driest period) had 1.0% cover prior to cutting and burning and 2.6% cover 1 year after treatment. Areas treated with a "dry" burn (duff was dry and burn was conducted over the course of 2 days throughout the evening, night, and morning) had 0.5% cover prior to treatment and 1.4% cover 1 year following cutting and burning [154].

Cover and frequency of spreading dogbane on high intensity prescribed burns in Idaho were significantly higher (P<0.01) than cover and frequency on control and low intensity burn sites averaged across the 1st 3 years [10]. Following a large wildfire in a western larch (Larix occidentalis)-Douglas-fir cover type in northern Idaho, spreading dogbane constituted a maximum of 10% to 14% of cover within the 1st postfire decade due to vegetative reproduction [164]. It was reported on 11 of 21 plots measuring 16 82 feet (5 25 m), returning 2 to 15 years postfire on sites that had previously supported standing timber or shrubfields. It was not reported on clearcut sites. Three plots reported flowering in the 1st year [165].

Logging and helicopter yarding were conducted in Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir habitat types of central Idaho in September through November, 1976. Micro plots on each of the logged areas were burned under prescription or by wildfire following harvest activities and vegetation plots were measured 1, 2, 5, and 10 years postburn. A comparison of burned and unburned areas in the years following fire resulted in the following cover [59]:

Prescribed burned (% cover)

Wildfire burned (% cover)





















5 1 2 2 3
10 1 2 1 2

Maine: Five years after a wildfire on Peaks Island off the coast of Maine, spreading dogbane was considered a characteristic "shrub" layer. The area had also experienced fire 26 and 28 years prior to measurements [37]. On Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine, spreading dogbane returned through vegetative reproduction 1 year after the 1923 wildfire and was considered "abundant" [155].

Michigan: In Michigan spreading dogbane was found on mature jack pine stands, unburned jack pine stands within a 3-year-old clear cut, and jack pine plots burned under prescription 1 and 2 years previously. The highest frequency of spreading dogbane was found on the 1-year-old prescribed burn site [1]. In the gray birch-red maple (Betula populifolia-Acer rubrum) habitat type of Painted Rocks National Lakeshore, spreading dogbane had an average frequency of 13% and constancy of 9% in an area that had previously experienced fire [102].

In northern lower Michigan, spreading dogbane populations were assessed at 5 sites supporting eastern white pine (P. strobus), red pine (P. resinosa) , northern red oak (Q. rubra), and red maple that had previously experienced natural and/or prescribed burns. Based on 100 11 m quadrats at each site, spreading dogbane was absent from 4 sites and found with 1% frequency on 1 site 27 years following fire [143]. Out of 53 recorded years, it showed the greatest frequency 16, 38, 45, and 50 years following fire [144].

Spreading dogbane in mature red pine-eastern white pine stands on the southwestern lower peninsula of Michigan had highest cover (0.96%) on a site that had experienced 3 biennial burns and was not found on sites that had been burned once or were unburned. Frequencies obtained from 1 m plots following various burn treatments are as follows [117]:



Burned once


Spreading dogbane frequency

1994 (2 burns) 1995 (3 burns) 1994 1995 1994 1995
0.3 1.9 0.1 0 0 0

Minnesota: In a study related to burn succession in coniferous forests of Minnesota, spreading dogbane was found on 7 of 10 burns. It was abundant in the herbaceous stage after a pine burn [63]. In the boreal forests of northern Minnesota, plots were examined in order to determine the effects of fire, logging, and forest type on biodiversity. Spreading dogbane was found on 54.3% of postfire stands and 45.7% of post-logging stands. Prefire occurrence was not recorded [130].

In northeastern Minnesota, a single spreading dogbane plant was recorded immediately after fire and 4 plants were recorded the following year in a forest supporting coniferous and hardwood species. Over the next 3 years, spreading dogbane was absent from all sample sites [118]. Intact red pine soil blocks extracted from an unburned site and a site burned 3 years previous were exposed to moist greenhouse conditions for 3 months. No seed or seedlings were detected in the unburned soil. The equivalent of 109,000 spreading dogbane seedlings per hectare sprouted in greenhouse samples obtained from the burned area. No seed was found in sieved samples of burned soil, suggesting that seed had blown in from adjacent plots postfire. Spreading dogbane frequency as measured at the burn site was 0%, indicating poor establishment despite seed availability [4].

Montana: Spreading dogbane was found in Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine (P. contorta var. latifolia), Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, spruce (Picea spp.), and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) stands 34 years following fire in Glacier National Park [68]. It was also detected following 2 wildfires and 1 broadcast burn in the northern Rocky Mountains [166]. It was reported following a shelterwood cut in interior ponderosa pine-Rocky Mountain Douglas fir forest types in Montana, on plots treated with a low-consumption burn, high-consumption burn, or no burn. Spreading dogbane responded to increased intensity of fire with increasing coverage [11]:


Preburn % cover

Postburn (3 years) % cover

No burn

1.6 2.0-3.5

Low consumption burn (between 0% and 80% woody fuel consumption)

1.3 2.6-4.3

High consumption burn (~80% consumption of woody fuels)

2.3 3.6-7.4

In a study that monitored the effects of "light" (<360F (180 C)), "medium" (360 to 570 F (180-300 C)), and "hot" (>570 F (300 C)) burn conditions in western larch-Douglas-fir habitat types, intermediate dogbane averaged 1.63% cover on light burns and 0.20% cover on hot burns 3 years following treatments [157].

New York: In south-central New York, spreading dogbane was found to be an overall increaser in 8 chestnut oak stands, 3 of which had experienced 1 fire, 3 that had experienced 2 fires, and 2 that had experienced 3 fires. Average frequency on burned sites was 39.3% while on unburned sites it was 14.3%. In a similar study conducted in 2 aspen groves, spreading dogbane had an average frequency of 47.5% on burned sites and 0% on unburned sites [171].

South Dakota: Spreading dogbane was detected after fire in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Vegetation surveys took place in July or August, 2 years following a fire that consumed all organic matter and killed all of the trees [119].

Washington: In the ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir forest types of the Entiat Experimental Forest in the Cascade mountains of Washington, 4 watersheds were "severely and uniformly burned" in 1970 and received seed, seed and fertilizer, or no treatment. Spreading dogbane was most abundant where fertilizer was applied. Refer to Tiedemann and Klock [175] for seed mix and fertilizer types used. Average cover and frequency 1 year following treatments are shown below. The average cover of spreading dogbane on all 4 watersheds 1, 2, 3, and 4 years after the fire was 0.9%, 1.4%, 1.1%, and 1.5%, respectively [176].

1 Year postburn

Cover (%)

Frequency (%)


0.58 46

Seed and fertilizer

1.41 73
1.06 82

No treatment

0.47 26

On a prairie site in western Washington that is burned annually as a result of military training exercises, spreading dogbane is 1 of 16 species that retains at least 0.01% cover. Mean cover and frequency are 0.2% and 16%, respectively [178,179]. In north-central Washington burns covered with dense snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) 20 years after fire, spreading dogbane was reported to have a "scattered" distribution [103].

Wisconsin: Spreading dogbane is considered a prevalent species on burned jack pine stands in northwestern Wisconsin with a frequency of 11.8% and is not considered prevalent in unburned stands. Nine control sites and 28 burned sites averaging 3.5 burns per stand were examined. Twenty burned stands were sampled the summer following the last spring burn while the other 8 were sampled 1 year postburn. Spreading dogbane frequency was 6.8% greater on burned sites [186].

In the bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) grasslands of northeastern Wisconsin, spreading dogbane is considered a "neutral" species, averaging 20.8% frequency on undisturbed sites and 17.3% frequency following burning. Thirteen sites were burned once, 2 sites were burned 3 times and 1 stand experienced 2 wildfires. Burning was done in March or April and sampling was completed in July or August of the same year or the following year. A study utilizing 6 pairs of burned and unburned stands of jack pine-northern pin oak (Q. ellipsoidalis) in north-central Wisconsin reported a 1% reduction of spreading dogbane frequency on burned sites [186].

Canada: Spreading dogbane occurred on a logged, burned site in a forest that dominated before treatment by eastern white pine and paper birch (B. papyrifera). Within 1 year of logging and 1 month of burning, spreading dogbane frequency was 5%, and aboveground biomass totaled 0.40 g in sample plots covering a total area of 5 m2 [152]. Average ground cover of spreading dogbane was less than 1% [153]. In another burn conducted with a gasoline-powered flamethrower held 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) above the ground surface, there was no recorded effect on spreading dogbane. Temperatures reached approximately 1700 F (925 C) [156].

Spreading dogbane in eastern Ontario was detected with 12% frequency 37 years after harvesting and burning of a site that previously supported white spruce (Picea glauca), quaking aspen, and eastern white pine [28]. Spreading dogbane has also been reported 1 year after a prescribed burn in jack pine habitat where it did not previously occur [109].

In the Engelmann spruce (P. engelmannii)-subalpine fir habitat type of the Selkirk Range in western Canada, spreading dogbane was identified soon after reforestation of a burn site [148]. Following a severe fire in spruce habitat (Picea spp.) of northern British Columbia where < 0.4 inch (1 cm) of ash and organic matter were left behind, spreading dogbane was considered one of the most common forbs. The population peaked after the 3rd year and had declined by year 5 [120].

The following Research Project Summary provides information on prescribed fire use and postfire response of many plant species, including spreading dogbane:

Understory recovery after low- and high-intensity fires in northern Idaho ponderosa pine forests

Fire will not likely eliminate spreading dogbane. It is possible that fire may augment populations by reducing the incidence of competing species [111]. Spreading dogbane may provide important cover on jack pine sites recently burned by wildfire [2].

In the eastern Cascades, artificial seeding following fire resulted in reduced frequency (P = 0.04) and cover (P < 0.001) of spreading dogbane populations [145]. Phenological development of spreading dogbane may be altered as a result of modifications to the thermal regime that occur postfire [52].


SPECIES: Apocynum androsaemifolium
Spreading dogbane is considered poisonous to domestic livestock [38,45,96,127] and is intermittently grazed by wildlife. In Idaho's Selway Game Preserve, the leaves and flowers of spreading dogbane account for 5% of elk diets from late June to early October [201]. Stomach content analysis of Rocky Mountain goats in the Crazy Mountains of Montana revealed trace amounts of spreading dogbane during the fall months[142].

Spreading dogbane provides nest-building sites for crab spiders [115], forage for forest-dwelling ground squirrels [36], and is utilized by bees for honey production [181].

Palatability/nutritional value: In central Idaho spreading dogbane has low palatability for elk and deer [159,160] and is unpalatable to black bears [158]. It is utilized by a native slug species on the dry east slopes of the Cascades, but is unpalatable to introduced European slugs [27]. Nutritional values of spreading dogbane as a percentage of total dry matter are as follows [36]:

Nitrogen (%)

Ash (%)

Cellulose (%)

Lignin (%)

1.7 5.6 9.3 6.2

When spreading dogbane was treated with multi-nutrient fertilizers, concentrations of B, Cu, K, N, and S were not significantly different (P>0.10) [184]:


B (ppm)

Cu (ppm)

K (%)

N (%)

S (%)


21.6 5.7 1.880 1.440 0.213


63.1 6.9 1.890 1.580 0.333

Cover value: Frego and Staniforth [54] maintain that spreading dogbane provides canopy cover. Species for which this applies were not discussed.

Spreading dogbane has been noted to inhabit recently disturbed sites. It was observed on a clear-cut site in western Montana [99] and reported highest densities (83 plants per acre) 3 and 5 years following harvest activity in California [107]. Spreading dogbane was found on a mudflow surface at Mount St. Helens 1 year following disturbance [69] and is considered an increaser along streams in southern Idaho [139], possibly indicating a propensity to inhabit areas disturbed by flood events. Temperature measurements conducted in southwestern Oregon in undisturbed stands indicate a preference for warm temperatures when compared with other species [62]. In Gifford Pinchot National Forest grand fir (Abies grandis) habitat types, spreading dogbane is used as an indicator for disturbance [177].

Spreading dogbane can be successfully transplanted. Transplanting from high elevation to low elevation sites led to development that was delayed by 1 month when compared to plants currently at the low elevation site. Plants moved from low elevation to high elevation sites were advanced by 1 week in 1st bloom and peak bloom when compared to plants remaining at the low elevation site. Transplants did not produce seed at the lower sites [53]. Spreading dogbane has been used for landscaping in residence areas that seek to utilize prairie species [79].

Procedures for seed propagation of spreading dogbane can be found in [80].

Spreading dogbane has been used in the construction of fish nets [5] and as cordage when preferred plants were not readily available [127]. Its use as a medicinal has resulted in sickness and death [127].

Spreading dogbane exhibits variable responses to projects involving vegetation removal. It was recorded on 3.4% of 2,142 sample plots in California after thinning and burning operations [132] and was detected up to 20 years following a clearcut in western Alberta [168]. It occurred with 5% frequency in the 2nd growing season following clearcutting and barley mulch application in Quebec [82], and accounted for 0.001% of cover the 1st year, 0.026% the 2nd year, and 0.006% the 3rd year following clearcutting, scarification, and planting in New Brunswick. It made up 0.006% of cover in uncut plots during the 3rd year and was never detected in untreated clearcut plots [135]. In the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming, understory was examined after various stocking treatments in approximately 70-year-old stands of interior ponderosa pine. Spreading dogbane production was reported as follows [183]:


Growing stock levels (m/ha) for sapling-sized interior ponderosa pine stands (basal area of a stand + standard errors)

Spreading dogbane production (kg/ha) clearcut 5 9 14 18 23 28 unthinned
1974   <1 *   * <1 * <1
1976   <1 3 + 1       <1 <1
1981 <1 3 + 2 * 2 + 1 * 5 + 4 * 1 + 1

Growing stock levels (m/ha) for pole-sized interior ponderosa pine stands (basal area of a stand + standard errors)

1974 <1 <1 * <1 * <1 * <1
1976 5 + 3 7 + 6 <1
1981 1 + <1 5 + 4 * 2 + 2 * <1 * <1
*not measured

In Ontario, spreading dogbane was found 6 years after the removal of vegetation from a peat bog and subsequent harvesting of up to 7 feet (2 m) of peat, but was not found in bogs that had been mined 1, 10, and 24 years previously [84]. In northern Minnesota, understory species were monitored following spring and winter full-tree logging (tree felled and taken off-site), winter tree-length logging (tree felled, limbed and only bole taken off site), and sites that received no treatment. Spreading dogbane was found on the logged sites during the 2nd season following treatment. The occurrence of spreading dogbane across treated sites was not significantly different at the P=0.05 level [121]. Spreading dogbane cover increased from 0.5% to 0.9% following a shelterwood cut at the Priest River Experimental Forest in northern Idaho [154]. In the 5 years following an 8-acre clear-cut in the northern Sierra Nevada range, the following measurements of spreading dogbane were taken [107]:


% Frequency

Density (plants/acre + standard errors)

Cover (ft/acre + standard errors)

Height (feet + standard errors)

1976 2 20 + 0 10 + 0 0.2 + 0
1977 2 67 + 0 17 + 0 0.5 + 0
1978 3 83 + 150 T* + 0 0.6 + 0
1979 2 17 + 0 T + 0 0.3 + 0
1980 3 83 + 150 17 + 0 0.8 + 0
* T = trace

In a study to determine how light intensity correlates with frequency of spreading dogbane in red pine forests, plots exposed to variable amounts of sunlight were examined. Frequency was highest between 50% and 80% of full sunlight [151]. Spreading dogbane is not influenced by edge effects [49]. Studies conducted to determine the change in moisture content of 21 species from early summer to mid-summer indicate that spreading dogbane was 1 of 3 species to experience an increase [101].

In Idaho, biomass production of spreading dogbane in an area grazed primarily by cattle and domestic sheep was greater than 3 times that in ungrazed areas. Cover and frequency were not significantly different (P>0.05) [202].

Spreading dogbane has been successfully controlled through the use of herbicides [25,38,46,47,125,162].

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