Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Uchytil, Ronald J. 1989. Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : ALNVIRS ALNVIR SYNONYMS : Alnus sinuata Alnus viridis var. sinuata Alnus crispa subsp. sinuata Alnus sitchensis Alnus alnobetula [25,27,29,35] SCS PLANT CODE : ALSI3 COMMON NAMES : Sitka alder mountain alder wavyleaf alder green alder TAXONOMY : The scientific name of Sitka alder Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata (Regel) Love & Loveis. It is a subspecies of green alder is Alnus viridis (Vill.) Lam. & DC. Green alder is a circumpolar taxon distributed across America, Europe, and Asia [18]. It has been separated into the following two subspecies [18,20,30,53,54]: Alnus viridis subsp. crispa (Aiton) Turill - mountain alder - northern North America, including northwestern North America Alnus viridis subsp. fruticosa (Ruprecht) Nyman - Siberian alder - northwestern North America Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata (Regel) Love & Love - Sitka alder - northwestern North America Intermediate forms between these subspecies are found where their ranges overlap [5,18]. This review is on Sitka alder. LIFE FORM : Shrub-tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Sitka alder is distributed from central Alaska and the Yukon Territory south throughout British Columbia and western Alberta, and from Washington to northwestern California, east to Idaho and central Montana [27,29,35]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES20  Douglas-fir    FRES22  Western white pine    FRES23  Fir - spruce    FRES24  Hemlock - Sitka spruce    FRES26  Lodgepole pine STATES :      AK  CA  ID  MT  OR  WA  WY  AB  BC  YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     1  Northern Pacific Border     2  Cascade Mountains     4  Sierra Mountains     8  Northern Rocky Mountains     9  Middle Rocky Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K001  Spruce - cedar - hemlock    K002  Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest    K003  Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest    K004  Fir - hemlock forest    K007  Red fir forest    K012  Douglas-fir forest    K013  Cedar - hemlock - pine forest    K014  Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest    K015  Western spruce - fir forest SAF COVER TYPES :    201  White spruce    203  Balsam poplar    205  Mountain hemlock    206  Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir    207  Red fir    210  Interior Douglas-fir    213  Grand fir    218  Lodgepole pine    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 SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Sitka alder is a seral shrub or small tree typically found on moist cool sites within western redcedar (Thuja plicata), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), or Pacific silver fir (A. amabilis) forests in the Cascades and Rocky Mountains [1,17,29,40,46]. Published classification schemes listing Sitka alder as an indicator species or as a dominant part of the vegetation in community types (cts) or habitat types (hts) are presented below: Area             Classification            Authority OR,WA            general veg. cts          Franklin & Dyrness 1973 OR:Eagle Cap     general veg. cts          Cole 1982  Wilderness OR:Monument Peak general veg. cts          Aller 1965 wcID             general veg. cts          Curtis 1986 eWA,nID          forest hts                Daubenmire & Daubenmire 1968 ID               forest hts                Cooper & others 1987 cID              grand fir/blue hkbry hts  Steele & Geier-Hayes 1987 cID              forest hts                Steele & others 1981 MT               forest hts                Pfister & others 1977


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Sitka alder is occasionally used for firewood [27].  IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Sitka alder has little forage value for big game animals or livestock [20,46].  Plants are occasionally eaten by mule deer [33].  Dense stands impede the movements of livestock [11] but provide cover for wildlife [36]. Sitka alder-dominated avalanche chutes are considered excellent habitat for grizzly bears.  Grizzly bears often forage in these areas, eating mesic herbaceous plants as they green up in the spring and berries from shrubs in the summer and fall [51]. Muskrats, beavers, cottontails, and snowshoe hares eat alder (Alnus spp.) twigs and leaves [24].  Beavers eat the bark of alders, and build dams and lodges with the stems [49].  Alder seeds, buds, and catkins, are eaten by redpolls, siskins, goldfinches, chickadees, and grouse, and are an important winter food source [24,36]. PALATABILITY : The palatability of Sitka alder to big game animals and livestock is generally poor [11,20]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Often forming dense thickets, Sitka alder provides thermal and hiding cover for many wildlife species, and is especially valuable as hiding cover for big game animals [7].  Thickets also provide nesting and foraging habitat for many bird species [24].  Thickets in Idaho often have high population densities of pocket gophers and hares [7]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Sitka alder is valuable for slope stabilization and erosion control on steep slopes [20].  Its seeds are adapted to invade bare mineral soil and can be sown on cool, moist, disturbed sites.  To obtain seed, proven cone collection and seed extraction procedures should be followed [24]. Transplanting seedlings is most successful when 2- and 3-year-old container-grown stock is used [24]. Red alder is suitable for revegetating sterile soils because it fixes atmospheric nitrogen.  An Alaska study found that Sitka alder seedlings originating from windblown seed of nearby plants quickly invaded coal mine spoils [14], indicating its potential usefulness for revegetating such areas. OTHER USES AND VALUES : The bark and foliage of alders is very astringent and was used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes.  Preparations from alder bark were also used by Native Americans to tan and dye leather and textiles [18]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Nurse crop:  Sitka alder improves soil fertility both by fixing nitrogen and by producing a nitrogen-rich leaf litter [20].  It has therefore been proposed for interplanting with Douglas-fir or other desirable conifers on sites where additional nitrogen is desirable [22].  Based on juvenile height-growth patterns, Douglas-fir should be planted 2 to 6 years before Sitka alder to ensure that it is not overtopped and suppressed. Competition:  Attempts to establish conifers on Sitka alder sites have generally proved unsuccessful.  It can be a major competitor with planted conifer seedlings, especially if it was established in the understory prior to harvest [20].  On good sites, Sitka alder-dominated brushfields may develop following wildfire or logging [40].  When established in the understory or where "conifer islands" occurring within Sitka alder communities have been removed, sites should receive immediate conifer regeneration treatment [7]. Moisture relationships:  Sitka alder is indicative of high water tables. Stands may therefore make access for timber harvest difficult [46], but may prove useful for hikers searching for water.  Trails should cross avalanche chutes at right angles to prevent water from being diverted downhill [6].


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Sitka alder is a deciduous shrub or, rarely, a small tree.  Plants are typically multistemmed and bushy, up to 10 or 15 feet (3 or 4.6 m) tall, often forming dense thickets [3,39].  Occasionally, plants may grow to 30 or 40 feet (9 or 12 m) at lower elevations [3,27].  Height growth generally decreases with increasing elevation [22].  The resilient branches are seldom damaged by snow creep or avalanches, allowing dense thickets to form on steep slopes subject to these disturbances [17].  On these sites the 3 to 6 inch (7.6-15.2 cm) diameter stems often point downhill and then bow strongly upwards [17,20,38].  The bark is thin, smooth, and reddish brown or gray [25,39].  The leaves are alternate, ovate, 0.8 to 2.5 inches (3-10 cm) long, shiny green, with doubly serrate margins [39].  Sitka alder has a shallow root system [27]. Male and female flowers occur on the same plant in catkins.  The separate male and female catkins are in small clusters on the same twig [20].  Clusters of three to six pistillate catkins are approximately 0.5 inch (1.25 cm) long, each with a long, 1 to 1.5 inch (2.5-3.75 cm) stalk [25,27]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :    Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Sexual reproduction:  Male and female flowers of Sitka alder occur in catkins on the same plant.  The small (about 0.5 inch [1.25 cm] long) female catkins are wind pollinated, and turn semiwoody and conelike at maturity.  The fruit is a small, single-seeded nutlet with wide lateral wings. Seeds are dispersed during the fall [20].  Sitka alder's seeds are lightweight and have broad wings about as wide as the body of the nut, which allows them to travel long distances by wind and water [44]. Germination from seed on disturbed habitats is the primary form of reproduction of Sitka alder [20].  The wind-dispersed seeds colonize bare soil created by disturbances such as fire, avalanches, soil slump, and retreating glaciers.  Seeds require a moist mineral soil for germination, which normally takes place in the spring.  Studies in western Washington found that it takes 3 to 4 years for Sitka alder seedlings to reach 3 feet (1 m) in height, and 10 years to reach 13 feet (4 m) [22].  Seedlings take 4 to 7 years to start producing seed [28,34]. Vegetative Reproduction:  Sitka alder plants can sprout from the root collar or stump when damaged.  Although alder wood is resilient and somewhat limber, avalanches can damage plants, which afterwards often sprout [38].  Sprouting also often occurs from root crowns following fire [47]. Propagation:  Stem cuttings of Sitka alder seldom, if ever, produce roots [26]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Sitka alder is generally found at middle to high elevations in the mountains of northwestern North America.  It is moderately shade tolerant [20,31], which allows it to survive under stands of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), subalpine fir, grand fir (Abies grandis), western hemlock, mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), Douglas-fir, and Pacific silver fir [1,7,40,46]; however, it cannot tolerate a dense overstory.  Scattered thickets of Sitka alder are normally located on cool moist sites, on north-facing slopes, or other shady aspects [3,37,40,46].  It is a vigorous invader of talus slopes, avalanche chutes, seepage areas, and high elevation mountain swales, which often have an abundance of surface moisture [29,43]. These sites are often subject to deep winter snow accumulations and recurrent avalanches.  Although typically mentioned as a seral shrub of cool, moist, shady upland sites, it also occurs along cool mountain streams in Oregon and Washington [23,29]. Soils:  Sitka alder is found on a wide variety of parent materials and soil textures [20].  Surface soil textures vary from silts to coarse sands, and are consistently more acidic than those in adjacent conifer communities [7,40].  Soils under Sitka alder are normally higher in available nitrogen than soils in adjacent communities, since this species can fix between 18 to 55 pounds per acre (20-62 kg/ha) of nitrogen annually [20].  Its ability to fix nitrogen allows it to invade sterile mineral soil recently exposed by glaciers or avalanches [20]. Associated species:  Sitka alder is commonly found with shrubs such as Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum), vine maple (A. circinatum), elderberries (Sambucus spp.), willows (Salix spp.), prickly currant (Ribes lacustre), mountain ash (Sorbus spp.), rusty leaf menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea).  Commonly associated herbs and forbs (usually shade tolerant) include heartleaf miners lettuce (Montia cordifolia), Siberian miners lettuce (M. sibirica), arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis), wild ginger (Asarum caudatum), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), queencup beadlily (Clintonia uniflora), broadleaf arnica (Arnica latifolia), sidebells shinleaf (Pyrola secunda), pioneer violet (Viola glabella), nettles (Urtica dioica), northern bluebells (Mertensia paniculata), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) [2,6,7,9,40]. Elevation:  Sitka alder is mostly distributed above 3,000 feet (914 m) [3].  Sitka alder does not grow below 1,640 feet (500 m) in Washington [22].  Elevational ranges for the following western states are presented below [6,12]: from 3,500 to 8,000 feet (1,067-2,438 m) in MT      5,700 to 7,000 feet (1,737-2,134 m) in Eagle Cap Wilderness, OR SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Sitka alder is generally considered a pioneer or early seral species, capable of colonizing disturbed or sterile soils and often appears on avalanche chutes, talus slopes, fresh alluvium, and at the head of retreating glaciers [20,34,38].  On steep terrain in heavy snowpack areas, recurrent avalanches are partially responsible for the creation and maintenance of Sitka alder communities [17].  The soils exposed by avalanches provide an ideal seedbed for Sitka alder seeds.  Once established, its resilient wood, bowed growth form, and ability to sprout if stems are broken allow Sitka alder to withstand repeated avalanche destruction, which would normally kill other plants.  Other Sitka alder communities appear to be stable and long-lived and are apparently mid-seral or even climax.  When conifers are removed by disturbances such as wildfire, avalanche, or massive soil slumping, Sitka alder quickly invades disturbed sites having high water tables or seasonally high moisture such as from snow melt [7].  Dense stands of Sitka alder that develop can sometimes retard the establishment of conifers on the site, and these stands appear to be stable [2,46]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : The staminate catkins of Sitka alder are produced during the preceding growing season, and are exposed during the winter.  The pistillate catkins emerge with the leaves in the spring [18].  Flowering occurs in the spring, cones ripen in mid-September to mid-November depending on latitude and elevation, and seed is dispersed immediately thereafter [20].  Leaves remain green until they are dropped in the fall.


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Sitka alder generally sprouts from the root crown following fire [16,47,52].  Numerous wind-dispersed seeds are produced by off-site plants and on-site plants which sprout following fire.  Sitka alder's frequency and extent increase rapidly in early successional communities following fire [47,52]. Fire tends to occur infrequently on the moist sites occupied by Sitka alder communities [10].  The nonflammable bark and nonresinous leaves protect alders somewhat from low intensity fires [10]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this taxon may occur by entering the plant name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex    off-site colonizer; seed carried by wind; postfire years one and two


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Severe fires can completely remove organic soil layers leaving alder roots exposed and charred, thus eliminating basal sprouting.  Low to moderate severity fires kill only aboveground plant parts [21,52]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Sitka alder is generally favored by fire.  It often increases in frequency and extent in the early seral communities that follow a fire. Although aboveground plant parts may be killed by fire, plants usually recover by sending up several new shoots from their root crown, which often increases stand density [16].  Sitka alder's wind-dispersed seeds quickly colonize soils exposed by fire, and seedlings often become an important part of the first postfire generation [47]. Throughout northern Idaho, Sitka alder is more common on burned lands than on unburned.  On sites repeatedly burned over a 30-year period both frequency and cover have increased.  In unburned climax coniferous stands, Sitka alder attained a frequency of less than 1 percent, but on nearby areas burned more than once, it had a frequency of 30 percent [37]. In another northern Idaho study, Sitka alder sprouts originating from root crowns following a wildfire flowered 5 years after the fire. Seedlings were first detected during the 8th postfire year with a 5 percent frequency, and 2 years later increased to a frequency of 75 percent [47]. Sitka alder, in the Kamloops Forest Region of British Columbia, reportedly takes 5 to 7 years to "recover" from broadcast burns of moderate to severe intensity [20]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : In the subalpine fir zone of British Columbia, Sitka alder stands are common in some drier areas.  Pojar and others [41] speculate that this may be related to fire history.  Since Sitka alder is a nitrogen-fixing species, it may be a more successful invader in these drier areas where fires were hotter and removed much of the surface organic matter. Hamilton's Research Paper provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species, including Sitka alder, that was not available when this species review was originally written. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata
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