Table of Contents
|Pygmy sagebrush habitat on the clay hills of White Pine County, NV|
Based on specialized morphology, pygmy sagebrush was formerly placed in the monotypic section Pygmaeae, in subgenus Seriphidium by Rydberg (1916) [3,21]. Later systematists have placed it in section Tridentatae based on its completely woody nature, North American distribution, molecular genetics, chemistry, and fertile, homogamous perfect disc flowers [3,20,21,28,29,34,35]. Despite numerous investigations, the origin and relationship of Tridentatae remains unresolved. Pygmy sagebrush is probably the most difficult Artemisia species to place taxonomically because it is morphologically, anatomically and chemically distinct from all other species of section Tridentatae [3,12,29].LIFE FORM:
In Utah, pygmy sagebrush occurs in black sagebrush (Artemisia nova) [6,16,31,32,33,56], rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus spp.), shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia), greasebush (Glossopetalon spp.), juniper, pinyon-juniper, and ponderosa pine communities .In Nevada, it occurs with halophytic threadleaf rubber rabbitbrush (C. nauseosus ssp. consimilis) [6,12,16,31,32,33] and is also associated with saltbush (Atriplex spp.) .
Pygmy sagebrush is a dwarf, cushionlike, evergreen, perennial native shrub. This desert species exhibits numerous morphological adaptations that enable it to live in very xeric sites. It grows no taller than 8 inches (20 cm). Leaves on the vegetative stems are nearly glabrous, between 0.08 to 0.16 inch (2-4 mm) wide, 0.08 to 0.32 inch (2-8 mm) long, and are pinnatifid with 3 to 11 lobes, or sometimes may be only toothed [8,18,56]. Leaves on the flowering branches are usually reduced and may be entire [6,27,31,32,33]. The flower head contains 3 to 5 disc flowers arranged into spikelike inflorescences. Ray flowers are lacking. Fruits are glabrous or resinous-glandular achenes [8,56]. Seeds are large for Artemisia species [6,27]; however, quantitative seed measurements are not available. Pygmy sagebrush has a taproot .RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Pollination: Artemisia species are wind- and self pollinated .
Seed production: Pygmy sagebrush is reportedly capable of producing large quantities of seed , but quantitative counts are not available.
Seed dispersal: Artemisia seeds have very poor dispersal due to a lack of appendages for airborne transport. Most seed falls beneath the parent plant, and populations expand 3 feet (0.9 m) or less per generation .
Seed banking: No information is available on this topic.
Germination: Specific information on the germination of pygmy sagebrush is unavailable. Artemisia seeds may germinate within 48 hours and produce cotyledons in 4 days .
Seedling establishment/growth: Artemisia seed falls too late to germinate that fall. No evidence has shown that fall-dispersed seed surviving through summer can germinate in its 2nd fall. Survival of seed is related to the litter layer. The less the litter, the more likelihood of seed survival .
Asexual regeneration: There have been no reports of pygmy sagebrush reproducing asexually in the wild.SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Elevations where pygmy sagebrush occurs range from 4,500 feet (1,400 m) to 11,000 feet (3,300 m). Elevational ranges by state are shown below.
|Arizona||4,500 feet ( 1,400 m) |
|Nevada||5,000-11,000 feet (1,500-3,300 m) |
|Utah||5,200-7,500 feet (1,600-2,300 m) |
Soil: Pygmy sagebrush is restricted to desert calcareous soils in the Great Basin and Uinta Basin [3,6,14,15,18,20,21,25,26,33,45,53,55]. It prefers alkaline soils [8,12,40] with a high clay content . Pygmy sagebrush reportedly grows on white gypsum outcrops in northern and central Nevada . In Arizona it grows on Green River shale, clay soils forming the matrix in igneous gravels, calcareous gravels, dolomitic outcrops, and gravels .
Climate: Mean annual precipitation within the range of pygmy sagebrush is approximately 7.9 to 11.8 inches (200-300 mm) .SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Fire regimes: Habitats of dwarf sagebrush species such as pygmy sagebrush seldom support enough vegetation to carry a fire ; however, invasive annuals such as cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) can increase fire frequency in sagebrush communities .
The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where pygmy sagebrush may be important. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|silver sagebrush steppe||Artemisia cana||5-45 [13,41,58]|
|sagebrush steppe||A. tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata||20-70 |
|basin big sagebrush||A. tridentata var. tridentata||12-43 |
|Wyoming big sagebrush||A. tridentata var. wyomingensis||10-70 (40**) [51,59]|
|saltbush-greasewood||Atriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus||<35 to <100|
|desert grasslands||Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica||<35 to <100|
|blackbrush||Coleogyne ramosissima||<35 to <100|
|pinyon-juniper||Pinus-Juniperus spp.||<35 |
|interior ponderosa pine*||Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum||2-30 [1,2,23]|
Palatability/nutritional value: The overall browse value of pygmy sagebrush is low . The palatability of pygmy sagebrush in Utah is rated as follows :
|Small nongame birds||Poor|
|Upland game birds||Fair|
The composition and concentration of volatile oils in plants may influence the selection of food plants by ruminants such as pronghorn and mule deer. The following table represents the average utilization of pygmy sagebrush by mule deer and relative percent concentration of 3 major volatile compounds in pygmy sagebrush in Utah :
Cover value: Pygmy sagebrush provides important ground cover for small animals in dry, alkaline areas where it is difficult for other plants to grow [16,27,31,32,33].VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
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