Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Alnus viridis subsp. crispa


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. crispa
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Matthews, Robin F. 1992. Alnus viridis subsp. crispa. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : ALNVIRC ALNVIR SYNONYMS : Alnus viridis (Villars) Lam. var. crispa (Michx.) House [65] A. crispa (Ait.) Pursh subsp. crispa [30] SCS PLANT CODE : ALVIC ALVIC2 COMMON NAMES : mountain alder American green alder TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of mountain alder is Alnus viridis (Chaix) DC. subsp. crispa (Ait.) Turrill. Sitka alder, Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata (Regel) A. Love & D. Love, and Siberian alder, Alnus viridis subsp. fruticosa (Ruprecht) Nyman, are other subspecies of green alder (A. viridis) occurring in North America [31,64,67,68]. The subspecies interbreed where their ranges overlap [10,21,30,36,58]. Information presented in this text is for mountain alder. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. crispa
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Mountain alder is widely distributed throughout interior, central, and northern Alaska across the Yukon Territory and interior Canada to Labrador, Newfoundland, and Greenland.  It extends south through New England and the Great Lakes States, and into the Pacific Northwest. Disjunct populations are documented in south-central Pennsylvania and west-central North Carolina [21,36,48,58]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES10  White - red - jack pine    FRES11  Spruce - fir    FRES15  Oak - hickory    FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood    FRES18  Maple - beech - birch    FRES19  Aspen - birch    FRES20  Douglas-fir    FRES22  Western white pine    FRES23  Fir - spruce    FRES24  Hemlock - Sitka spruce    FRES26  Lodgepole pine    FRES28  Western hardwoods STATES :      AK  CA  ME  MA  MI  MN  NH  NY  NC  OR      PA  VT  WA  WI  AB  BC  LB  MB  NB  NF      NT  NS  ON  PQ  SK  YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :    1  Northern Pacific Border    2  Cascade 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    K008  Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest    K012  Douglas-fir forest    K013  Cedar - hemlock - pine forest    K015  Western spruce - fir forest    K025  Alder - ash forest    K081  Oak savanna    K093  Great Lakes spruce - fir forest    K094  Conifer bog    K095  Great Lakes pine forest    K096  Northeastern spruce - fir forest    K099  Maple - basswood forest    K101  Elm - ash forest    K102  Beech - maple forest    K106  Northern hardwoods    K107  Northern hardwoods - fir forest    K108  Northern hardwoods - spruce forest SAF COVER TYPES :      1  Jack pine      5  Balsam fir     12  Black spruce     13  Black spruce - tamarack     14  Northern pin oak     15  Red pine     16  Aspen     17  Pin cherry     18  Paper birch     21  Eastern white pine     22  White pine - hemlock     23  Eastern hemlock     24  Hemlock - yellow birch     25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch     26  Sugar maple - basswood     27  Sugar maple     30  Red spruce - yellow birch     31  Red spruce - sugar maple - beech     32  Red spruce     33  Red spruce - balsam fir     35  Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir     37  Northern white-cedar     38  Tamarack     39  Black ash - American elm - red maple     60  Beech - Sugar maple     62  Silver maple - American elm    107  White spruce    108  Red maple    201  White spruce    202  White spruce - paper birch    203  Balsam poplar    204  Black spruce    205  Mountain hemlock    206  Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir    207  Red fir    210  Interior Douglas-fir    215  Western white pine    217  Aspen    218  Lodgepole 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    251  White spruce - aspen    252  Paper birch    253  Black spruce - white spruce    254  Black spruce - paper birch SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Mountain alder is a dominant or codominant in a variety of habitats.  It may occur as an understory dominant in open conifer forests with black spruce (Picea mariana), white spruce (P.  glauca), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), and jack pine (P. banksiana) overstories; and in open and closed deciduous forests with paper birch (Betula papyrifera), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), balsam poplar (P. balsamifera), and red alder (Alnus rubra) overstories.  American green alder can dominate in shrub types (often with Salix spp.) and on open, moist tundra [5,13,20,55,57]. The following publications classify mountain alder as a dominant shrub layer component: Forest community types of west-central Alberta in relation to selected   environmental factors [13] Field guide to forest ecosystems of west-central Alberta [14] Classification, description, and dynamics of plant communities after   fire in the taiga of interior Alaska [20] Vegetation types in northwestern Alaska and comparisons with communities   in other Arctic regions [23] Reconnaissance of vegetation and soils along the Dempster Highway, Yukon  Territory: I. Vegetation types [49] The Alaska vegetation classification [57]


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. crispa
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Alders (Alnus spp.) are used as a source of firewood in regions where fuels are scarce [21].  Native Americans in Alaska consider alder a prime fuel for smoking salmon [39]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Mountain alder generally is of low value as browse for big game, but it is consumed in small quantities by deer [24,25].  In some areas, however, it is utilized heavily by moose [3,15,52,54] and caribou [2,54]. Although mountain alder is a principal component in mountain goat foraging areas, goats do not browse it.  The alder shrubs do, however, provide ground cover that lessens snow accumulation, making lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) more accessible to mountain goats [29]. Muskrat, beaver, cottontail, and snowshoe hares feed on alder twigs and foliage [25].  Many birds eat alder seeds, buds, and catkins [25,54,58]. Mountain alder is an important component of white-tailed ptarmigan winter forage [58].   Alder can be an important secondary forage for livestock, especially cattle [21,54]. PALATABILITY : The palatability of alder to big game and livestock is generally low [15,24,54]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Mountain alder often forms dense thickets which serve as cover for many wildlife species.  Big game animals use alder for hiding and escape cover.  Bird species use alder thickets for nesting, feeding, and resting [25]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : The major value of Mountain alder in rehabilitation is its ability to invade sterile soil and increase the organic matter content by nitrogen fixation [9,24].  Mountain alder can fix nitrogen at a rate of 18 to 55 pounds per acre (20-62 kg/ha) per year [24].  Soil fertility increases as the plant looses leaves and other parts and the nitrogen-containing materials become available to decomposer species in the soil [51].  The nitrogen content in soil after glaciation is at a maximum when inhabited by mature alder, but is slowly depleted as spruce (Picea spp.) takes over [53].   Alders contribute to the reduction of soil erosion [21,50,59] and help to stabilize alluvial deposits [50]. Mountain alder recovered well within 2 to 3 years after an oil spill near Norman Wells, Northwest Territories [59].  It was also noted for its ability to colonize tailings at the Discovery Mine, Northwest Territories [59].   OTHER USES AND VALUES : Alder bark is very astringent and has been used medicinally by Native Americans.  It has also been used in the tanning of leather and dying of textiles [21]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Mountain alder can be a major competitor of conifer seedlings following timber harvest.  Dense thickets can prevent conifer establishment over large areas [24].  However, due to its nitrogen-fixing ability, alder can improve soil fertility [9,40,50].  It is also a nurse tree for conifers such as spruce (Picea spp.), pine (Pinus spp.), and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) on nitrogen-deficient soils [50].  Some suggest that conifers should be established prior to the alder to ensure that conifer growth is not hindered [24]. Mountain alder is a key indicator species of productive lodgepole pine stands in subalpine regions in British Columbia [26]. When desired, alder stands can be established on cool, moist sites by direct seeding or planting 2- and 3-year-old seedlings.  Nondormant seeds should be sown in the spring and dormant seeds in the fall. Unstratified alder seeds will germinate but at a slower rate than stratified seeds [59].  Overmature thickets cut in the spring or winter will rapidly regrow [25]. Control:  In the Caribou Forest Region of British Columbia, ripping apart clumps of alder with V-shaped or straight-blade plows has been successful at setting back the alder enough to establish a softwood crop [24].  When applied as stump, basal, or foliage sprays, 2,4,5-T or 2,4-D control alder effectively [25,40].


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. crispa
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Mountain alder is a deciduous, ascending shrub usually reaching up to 10 feet (3 m) in height [18,30,48,58].  Occasionally, it may reach heights of 20 to 30 feet (6-9 m) [10,21].  Growth rates vary with site and location, but usually decrease at higher elevations [24,30]. Mountain alder often forms dense thickets [10,58,59].  The bark is yellowish-brown and twigs have sessile, pointed axillary buds [10,24]. Leaves are ovate or elliptic and glabrous above, but pubescent below. The margins are serrated with very fine teeth [4,18,30,48,58]. The roots of mountain alder are shallow and have nodules containing nitrogen-fixing microorganisms [8,10,21]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :       Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Sexual reproduction:  Mountain alder is monoecious [10,14,24]. The female catkins turn woody and conelike at maturity.  The seeds are winged nutlets [48,58] that are dispersed by wind and water [21,37,45]. One study estimated mountain alder seed to be 40 percent viable [61]. Germination from seed on disturbed habitats is the primary form of reproduction for mountain alder [24,25].  The seeds invade and colonize bare mineral soil [24,37,60] in areas such as avalanche tracks, talus slopes, fresh alluvium, and soils left by retreating glaciers [24,58].  In interior Alaska, the frequency of occurrence of alder species is three times greater on bare mineral soil than on organic surfaces [60]. Vegetative reproduction:  Mountain alder sprouts from the root crown if damaged or cut.  Sprouting often occurs after mechanical site preparation [24] and natural disturbances such as avalanches [41] and fire [33,35,45,46]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Mountain alder occurs at elevations from sea level to 6,600 feet (2,000 m) [21] on steep to level terrain.  It occupies habitats ranging from open tundra to open conifer forests [18,20,57] but cannot withstand a dense overstory [24].  It can occur singly or in thickets along streams, lakeshores, coasts, bogs, or muskeg margins, and as an understory component in conifer forests [21,24].  Mountain alder is usually associated with some source of moisture, but is adapted to somewhat drier conditions than other alders [21].  The wetter sites are more favorable for high nitrogen-fixing activity [27].  Its shallow roots make it well adapted to the generally cold, harsh climate characteristic of sites which it inhabits, where the soil may be only shallowly thawed [8,24]. Soil textures range from sandy to gravelly or rocky; green alder often occurs on morainal soil left by retreating glaciers [21,24,58].  Soils supporting mountain alder in deglaciated areas are generally acidic (pH 5.0-6.5) [24,53]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Mountain alder is semi-shade tolerant [24,44] and is considered a pioneer or seral species [21,25,26].  It invades and inhabits terraces above the floodplain which are subject to occasional flooding [8,56], and is a pioneer on alkaline glacial outwash [59].  After fire, American green alder sprouts from the root crown and establishes by seed from plants in adjacent unburned areas [33,35,45].  The bare mineral soils created by these disturbances are prime sites for mountain alder. These shrubs provide shade that reduce soil temperatures, allowing spruce and other genera to establish [1,9]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : The pistillate catkins of mountain alder emerge before or with the leaves in spring; staminate catkins are produced during the previous growing season [10,21,24,48].  Flowering takes place from May to June, with fruits maturing in July [24,58,61].  Cones ripen from mid-September to mid-November, depending on latitude and elevation, and seed dispersal takes place immediately thereafter [48,58,60].  The leaves do not turn color, but remain green until they are dropped in the fall.


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. crispa
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Mountain alder is considered a survivor species because it sprouts from basal or underground parts following fire [19,44].  Additionally, its wind-dispersed seeds quickly colonize bare mineral soils exposed by fire.  Regeneration from sprouting and the establishment of seedlings allow mountain alder to reestablish at a fairly rapid rate following fire [11,12,45,46].  Mountain alder is very adaptable and is successful regardless of length of the fire cycle [44]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown    Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. crispa
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Mountain alder does not burn easily, and dense stands can sometimes prevent fire spread [35,45].  However, light- to moderate-severity fires can kill aerial portions, and high-severity fires can remove the organic layer and leave charred roots exposed, eliminating sprouting from underground parts [60]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Mountain alder sprouts from the root crown following fire [33,35,45].  The sprouting response is usually immediate and generally results in an increased number of plants [35,45,58].  Mountain alder also reestablishes by seed dispersed from adjacent, unburned areas.  Green alder is abundant in areas with a history of frequent fires.  This nitrogen-fixing alder may be favored over other invading species by severe fires that remove the surface organic matter [42]. Alder invasion and persistence are favored by fire, but total recovery is slow [16,21,24].  One study in central Alberta showed prefire mountain alder cover to be 36 percent, while 1 year later it was only 4 percent [16].  Repeated fires near treeline and in wet sites can result in thickets of mountain alder [23]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : For information on prescribed fire and postfire responses of many plant species, including mountain alder, see these Research Project Summaries: FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. crispa
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