Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Ambrosia dumosa


SPECIES: Ambrosia dumosa
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Marshall, K. Anna. 1994. Ambrosia dumosa. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. ABBREVIATION : AMBDUM SYNONYMS : Franseria dumosa Gray [27] SCS PLANT CODE : AMDU2 COMMON NAMES : white bursage bursage burrobush burroweed TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for white bursage is Ambrosia dumosa (Gray) Payne [35]. It is a member of the aster family (Asteraceae). There are no recognized infrataxa. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Ambrosia dumosa
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : White bursage occurs throughout the Sonoran and Mojave deserts although it is typically considered a Mojave Desert species [1].  It ranges north to Death Valley, California, southern Nevada, and southwestern Utah.  It extends along the Gulf in Baja California as far south as Bajia Los Angeles and into Sonora as far south as Tiburon Island [41]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES30  Desert shrub STATES :      AZ  CA  NV  UT  MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     3  Southern Pacific Border     6  Upper Basin and Range     7  Lower Basin and Range    12  Colorado Plateau KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K041  Creosotebush    K042  Creosotebush - bursage    K043  Paloverde - cactus shrub SAF COVER TYPES :    242  Mesquite SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : White bursage is a dominant or codominant member of most plant communities in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts.  It usually occurs in open, species-poor communities with creosotebush (Larrea tridentata). At the northern boundary of white bursage, in the transition zone between the Mojave and Great Basin deserts, associated species of the creosotebush-white bursage community include wolfberry (Lycium spp.), range ratany (Krameria parvifolia), Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera), California jointfir (Ephedra funera), spiny hopsage (Grayia spinosa), and winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) [38,47].  The density of white bursage is about 2,500 plants per hectare [3,47]. Approximately 70 percent of the Mojave Desert is covered with open or very open stands of creosotebush and white bursage [15,29,40]. Associated species in the Mojave Desert include desertsenna (Cassia armata), Nevada ephedra (Ephedra nevadensis), white burrobrush (Hymenoclea salsola), and wolfberry [22]. In the Sonoran Desert, associated members of the creosotebush-white bursage community are acacia (Acacia paucipina), fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), big galleta (Hilaria rigida), cholla (Opuntia spp.) and western honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana) [40].  In the Arizona Upland Subdivision of the Sonoran Desert, the density of white bursage is 549.7 plants per hectare and white bursage cover is 2.7 percent.  In the Lower Colorado River Valley, the density of white bursage is 84 plants per hectare and white bursage cover is 0.1 percent [29]. In addition to the creosotebush-white bursage association, white bursage is a member of the following associations:  Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia)-big galleta [24], saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)-paloverde (Cercidium spp.) [39], Sonoran creosotebush scrub, Mojave creosotebush scrub, and Mojave mixed woody scrub [22]. Publications listing white bursage as a dominant or codominant species include: Sonoran Desert [10] Preliminary descriptions of the terrestrial natural communities of California   [22] Vegetation of the Santa Catalina Mountains: community types and   dynamics [34] Mojave Desert scrub vegetation [60]


SPECIES: Ambrosia dumosa
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : White bursage is an important browse species in several areas of the Sonoran Desert.  Browsing pressure on white bursage is particularly heavy during years of low precipitation, when production of winter annuals is low [8]. White bursage is of intermediate forage value [21].  It is fair to good forage for horses and fair to poor for cattle and sheep.  However, because there is often little other forage where white bursage grows, it is often highly valuable to browsing animals [24].  Webb [51] observed that sheep browsed primarily on new growth and seeds. In the Mojave Desert, 8 percent of mature white bursage plants were browsed by black-tailed jackrabbits.  Forty-three percent of transplanted seedlings were browsed.  Fourteen percent of browsed seedlings were more than 90 percent consumed [26]. Many desert rodents, including kangaroo rats, eat white bursage seeds [57]. PALATABILITY : White bursage is moderately palatable to cattle and sheep and slightly more palatable to horses.  Closely cropped white bursage plants on heavily stocked range indicates inadequate forage rather than high palatability [23]. White bursage is palatable to feral asses.  Fecal analysis indicated that white bursage was the primary forage used by feral asses in winter [21]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : The nutrient value of white bursage fluctuates seasonally; it is greater in the spring and less in the fall [21].  In a 2-year study in the Lower Colorado River Valley, white bursage had a gross energy value of about 4.2 kilocalories per gram.  Crude protein was highest in February at 10 percent, declining the rest of the year to 4 to 7 percent.  Phosphorus content was highest in spring at 1,110 milligrams per kilogram of plant material, declining to 500 milligrams per kilogram in August and September [21]. In the northern Mojave Desert, Romney and others [38] estimated the nutrient load of new white bursage leaves as follows: Nitrogen        1.29   kg/ha Phosphorous     0.114  kg/ha Sodium          0.035  kg/ha Potassium       1.70   kg/ha Calcium         0.93   kg/ha Magnesium       0.17   kg/ha Reichman [56] estimated that white bursage seeds contain 3,838 calories per gram or 23.72 calories per seed. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : White bursage may be used to revegetate disturbed sites in southwestern deserts.  For instance, white bursage may be planted along California highways where unirrigated perennial vegetation has not survived [12]. White bursage may be planted from containerized plants with a high probability of success.  Plantings should be made in late winter or early spring, although the time of planting is less important than the vigor of the seedlings.  Rodent protectors should be used [12]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : White bursage is a host for sandfood (Pholisma sonorae), a parasitic plant with a sweet, succulent, subterranean flowerstalk.  Sandfood was a valuable food supply for desert peoples [58,59]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Creosotebush-white bursage communities are poorly suited for livestock grazing because of low productivity and low water availability [23]. White bursage is sensitive to browsing.  Browsing significantly decreased the cover and volume of white bursage by 27 and 21 percent, respectively, in the Mojave Desert [51].  In the Lower Colorado River Valley, overbrowsing decreased the cover of white bursage from 2.26 to 0.04 percent [21]. Pollution from electric power generating facilities may also decrease white bursage.  White bursage showed intermediate sensitivity to sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide fumigation [45].


SPECIES: Ambrosia dumosa
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : White bursage is a native, drought-deciduous rhizomatous shrub growing from 8 to 24 inches (20-60 cm) tall.  Its many slender, stiff branches form a compact, hemispherical crown [14,41].  The leaves of white bursage are small and deeply divided.  They may become so dry that it is difficult to tell whether they are alive or dead [41]. The staminate and pistillate heads of white bursage intermingle throughout the length of its racemes [41].  The pistillate heads are two-flowered, producing obovoid fruits 0.2 to 0.8 inches (5-20 mm) long. The burs generally contain 20-35 flattened, scattered, unhooked spines that are about 0.08 inches (2 mm) long [33]. The root system of white bursage is derived from a segmented root crown, and is mostly comprised of lateral roots [14].  Roots may grow 5 to 15 times the length of the stem [41] and extend to a depth of 28 inches (70 cm) [14].  Anderson [4] found the shoot to root dry weight ratio of white bursage to be 1.38.  The leaf to root ratio was 0.18. Definitive information on the longevity of white bursage is not available in the literature.  Due to cloning, white bursage may be an extremely long-lived shrub [32].  Some researchers, however, have suggested that the longevity of white bursage is similar to that of its noncloning congener, triangle bursage (A. deltoidea):  somewhat less than 50 years [31,63]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :    Phanerophyte    Chamaephyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : White bursage reproduces both vegetatively and sexually. Vegetative reproduction:  Muller [32] and Wright and Howe [52] have described vegetative reproduction in white bursage.  As white bursage plants age, their crowns open irregularly with the successive deaths of individual aerial shoots.  The clone slowly spreads to as much as 3.3 feet (1 m) in diameter.  The original seedling shoot branches intricately at its base and below the soil.  The short rhizomes root independently so that the death of the seedling stem and subsequent rotting away of the original root crown disconnects the rhizomatous shoots.  Windblown soil and organic debris accumulate about the base of white bursage clones, producing a sizable mound over time [32]. Sexual reproduction:  White bursage flowers anytime during the spring, summer, and fall if enough rain falls [1].  It produces seeds abundantly, and seedlings establish in open space [31].  Large numbers of white bursage seedlings emerge following heavy fall precipitation [6].  In September of 1976, after a record rainfall near Ocotillo, California, the density of white bursage seedlings was 466 plants per acre (1,151 plants/ha) [55]. White bursage seeds have prickles that easily enter and remain in skin and hair, so white bursage is probably dispersed by mammals.  Although white bursage has moderately heavy fruits with low lofting ability, requiring an air current of 87.9 centimeters per second, Maddox and Carlquist [30] suggested that the tumbling ability of the fruits aids in dispersal. Germination experiments have been performed on white bursage.  Young and Young [54] found that 30 days of moist stratification treatment at 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7 deg C) markedly improved white bursage germination.  Graves and others [19] found that both moist sand stratification and carbon treatments improved 7- and 14-day germination of white bursage. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : White bursage commonly grows on arroyos, bajadas, gentle slopes, valley floors, and sand dunes at elevations up to 3,000 feet (900 m) throughout the Sonoran and Mojave deserts [27,32,41,44,53].  It occurs on calcareous, sandy, alluvial soil that is often underlain by a caliche hardpan [3,13,29,41,54].  White bursage grows in pure stands or with associates, especially creosotebush, in barren or open areas [24,31,41]. Temperatures in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts are variable and extreme. At Puerto Libertad, Sonora, near the southern boundary of white bursage distribution, the mean annual temperature is 68.37 degrees Fahrenheit (20.2 deg C).  Daytime temperatures in the summer often reach 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 deg C) [11].  In Rock Valley, Nevada, near the northern boundary of white bursage distribution, temperatures range from 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 deg C) in winter to 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 deg C) in summer [3]. Phenological events in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts are triggered by rain.  In the Sonoran, rainfall averages 4 to 12 inches (100-300 mm) annually with a bimodal distribution [29].  The Mojave gets more winter than summer rain [29].  In Rock Valley, Nevada, rainfall averages 5.524 inches (138.1 mm), with 60 percent falling between September and February [7]. Low soil oxygen may be a controlling factor in the distribution of desert species.  White bursage was more tolerant of low soil oxygenation than creosotebush [20]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Succession in the desert is difficult to characterize because there is no clear change in species composition over time.  For instance, in creosotebush-white bursage communities, both white bursage and creosotebush persist in the community even though changes in their relative abundances may occur. Most white bursage are located on bare soil away from other plants. McAuliffe [31] found that 83 to 92 percent of all young white bursage in creosotebush-white bursage communities were located in bare spaces. White bursage was the principal colonizer of open spaces in those communities. Once established, white bursage acts as a nurse plant to creosotebush and other desert species, providing improved microhabitat and protection from herbivory [16,31].  McAuliffe [31] found that 85.5 percent of all young creosotebush were rooted beneath the canopies of live white bursage or positioned next to dead ones.  Most creosotebush establishment apparently occurs while the white bursage are alive.  The smallest creosotebush in McAuliffe's study were associated exclusively with live white bursage. Because of its colonizing ability, white bursage is a common pioneer on disturbed areas in the Mojave Desert [36].  In a comparison between vegetation in disturbed and undisturbed sites, white bursage was subdominant to creosotebush on control sites and dominant on disturbed sites 40 years after disturbance [36].  Vasek [50] noted that while white bursage colonizes open space by large-scale seedling establishment, creosotebush depends upon cloning or requires white bursage for establishment. Creosotebush-white bursage communities are probably adapted to continual or relatively slight disturbance such as lightly shifting sand surfaces [49,50].  If slight disturbance does occur, creosotebush-white bursage communities recover quickly in terms of species composition [36]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : White bursage leafs out in February or March; the mean leafing-out date in Rock Valley, Nevada, was February 23.  The mean flowering date was May 2 [46].  White bursage seeds usually germinate following heavy September precipitation [6].  A minimum amount of rainfall is required to induce germination.  For instance, a 1971 rain of 1 to 1.96 inches (25-49 mm) was sufficient but neither an August 1972 rain of 0.68 inch (17 mm) nor a July rain of 0.84 inch (21 mm) promoted germination [2]. White bursage has a drought dormancy period in the summer and may have an induced dormancy period during the winter if freezing night temperatures kill its leaves [1].


SPECIES: Ambrosia dumosa
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : There is little mention of fire in relation to white bursage in the literature.  One study described limited sprouting and seedling establishment after fire [9]. Fires in the desert are infrequent and of low severity because production of annual and perennial herbs seldom provides a fuel load capable of sustaining fire.  In the Mojave Desert, there is little record of fires.  Humphrey [25] stated that the creosotebush-bursage community is "essentially nonflammable" because the shrubs are too sparse to carry fire. Woody remains of white bursage take about 40 years to decay beyond the point of recognitions [31]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown    Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil    Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Ambrosia dumosa
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire generally kills white bursage.  A low-severity fire occurred in the Coachella Valley, California, after 7 years of above normal precipitation.  Some white bursage plants survived because the fire burned patchily.  However, most white bursage plants burned because their canopies contained numerous small branches in proximity to herbaceous fuels.  A few white bursage plants were only scorched; they retained most of their branches and dried foliage.  Eighty-nine percent of white bursage plants were killed by the fire [9]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : White bursage sprouted at low rates after the low-severity fire in the Coachella Valley, California.  Only 6 out of 16 scorched plants and 2 out of 81 burned plants sprouted [9].  White bursage seedling establishment on burned sites was poor during the first growing season after the fire but increased in later growing seasons.  Poor seedling establishment was probably unrelated to seed availability since white bursage occurred in adjacent unburned areas [9].  In postfire year 5, cover of white bursage on burned sites was 1 percent while cover on adjacent unburned sites was about 5.8 percent [9]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The Research Project Summary Nonnative annual grass fuels and fire in California's Mojave Desert provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species, including white bursage, that was not available when this species review was written. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Biomass production and thus fuel loadings vary seasonally and annually for white bursage.  In 1971 and 1974 in Rock Valley, Nevada, estimated abovegound stem dry mass of white bursage was 31 and 41 grams per square meter, respectively.  Net aboveground production was consistently higher in spring than in fall.  In 1973, after an above average year of rainfall, flowers and fruits made up almost half of the new tissue produced by white bursage [47].


SPECIES: Ambrosia dumosa
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