SPECIES: Ceanothus velutinus


INTRODUCTORY

SPECIES: Ceanothus velutinus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Anderson, Michelle D. 2001. Ceanothus velutinus. 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/ [].

ABBREVIATION:
CEAVEL

SYNONYMS:
Ceanothus velutinus var. laevigatus (Hook) T. & G. [129]
= Ceanothus velutinus var. hookeri M.C. Johnston [142]

NRCS PLANT CODE [273]:
CEVE
CEVEH2
CEVEV4

COMMON NAMES:
snowbrush ceanothus
shiny-leaf ceanothus
tobacco brush

TAXONOMY:
The currently accepted name of snowbrush ceanothus is Ceanothus velutinus Dougl. ex Hook. (Rhamnaceae) [70,82,142,284,285]. Infrataxa are as follows:

Ceanothus velutinus var. hookeri M.C. Johnston [127,142]
Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus [70,127,129,142]

Ceanothus lorenzenii (Jepson) McMinn is a cross between snowbrush ceanothus and mountain whitethorn (C. cordulatus) [142].

LIFE FORM:
Shrub

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status

OTHER STATUS:
No entry


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Ceanothus velutinus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
Snowbrush ceanothus occurs from British Columbia and Alberta south to California, Utah, and Colorado [70,127,142,197,285] and as far east as South Dakota [142,197,285]. The PLANTS database provides a distributional map of snowbrush ceanothus. Distribution of snowbrush ceanothus may be influenced locally by frost patterns and the presence of insulating snow cover during the winter [116,197].

Ceanothus velutinus var. hookeri grows on the west side of the Cascade Range from northern California to British Columbia [129]. Ceanothus velutinus var. velutinus is widespread and occurs form British Columbia through California and Nevada east of the Cascades to South Dakota and Colorado [63,129]. 

ECOSYSTEMS [98]:
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir-spruce
FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce
FRES25 Larch
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES27 Redwood
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands

STATES:
CA CO ID MT NV
OR SD UT WA WY
AB BC

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [25]:
2 Cascade Mountains
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
15 Black Hills Uplift

KUCHLER [151] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K001 Spruce-cedar-hemlock forest
K002 Cedar-hemlock-Douglas-fir forest
K003 Silver fir-Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir-hemlock forest
K005 Mixed conifer forest
K006 Redwood forest
K007 Red fir forest
K008 Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest
K010 Ponderosa shrub forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K013 Cedar-hemlock-pine 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
K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest
K021 Southwestern spruce-fir forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K026 Oregon oakwoods
K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026
K029 California mixed evergreen forest
K030 California oakwoods
K032 Transition between K031 and K037
K033 Chaparral
K034 Montane chaparral
K036 Mosaic of K030 and K035
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe

SAF COVER TYPES [86]:
205 Mountain hemlock
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
216 Blue spruce
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
219 Limber pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
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
231 Port-Orford-cedar
232 Redwood
233 Oregon white oak
234 Douglas-fir-tanoak-Pacific madrone
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper
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
250 Blue oak-foothills pine
256 California mixed subalpine

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [235]:
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
109 Ponderosa pine shrubland
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
201 Blue oak woodland
206 Chamise chaparral
207 Scrub oak mixed chaparral
208 Ceanothus mixed chaparral
209 Montane shrubland
210 Bitterbrush
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
318 Bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
319 Bitterbrush-rough fescue
320 Black sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
321 Black sagebrush-Idaho fescue
322 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
411 Aspen woodland
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
413 Gambel oak
415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany
416 True mountain-mahogany
417 Littleleaf mountain-mahogany
418 Bigtooth maple
419 Bittercherry
420 Snowbrush
421 Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Plant Communities and Associates:
Snowbrush ceanothus is common in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) communities [53,80,174,191,203,275,276,285,291]. Plant associates in these communities include bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) [19,53,114,191,203,276,291], willow (Salix spp.), common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus), oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) [291], rose (Rosa spp.), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) [174,291], quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) [174], giant chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla), prince's pine (Chimaphila umbellata) [20,203], Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) [53], curlleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) [114], manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.) [19,53,191,203,276], bittercherry (Prunus emarginata), white spirea (Spiraea betulifolia), redstem ceanothus (Ceanothus sanguineus) [291], Ross' sedge (Carex rossii) [19], Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) [114,276], and western needlegrass [191,276]

In the intermountain ponderosa pine region, snowbrush ceanothus forms extensive shrubfields with bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens), greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula), menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea), Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum), ninebark, and willows [105].

In lodgepole pine communities (Pinus contorta) [226,276,285], snowbrush ceanothus occurs with ponderosa pine [226,276], white fir (Abies concolor) [276], white spruce (Picea glauca), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), limber pine (Pinus flexilis), common juniper (Juniperus communis), quaking aspen, bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Oregon-grape (Mahonia repens), rose, red raspberry (Rubus idaeus), western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis), grouse whortleberry (Vaccinium scoparium) [226], greenleaf manzanita, pinemat manzanita (Arctostaphylos nevadensis), and bitterbrush [276]

In Douglas-fir forests (Pseudotsuga menziesii) [80,124], snowbrush ceanothus occurs with lodgepole pine, grand fir (Abies grandis), western redcedar (Thuja plicata), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) [4], vine maple (Acer circinatum) [93], ninebark [11], Oregon boxwood (Paxistima myrsinites) [4,93,124], bearberry [4,93], mountain snowberry, chokecherry, currant, big sagebrush, Rocky Mountain maple, mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus), russet buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis), common snowberry [65,210], willow [65,124], Oregon-grape, Wood's rose (Rosa woodsii), white spirea [65], big huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum), dwarf Oregon-grape (Berberis nervosa), and trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus) [93].

In mixed conifer communities [130,145,275], snowbrush ceanothus occurs with sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) [76,145], ponderosa pine [24,76,130,145,275], lodgepole pine [24,275], Douglas-fir [24,76,130], incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), white fir [76,130,145], grand fir [24,145], western hemlock, western redcedar, California red fir (Abies magnifica), tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus), Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi), and California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) [145]. Understory associates include willow [24,76], Oregon boxwood [130], bitterbrush, needlegrass (Achnatherum spp.),  sedge (Carex spp.) [275], common snowberry [76], bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) [130], manzanita [76,145,275], chinquapin [76,130,145,275], bittercherry, deerbrush (Ceanothus integerrimus), mountain whitethorn (C. cordulatus) [145], mahala mat (C. prostratus) [76,145], redstem ceanothus, and pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens) [24].

Snowbrush ceanothus occurs in white fir-California red fir forests [5,88] with ponderosa pine [88,122], Jeffrey pine [122], bush chinquapin [88], greenleaf manzanita [88,122], mahala mat [5,122], snowberry [5], rubber rabbitbrush, and wax currant (Ribes cereum) [122]. 

Snowbrush ceanothus occurs in Jeffrey pine-white fir forests [14,34,35] with sugar pine [34], lodgepole pine [34,35], golden currant (Ribes aureum), incense-cedar [34], mahala mat, bush chinquapin, greenleaf manzanita [34,35], wax currant, and bittercherry [35].

Snowbrush ceanothus is a common or dominant component in seral shrubfields of the northern Rockies [21,208,237]. Plant associates in these communities include Scouler willow (Salix scouleriana), Rocky Mountain maple, Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) [21,51,120,166,208], currant (Ribes spp.), mountain whitethorn [170], redstem ceanothus [21,51,208], Oregon boxwood [21,51,120,208], red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), russet buffaloberry [237], white spirea, common snowberry [21,208], menziesia [21], ninebark [21,51,166,208], thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), bittercherry [120,208], oceanspray [51,208], Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), big huckleberry, and Utah honeysuckle (Lonicera utahensis) [208]. Snowbrush ceanothus may comprise up to 80% of the shrub volume in these communities [51].

In quaking aspen communities [16,49,50,134,285], snowbrush ceanothus occurs with chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), mountain snowberry [49,50], serviceberry, and Oregon boxwood [49,50,134].

In pinyon-juniper (Pinus spp.-Juniperus spp.) woodlands [80,147], snowbrush ceanothus occurs with serviceberry, big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), rubber rabbitbrush, green rabbitbrush (C. viscidiflorus), green ephedra (Ephedra viridis), bitterbrush, desert gooseberry (Ribes velutinum), blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea), and mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus) [147].

In mountain brush communities [14,15,42,221,285], snowbrush ceanothus commonly occurs with Rocky Mountain maple [202], bigtooth maple [42], big sagebrush [15,42,221], black sagebrush (Artemisia nova) [42], bearberry [14,42],  ceanothus (Ceanothus spp.) [42], serviceberry [15,42,42,44,202,221], Stansbury cliffrose (Purshia mexicana var. stansburiana) [42], bitterbrush [15,42], snowberry [15,42,44,202,221], Oregon boxwood [15], curlleaf mountain-mahogany [42,119], true mountain-mahogany [42], ninebark [15,221], rubber rabbitbrush [202], oaks (Quercus spp.) [42,202,221], New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana) [42], Wood's rose [202], currant [44,202], Prunus spp. [14,15,42,44,202,221], quaking aspen [44,202], and Idaho fescue [44].

In montane chaparral communities [36,119], snowbrush ceanothus commonly occurs with manzanita [31,36,60,119],  bush chinquapin [31,36,60,119], ceanothus (Ceanothus spp.) [31,36,119], currant [44,202], curlleaf mountain-mahogany, rubber rabbitbrush [119], silktassel (Garrya spp.) [36], quaking aspen [44,202], oaks (Quercus spp.) [31,36,60], and Prunus spp. [36,60,119]. Common tree species that may be present in these communities include white fir, California red fir, sugar pine, ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, and incense-cedar [36]. 

Plant Community Dominance:
Classifications in which snowbrush ceanothus is identified as a plant community dominant are:

Colorado [16]
Idaho [242,243,244,245,246,247,248,249]
Nevada [162]
Oregon [130,276]
Washington [93]

Snowbrush ceanothus forms "layer groups", or early seral shrub layers, in grand fir habitat types, co-dominating these layers with Sitka alder (Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata), sticky currant (Ribes viscosissum), Scouler willow, white spirea, Utah honeysuckle, thimbleberry, Rocky Mountain maple, or big huckleberry [242,245,247]. In Douglas-fir habitat types, snowbrush ceanothus shrub layers are formed with pinegrass, currant, Scouler willow, Prunus spp., serviceberry, mountain snowberry, white spirea, ninebark, or Rocky Mountain maple [243,244,246,248,249].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Ceanothus velutinus
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Snowbrush ceanothus is a native [37,38] evergreen [70,72,127,129,197,284,285] shrub. It generally grows 2 to 9 feet tall (0.5-2.7 m) [37,64,70,72,127,135,154,197,242,285], though it may also reach heights of 12 to 13 feet (4 m) [77,240,271]. Plants are freely branching [70] or spreading [121,154,271,285] with several stems growing from the base [64]. The growth form is ascending-erect [127,252], forming a dense, round-topped bush [64,121,127,197,271,285]. Snowbrush ceanothus has a single large taproot and a deep, spreading root system [240]. The roots extend to depths of 6 to 8 feet (2-2.5 m) and extend laterally past the crown of the plant [63,71]. Root nodules are nitrogen fixing [38,72,73,121,154,197] and are formed by actinomycetes [38,73].

The leaves are alternate [70,285], 1 to 3 inches long [37,70,127,129,197,284,285], and 0.5 to 2 inches (1.5-5 cm) wide [70,82]. The inflorescence of snowbrush ceanothus is less than 5 inches (12 cm) long [70,127], and branched with many flowers [70,154,197]. The inflorescence is borne on axillary and terminal peduncles [70]. Fruit is shallowly 3-lobed [37,70,109,127,197,285], 0.12 to 0.16 inch (3-4 mm) thick [70,127,285], 0.27 inch (6 mm) across [197], and sticky [70,127]. Each lobe contains a single seed [197]. Seeds are about 0.1 inch (2.8 mm) long, 0.1 inch (2.3 mm) wide, and 0.08 inch (2.0 mm) thick [109].

Snowbrush ceanothus forms large, dense colonies [70,121,240]. Thickets may be up to 33 feet (10 m) wide and are often dense and impenetrable [121,261]. In general, the number of snowbrush ceanothus plants in an area decreases with age [303]. Though stands of snowbrush ceanothus may begin to deteriorate after 15 years [175,303], the natural life span of snowbrush ceanothus is greater than 25 years [94,175], and 50-year-old plants have been observed [59,63].

RAUNKIAER [220] LIFE FORM:
Phanerophyte
Geophyte

REGENERATION PROCESSES:
Snowbrush ceanothus spreads by seed and vegetatively by sprouting and layering [31,121].

Breeding system: No information

Pollination: No information

Seed production: Snowbrush ceanothus produces abundant seed crops [240]. It 1st produces seed at about 3 to 6 years of age [63,263], and continues producing until past age 20 [263]. Sprouts can produce prolific seed crops 8 years after top-kill [63]. Snowbrush ceanothus in Oregon produced up to 100,000 seeds per acre (250,000 seeds/hectare) [109].

Seed dispersal: When Ceanothus seeds ripen, they are forcibly ejected from the pods [63,144]. The heavy snowbrush ceanothus seeds generally stay where they fall, gradually filtering into the duff and soil unless they are carried off by small animals [63,75,144,149,243,271,295]. 

Seed banking: Snowbrush ceanothus seed is stored in the soil [40,148,154] for up to 200 years [154], and can regenerate from seed stored in the soil for up to "several centuries" [21,63,91,109,143]. In British Columbia, germination of soil-stored seed occurred following fire on sites where snowbrush ceanothus had been excluded at least 200 years [293]. Counts made on tree stumps indicated that the intermission between 2 generations of snowbrush ceanothus might be as long as 575 years [301,303]. Snowbrush ceanothus contributed 25% of the seeds found in soil samples taken from central Idaho Douglas-fir and grand fir habitat types [149]. Snowbrush ceanothus seeds are less successfully stored in wet soils [245].

Germination: Snowbrush ceanothus has a very hard, impermeable seedcoat that must be cracked, abraded, or exposed to heat in order for germination to occur [79,109,123,144,148,163,197,293,303]. Though exposure to heat is most effective in promoting germination, other disturbance (e.g. timber harvest) may stimulate snowbrush ceanothus germination by abrading the seedcoat [303]. Germination is improved by stratification [109,197]. Heating or breaking the seed coat allows the seeds to imbibe water and swell, but germination is unlikely if seeds are not exposed to cold stratification [109,123,144,197,218,219]. The mechanism for fire-induced germination in snowbrush ceanothus is a heat-induced, irreversible cracking of the hylar fissure in the seedcoat, which allows water to enter the seed and physiological processes to begin [22,109]. Temperatures of 176 to 203 degrees Fahrenheit (80-95 oC) are optimal to break the seedcoat [109,163]. Snowbrush ceanothus seeds may also germinate without high temperatures (e.g. on unburned sites), but snowbrush ceanothus stands develop more rapidly and more completely following heat exposure (burned sites) [63,109,288]. In a study conducted in Douglas-fir and grand fir habitat types, snowbrush ceanothus seeds found in the soil were 91% viable [148].

Seedling establishment/growth: Although large numbers of seeds typically germinate after fire, snowbrush ceanothus may experience high early mortality [63]. In general, snowbrush ceanothus is a slow-growing species [301,303]. Height growth of seedlings is slow for 3-5 years and then is rapid until about 10 years when it begins to level off [63,189]. Zavitovski [303] found that after 5 years, snowbrush ceanothus may be less than 3 feet (1 m) tall, but doubles its height in the next 5 years. Then height growth slows, gaining only 1.5 feet (0.5 m) in the following 5 years [303]. A typical snowbrush ceanothus stand in Oregon or California reaches 2 to 8 feet after 10 years; stand height may sometimes decrease between age 15 and 50 as older stems die back [63].

Asexual regeneration: Snowbrush ceanothus sprouts from the root crown [138,139] following damage to stems and/or top removal [30,31,63,121,162,178,238]. Sprout growth of 20 to 25 inches (51-65 cm) after 1 year, and growth of 3 to 7 feet (1.0-2.1 m) after 5 years has been observed. The ability to sprout may be a function of age and vigor of the plant when it is damaged. In 1 Cascade Range study, the percentage of sprouting plants decreased from 100% for 5-year-old plants to 50% for 11-year-old plants [63]. However, vigorous sprouting followed the cutting of 35- to 50-year-old snowbrush ceanothus in the Sierra Nevada [59,63]. Snowbrush ceanothus may increase in density by layering. Layering results when stems are forced close to the ground, bringing them in contact with the soil and allowing the branches to root [31].

SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Thickets of snowbrush ceanothus often occupy open rocky hillsides and partially shaded forests [37]. Plants are often found on moderately dry to moderately moist mountain slopes [70,130,132,136,154,197,209,240] and on steep canyon slopes [284]. Though found on all aspects [198,207,217,240,300], snowbrush ceanothus may be more likely to occur on south aspects [132,136,154,199,266], followed by west [132,136,154] and east slopes [207,217]. In the western redcedar-western hemlock zone of northern Idaho, frequency and percent cover of snowbrush ceanothus were significantly greater (p<0.01) on south aspects than on north aspects [198]. Though snowbrush ceanothus occurs on moist as well as relatively dry sites, it is more likely to dominate the vegetation on mesic sites [135,144,238].

Elevation: Snowbrush ceanothus has a wide elevational distribution [240], extending from near sea level to high mountains [271]. It generally occurs at higher elevations on south-facing slopes than on north-facing slopes [5,14]. Elevation ranges for different areas of snowbrush ceanothus distribution are as follows:

Location Elevation range References
Oregon, Washington 1,500 to 7,000 feet (450-2,130 m) [26,103,104,124,130,262,278,301]
Wyoming, Montana, Idaho 3,800 to 9,500 feet (1,150-3,000 m) [51,80,208,300]
California up to 9,800 feet (3,000 m)  [64,127]
Great Basin region 3,500 to 10,000+ feet  (1,050-3,050 m) [27,197]
Utah 4,900 to 13,000 feet (1,490-3,960 m) [70,80,209,285]
Colorado 6,000 to 10,000 feet (1,830-3,050 m) [80]

Climate: In the Pacific Northwest, winters are moderately cold and relatively wet, with precipitation generally occurring from November to May. Annual precipitation at sites with snowbrush ceanothus in this region has been reported at 18 to 23 inches (460-580 mm) [26,124]. Summers are warm and dry [26]. In California, annual precipitation may range from 40 to 60 inches (1020-1520 mm) [104,176]. In Montana and Idaho, annual precipitation ranges from 27 to 45 inches (690-1140 mm) [51,158]. In Utah, the moisture requirement of snowbrush ceanothus is 16 to 20 inches (410-510 mm) [209].

In Idaho, the growing season lasts from 70 to 90 days [51].  Snowbrush ceanothus has good winter hardiness, though it may be subject to winter dieback on exposed sites [121]. It is damaged by low temperatures if not protected by snow cover [162,252,261]. Conversely, if snowbrush ceanothus crowns are not covered by snow, they are susceptible to winterkill if a relatively warm period (reducing winter hardiness) is followed by a sudden severe drop in temperature [252]. 

Soils: Growth of snowbrush ceanothus is fair on gravelly, sandy, and clay loam soils and poor on dense clays [80]. It grows well on sandy loams, loams, and clay loams [80,130,176,208] and on poorly developed, loose or unstable soils [14,26]. Soil depths range from shallow soils with numerous rock outcrops to deposits of unconsolidated material many feet deep [26]. Although snowbrush ceanothus grows in almost any soil, it grows best in medium- to coarse-textured, well-drained soils 20 to 60+ inches (51-152+ cm) deep [37,130,198,208,240,261]. Soil nutrient content is generally low [121,162]. A soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0 is often found on snowbrush ceanothus sites [37,261]. Snowbrush ceanothus has medium tolerance for acid soils [121,271], and neutral to moderately alkaline soils can also produce good growth [37]. Snowbrush ceanothus is moderately drought tolerant [121,261].

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Snowbrush ceanothus has been described as moderately shade tolerant [121] to very intolerant [11,60,163,242]: It grows on open, sunny sites [70,127,132,136,154,176,209,240] and in wooded areas [82,127,135,176]. Though snowbrush ceanothus occurs as an understory species [124,173,198,249,278,286,293], it is soon shaded out with increasing development of tree cover [11,63,154,163,182,199,242,249,300]. Snowbrush ceanothus occurs on both undisturbed and disturbed sites, with snowbrush ceanothus canopy cover [19,63,95,182,198] and occurrence [23,136] increasing under more open site conditions. Under patchy tree canopies, snowbrush ceanothus may persist for 40 years or more after trees establish [249].

Snowbrush ceanothus is an early to mid-seral species [7,60,63,75,85,116,150,242,244,245,249,255,288]. It invades recently disturbed sites [1,58,63,68,74,99,118,121,292], particularly burned sites [52,75,85,116,140,240]. Snowbrush ceanothus is essentially absent in mature seral and old-growth stages, often becoming a stand component after fire [11,223,288]. In several Douglas-fir habitat types [11,91,102,256,304] and in ponderosa pine habitat types [6,272], snowbrush ceanothus is common in early seral stages (within 1-7 years) following disturbance. The Douglas-fir-snowbrush ceanothus community type is characteristic of habitats that have been recently (within the last 100 years) and repeatedly burned [93]. Snowbrush ceanothus also occurs in dense stands of montane chaparral following major disturbance [14], though it may be eliminated from the chaparral after 40 years [301]. For further information on postfire succession of snowbrush ceanothus, see "Plant Response to Fire" in the "Fire Effects" section of this summary.

Snowbrush ceanothus can be described as a seral dominant, becoming common after major disturbances, especially fire [12,18,148,162,163,194,229]. Seral shrubfields, of which snowbrush ceanothus is a major component, result from repeated disturbance [21,57,71,71,103,137,170,172,208]. Snowbrush ceanothus may dominate this seral vegetation [57,63,68,104,120,125,168,172,182,237,299,304] and retard succession [63,104].

Douglas-fir: Snowbrush ceanothus is generally considered an important early to mid-seral species in most Douglas-fir forests of the northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest. However, in some locations Douglas-fir forests are sufficiently open to allow snowbrush ceanothus to become a persistent, if not permanent, member of the community. It occurs as a climax dominant in some open Douglas-fir forests of southwestern Oregon and in eastern Montana habitat types on decomposed granitic substrates [63]. In Douglas-fir forests of the western Cascades, snowbrush ceanothus generally dominates the middle or tall shrub phase of succession from years 5 through 10 [115]. Here it replaces initial weedy annual, biennial, and short-statured perennial invaders [116]. Snowbrush ceanothus typically competes effectively with fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) by postfire year 6 and can become dominant by year 9 [94]. Earlier increases in snowbrush ceanothus have also been noted, with this shrub dominating some shrubfields as soon as 4 or 5 growing seasons after fire [83]. Snowbrush ceanothus generally persists for 20 to 40 years in the Cascades [63], although some stands may become decadent 10 to 15 years after disturbance [63,301]. Stands 40 or more years of age generally have only scattered dead shrubs [301]. South slopes offer the greatest potential for development of snowbrush ceanothus-dominated brushfields in these Douglas-fir types [206]. Shrubs decline rapidly as shade levels increase, and in parts of the northern Rockies, shrubs may become senescent by year 10 [301].

Western hemlock-western redcedar: Snowbrush ceanothus can dominate western hemlock-western redcedar-grand fir forests of the northern Rockies within 2 or 3 years after fire [157].  Snowbrush ceanothus cover typically declines rapidly in western hemlock-western redcedar forests of northern Idaho [159,199].

Grand fir: Snowbrush ceanothus is an important component of the initial shrub sere that following disturbance in grand fir habitat types and can become established by the 1st year after disturbance [300]. In north-central Idaho, it is particularly abundant on north slopes at higher elevations and can become a dominant shrubfield species by year 12 [299]. These shrubfields decline rapidly as shade increases. However, long-lived snowbrush ceanothus communities are prevalent on rocky outcrops in grand fir forests of Oregon and Washington [92].

Ponderosa pine: Snowbrush ceanothus assumes a dual successional role in ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of the Northwest. Where forests are relatively open, it can grow as a long-lived seral shrub or climax dominant, but where densely forested stands develop, snowbrush ceanothus declines rapidly as it is overtopped. Snowbrush ceanothus and bitterbrush occur as understory dominants in open ponderosa pine forests of south-central Oregon [92]. In an Oregon ponderosa pine-white fir forest, snowbrush ceanothus was only dominant on sites where the mean fire interval was 15 years or less over the past 250 years, and it was almost absent where the interval was greater than 20 years [181,182]. Snowbrush ceanothus also grows as a climax species in some open ponderosa pine woodlands on the east side of the Cascades [63].

In mixed-conifer forests of Oregon, snowbrush ceanothus and other tall shrubs become dominant within 14 years after timber harvest but begin to decline within 20 years [150].

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Snowbrush ceanothus seeds germinate in the spring [144]. Leaf buds of snowbrush ceanothus break from mid-April to early June, and leaves continue growth until early July  [225,231]. Flowering begins in May or June and ends as late as September [80,225,231]. Snowbrush ceanothus blooms sporadically at higher elevations, but at lower elevations and in warmer climates, blooms can be expected from May to June [37]. Fruit ripens from late June to early August, and seed fall starts in August [225,231,240].

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Ceanothus velutinus
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Fuels Contribution: Snowbrush ceanothus burns "quite hot" [2]. The foliage contains volatile oils that may contribute to fire hazard [284]. Percentage of solvent extractives (waxes, oils, terpenes, and fats) by dry weight found in snowbrush ceanothus fuel is as follows [64]:

Foliage Woody fuel (diameter in inches)
  < 0.25 0.26-0.50 0.51-1.00 > 1.00
18.3 6.0 4.2 3.3 2.6

The foliage extractive heating value for snowbrush ceanothus has been reported at 11,942 Btu per pound [64]. Richards [222] found that the potential rate of spread through snowbrush ceanothus can be expected to increase as the growing season progresses from June 20 to September 10. This expectation is based on an increase in caloric content (from 1,400-2,400 calories/gram) and a decrease in the water content (from 68% to 53%) of green vegetation.

The following table presents information on snowbrush ceanothus fuel loading; the data is based on single-species plots and presented by fuel category [64]:

  Load Foliage Woody fuel (diameter in inches)
< 0.25 0.26-0.50 0.51-1.00 > 1.00
Tons/acre Percent
Plot 1 40.91 5.5 24.4 21.1 49.0 --
Plot 2 38.51 3.1 18.9 30.5 36.5 11.8
Plot 3 22.45 6.0 25.3 33.7 35.0 --

Fire Adaptations: Snowbrush ceanothus has dormant, ground-stored seed that requires heat treatment to germinate [109,148,168,236]. Snowbrush ceanothus is promoted by fire, regenerating from seed stimulated by fire [63,143,163,201,228]. Where its seeds are present in the soil, snowbrush ceanothus may dominate early seral growth following a "medium or hot" fire [12]. Snowbrush ceanothus also sprouts vigorously from the root crown after fire [201,228,236]. Resprouting may be an adaptation to recurring fires, allowing for rapid growth and recovery [201]. Fire creates conditions more favorable for snowbrush ceanothus growth by removing the overstory [109]. Snowbrush ceanothus shows a marked increase in burned forest areas due to heat scarification of seed, sprouting, and increased light [109,119]. When conifers overtop the shrubfields, snowbrush ceanothus may die out because of reduced light intensities in the forest understory [119,120].

As a nitrogen fixer, snowbrush ceanothus plays an important role in nitrogen reaccumulation following fire [143].

Early seral shrub layers dominated by snowbrush ceanothus form in grand fir/big huckleberry [242], grand fir/Rocky Mountain maple [245,247], Douglas-fir/ninebark [244], Douglas-fir/pinegrass [246,248], Douglas-fir/white spirea [249], and Douglas-fir/Rocky Mountain maple [244] habitat types in response to fire. Dry weather patterns following canopy removal and repeated severe fires are likely to produce persistent seral shrubfields [239,304]. In the northern Rocky Mountains, pure stands of snowbrush ceanothus may form on the south-facing slopes of these shrubfields [239].

Fire Regimes: Fire regimes for plant communities and ecosystems in which snowbrush ceanothus occurs are listed below. For further information regarding fire regimes and fire ecology of communities and ecosystems where snowbrush ceanothus is found, see the 'Fire Ecology and Adaptations' section of the FEIS species summary for the plant community or ecosystem dominants listed below.

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
silver fir-Douglas-fir Abies amabilis-Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii > 200 
grand fir Abies grandis 35-200 [9]
California chaparral Adenostoma and/or Arctostaphylos spp. < 35 to < 100 
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [211]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [230]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [10,46,188]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (40**) [274,294]
California montane chaparral Ceanothus and/or Arctostaphylos spp. 50-100 [211]
curlleaf mountain-mahogany* Cercocarpus ledifolius 13-1000 [13,233]
mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub Cercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii < 35 to < 100 
western juniper Juniperus occidentalis 20-70 
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum < 35
western larch Larix occidentalis 25-100
Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir Picea engelmannii-Abies lasiocarpa 35 to > 200 
blue spruce* Picea pungens 35-200 
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. < 35 [211]
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. latifolia 25-300+ [8,9,227]
Sierra lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. murrayana 35-200 [9]
Colorado pinyon Pinus edulis 10-49 [211]
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 2-10 [9]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains) Populus tremuloides 7-120 [9,112,183]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 [9]
coastal Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii 40-240 [9,196,224]
California mixed evergreen Pseudotsuga menziesii var. m.-Lithocarpus densiflorus-Arbutus menziesii < 35
California oakwoods Quercus spp. < 35 
canyon live oak Quercus chrysolepis <35 to 200 
blue oak-foothills pine Quercus douglasii-Pinus sabiniana <35 
Oregon white oak Quercus garryana < 35 [9]
California black oak Quercus kelloggii 5-30 [211
redwood Sequoia sempervirens 5-200 [9,89,260]
western redcedar-western hemlock Thuja plicata-Tsuga heterophylla > 200 
western hemlock-Sitka spruce Tsuga heterophylla-Picea sitchensis > 200 
mountain hemlock* Tsuga mertensiana 35 to > 200 [9]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species summary
**mean

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [258]:
Small shrub, adventitious bud/root crown
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Ceanothus velutinus
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Snowbrush ceanothus is top-killed by fire [228].

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
No entry

PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Snowbrush ceanothus establishes from seed [63,85,109,288] and sprouts from the root crown [40,41,59,65,66,81,90,163,213,217,240,256,295] after fire. Postfire recovery of snowbrush ceanothus can be expected within 2 to 5 years in the Intermountain region [295]. Snowbrush ceanothus usually increases following fire, often dramatically [40,41,65,75,90,140,295]. Snowbrush ceanothus seedlings often appear on sites following fire where it was previously uncommon or not present [75,164,165,167,194,217,223,251,256,269,293]. Following a severe fire in Douglas-fir in Oregon, snowbrush ceanothus seedlings were found on lightly and severely burned areas, but they were absent on adjacent, unburned areas [85]. Following fall prescribed burning in a quaking aspen stand in Idaho, biomass of snowbrush ceanothus increased substantially by sprouting [43].

Seedling Density: A flush of snowbrush ceanothus seedlings appeared in quaking aspen and quaking aspen/mixed conifer stands the 1st year after the Idaho prescribed fire. The seedling density decreased substantially by the 2nd postfire year; a much smaller decrease occurred in subsequent years. The average number of snowbrush ceanothus seedlings/ha in 3 different stands over 4 postfire years is presented below [43]:

  Year after fire
Stand 1 2 3 4
Aspen/mixed conifer 26,600 9,800 3,600 6,100
Upper-elevation aspen 25,500 13,100 9,000 12,300
Lower-elevation aspen 7,700 3,600 3,400 1,900

In Idaho, Lyon [165] found 4,000 snowbrush ceanothus seedlings/1,000 ft2 1 year after an August prescribed fire. By the 2nd postfire year, over 40% of the seedlings had died, and by the 7th postfire year, only 20% of the original seedlings were still alive [165]. Seedling densities following fire are not uniform, and a study in a Douglas-fir stand in Oregon found snowbrush ceanothus densities ranging from 200 seedlings/ha to 30,000 seedlings/ha [190]. Weatherspoon [282] reported up to 410,000 snowbrush ceanothus seedlings/hectare following a moderate-consumption prescribed fire in a white fir forest in California. In an Oregon Douglas-fir forest, Gratkowski [109] found that although snowbrush ceanothus seedlings emerged on both logged/unburned and logged/burned sites, seedlings were far more numerous on burned sites.

Fire Severity: Higher densities of snowbrush ceanothus may be related to increased fire severity [115,140,239,243]. Dense stands of snowbrush ceanothus often develop following a severe burn, as seeds stored in the soil are stimulated to germinate [40,41,116,154,163,217,234,240,250]. In northeastern Oregon, snowbrush ceanothus cover increased from 3% to as much as 32% 5 years following a severe burn [140]. Snowbrush ceanothus may dominate a site within 2 to 11 years [41,43,75,239,253,254]. Following a severe fire in a western larch-Douglas-fir forest in western Montana, snowbrush ceanothus formed a nearly closed shrub layer with 94% cover by the 13th postfire year [254,257]. Another severe fire in a Douglas-fir forest in Washington resulted in 10% snowbrush ceanothus cover by the 4th postfire year, increasing from 1% prior to the fire [266].

Height Growth: Snowbrush ceanothus height growth after fire is variable and may increase with the severity of the burn [101]. Snowbrush ceanothus seedlings can be expected to grow 3 to 5 feet tall within 3 postfire years in the Payette National Forest, Idaho [81]. Following a prescribed burn in Idaho, snowbrush ceanothus plants reached 2.4 feet tall by 7 postfire years [165]. However, on another site in Idaho, snowbrush ceanothus plants were only 2.8 inches (7 cm) tall after 1 year and only 2.6 feet (0.8 m) 12 years following broadcast burning [300].

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
Density: Following a prescribed fire in a quaking aspen/mixed conifer stand in Idaho, the density of snowbrush ceanothus stems was about half of the preburn density, and biomass was considerably less than preburn levels. Some mortality to snowbrush ceanothus and the long time needed to grow clumps of large diameter stems, like those that existed before fire, accounts for its slow recovery [43].

Fire severity: Though some authors report that snowbrush ceanothus establishment from seed is greatest following severe burns and lowest following low-severity burns [81,101], Gratkowksi [109] found that snowbrush ceanothus seedlings were far more abundant on "lightly" burned sites than on "severely" burned sites. Weatherspoon [281] found that greater snowbrush ceanothus seedling development occurred in areas of moderate burn depth or severity than in either unburned areas or areas of high burn depth. Moderate-severity fire removes the litter layer, sufficiently scarifying and leaving most snowbrush ceanothus seeds close enough to the postfire surface to permit emergence. Severe fire, on the other hand, results in lethal temperatures at a soil depth where most of the seed bank is located. Though creating a zone of scarification below that depth, much of the snowbrush ceanothus seed bank is consumed by the fire, leaving fewer seeds to germinate [281]. Following a prescribed fire in a white fir forest in California that burned to a depth of 4 inches (10 cm) in the soil, 94% of snowbrush ceanothus seeds were killed, with no viable seeds remaining above the 1.5-inch (4-cm) depth [282].

For further information on prescribed fire use and postfire responses of multiple plant species in plant communities with snowbrush ceanothus, see the following Fire Studies:

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Season of Burning: In general, low severity spring burns can increase snowbrush ceanothus cover quickly through regrowth from root crowns. Spring burning of seral brushfields in the Douglas-fir/ninebark habitat type in Montana resulted in snowbrush ceanothus exceeding its prefire coverage in the 1st postfire growing season, and its percent coverage nearly doubled during the 3rd postfire growing season [206]. While potentially killing a large number of mature snowbrush ceanothus plants [207], severe summer and fall burns generally stimulate germination of ground-stored seed to produce young plants, thus providing a long-term increase in snowbrush ceanothus [206]. Snowbrush ceanothus seedling establishment is usually enhanced by fall burns. A high-severity fall burn is more likely to produce a dense stand of snowbrush ceanothus than a "cooler" spring burn [217], and spring burns produce fewer sprouts [295]. Prescribed fires must burn hot enough to stimulate seed germination, otherwise snowbrush ceanothus is unlikely to increase on a site [264].

Slash Disposal: Snowbrush ceanothus commonly establishes on sites that have been broadcast burned following harvesting activities, and can establish by the 1st year after disturbance [54,109,223,300]. Burned sites are more likely to have substantial snowbrush ceanothus in the successional community than unburned sites [199]. In the western redcedar-western hemlock zone of northern Idaho, the frequency, crown cover, and relative importance of snowbrush ceanothus were much greater in broadcast burned areas than in either undisturbed or logged, unburned areas [198]. Maximum cover was attained 3 to 5 years after timber harvest associated with subsequent slash burns in western hemlock forests of north-central Idaho. Where timber harvest was not followed by postharvest burns, cover increased much more slowly, and maximum values were not reached until 15 to 25 years after disturbance [159]. Snowbrush ceanothus also responded to broadcast burning following harvest in ponderosa pine stands in Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon [228]. Broadcast burning results in a greater number of snowbrush ceanothus seedlings than piling and burning slash [109], though the occurrence of snowbrush ceanothus also increases on sites that have been slash-burned rather than not burned [251].

Snowbrush ceanothus may dominate early seral stages following clearcut and severe broadcast burning activities in grand fir and Douglas-fir habitat types [101,110,250,300], as well as sites in the western hemlock zone that have been logged and lightly or heavily burned [117]. Seven years following a prescribed fire in a Douglas-fir forest in Idaho, snowbrush ceanothus density increased from 0.1 to 56.4 per 1,000 square feet, and percent canopy cover increased from 0.02 to 10% [165]. In another study, however, snowbrush ceanothus cover on clearcut, broadcast burned Douglas-fir sites in Oregon did not increase substantially until 15 years after treatment, with cover values dropping again by postfire year 20 [232].

Fire Severity: The duration and magnitude of snowbrush ceanothus dominance generally increase with the severity of disturbance [117,155]. Following the Waterfalls Canyon Fire, a severe burn in Wyoming, snowbrush ceanothus remained abundant for more than 40 postfire years [18]. Fourteen to 23 years following a clearcut and "hot" broadcast burn treatment in a Douglas-fir forest, percent cover of snowbrush ceanothus ranged from 4 to 85%, increasing from the original 0% [12]. In a study of clearcut and broadcast burned grand fir sites, snowbrush ceanothus disappeared by 23 years after treatment [300]. Lafferty [155] found that the highest canopy cover increase of snowbrush ceanothus on sites in western Montana occurred on severely burned (vs. lightly burned), south-facing sites. In the western redcedar-western hemlock zone of northern Idaho, snowbrush ceanothus occurred more frequently and with greater percent cover on sites that had been burned than on sites that were either undisturbed or logged and not burned. Sites that were broadcast burned had more snowbrush ceanothus than sites that were slash-piled and burned, and multiple broadcast burns resulted in the highest snowbrush ceanothus values [199]. In a Douglas-fir forest on the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, percent cover of snowbrush ceanothus increased 2 years after clearcutting with no burning, clearcutting with light burning, and clearcutting with severe burning. The greatest increase in percent cover followed the light burn treatment [83]. On another Douglas-fir site in Oregon, snowbrush ceanothus percent cover steadily increased for 5 years following slash burning in clearcuts, from 0.3% to 7.5%. After logging but prior to burning, no increase of snowbrush ceanothus percent cover was observed [84]. Morris [194,195] found that snowbrush ceanothus grew on harvested sites following slash burning, but was much more scarce on unburned sites in Douglas-fir communities of Oregon.

Wildlife Implications: Dense canopies of snowbrush ceanothus generally result from severe burns, and will deter both livestock and erosion; light canopies generated by a low-severity burn can provide shelter for Douglas-fir seedlings [242,244,246,247,248]. In western Montana, long-term propagation of snowbrush ceanothus for elk winter range may be best accomplished through fall burning, both to stimulate seed germination and reduce impacts of concentrated browsing [169]. However, Noste [205] found that survival of snowbrush ceanothus was higher on spring-burned that on fall-burned sites (100% survival versus 40%).

Nutrient Content: During the 1st growing season following prescribed burning of seral shrubfields (Douglas-fir climax) in British Columbia, nitrogen concentration and phosphorus concentration of snowbrush ceanothus leaves increased, though the levels returned to preburn concentrations by the 2nd growing season. Copper concentrations in snowbrush ceanothus leaves and stems decreased following burning [78]. The following table summarizes snowbrush ceanothus plant information and nitrogen accretion of a snowbrush ceanothus stand developing on a Douglas-fir clearcut and slash-burn site in Oregon [298]:

Postburn year Density plants/ha Nodulation (% of roots) Cover (%) Snowbrush ceanothus biomass N accretion (kg/ha)
Dry weight (kg/ha) N concentration (%)
1 142,100 0 trace 99 2.00 2.0
2 149,000 0 trace 655 1.37 9.0
3 96,100 7 17 2,789 1.37 38.2
4 70,100 25 17 9,548 1.27 121.3
5 61,700 42 25 23,084 1.05 243.4
7 61,700 71 50 30,992 1.16 359.5
10 36,400 92 58 54,287 0.66 358.3
15 35,500 100 70 62,100 0.48 298.8

As snowbrush ceanothus biomass increased with age, nitrogen concentration decreased due to the higher proportion of woody material relative to leaf tissue. Net accretion of nitrogen by snowbrush ceanothus fixation was 1,110 pounds per acre (1,261 kg/ha) over the 15 years of the study [298].

Root Nodulation: Nodulation of snowbrush ceanothus seedlings that establish following fire may be a function of the overstory stand age before disturbance. Wollum and others [289] found that, in stands that were harvested and burned before the stand age reached 100 years, snowbrush ceanothus nodulation was substantially higher than in stands over 100 years old. Snowbrush ceanothus generally disappears from stands as the canopy closes, and the authors speculate that in the absence of a host, the actinomycetes responsible for nodulation in snowbrush ceanothus also decline on the site [289].

FIRE CASE STUDIES

SPECIES: Ceanothus velutinus

1st CASE STUDY:

FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION:
Tirmenstein, D. A., compiler. 1990. Effects of the O'Keefe Creek wildlife habitat improvement burn, southwestern Montana, on snowbrush ceanothus. In: Ceanothus velutinus. 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/ [ ].

REFERENCE:
Noste, Nonan V. 1982. Vegetation response to spring and fall burning for wildlife habitat improvement. In: Baumgartner, David M., compiler. Site preparation and fuels management on steep terrain: Proceedings of a symposium; 1982 February 15-17; Spokane, WA. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, Cooperative Extension: 125-132. [205].

Noste, Nonan V. 1985. Influence of fire severity on response of evergreen ceanothus. In: Lotan, James E.; Brown, James K., compilers. Fire's effects on wildlife habitat--symposium proceedings; 1985 March 21; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-186. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 91-96. [206].

SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION:
spring/not reported
fall/high

STUDY LOCATION:
Study sites are located in northwestern Montana, approximately 9.4 miles (16 km) north of Missoula.

PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY:
The prefire community was a Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)/ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus) habitat type. Common shrubs included Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), redstem ceanothus (Ceanothus sanguineus), snowbrush ceanothus (C. velutinus), Douglas hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii), Oregon-grape (Mahonia repens), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), rose (Rosa spp.), Scouler willow (Salix scouleriana), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), and common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). Herbaceous species such as spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium), arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens), elk sedge (Carex geyeri), orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata), and timothy (Phleum pratense) were well represented in the prefire community.

TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE:
spring: leaf bud burst/ growth
fall: seed fall

SITE DESCRIPTION:
aspect - southeast
elevation - less than 4,900 feet (1,500 m)
slope - average of 30%; 50% maximum

FIRE DESCRIPTION:
Management objective: To compare the effects of spring and fall prescribed fire treatments for rejuvenating deteriorating stands of snowbrush ceanothus and improving wildlife browse.

Weather conditions during burn:

  Spring Fall
Air temperature - oF (oC) 57-65 (14-18) 59-70 (15-21)
Relative humidity - %  30-37 18-30
Windspeed - miles/hour (km/hr) 5 (8)/gusts 7-10 (11-16) 6-8 (10-13)/gusts 8-12 (13-19)

Fuel loading, fine fuel moisture content, and fire behavior varied by position on the slope and season of burn. Fine fuel moisture content:

  Fuel moisture content (%)
  dead live
Fall fire:    
  upper slope 6 55
  mid-slope 8 62
  lower slope 8 53
Spring fire:    
  upper slope 8 67
  mid-slope 9 156
  lower slope 12 149

Prefire fuel loadings, by size class, were as follows:

Size classes - inches (cm) Fuel loading - tons/acre (kg/m2)
  Fall burn Spring burn
0-0.25 (0.0-0.6) 0.57 to 1.21 (0.13-0.27) 0.57 to 0.76 (0.12-0.17)
0.25-1.0 (0.6-2.5) 0.83 to 2.0 (0.19-0.45) 1.58 to 2.34 (0.35-0.52)
1.0-3.0 (2.5-7.6) 0.13 to 0.25 (0.03-0.06) 0.13 to 0.38 (0.03-0.08)
3+/sound (7.6+) 0 to 16.06 (0-3.6) 0
3+/rotten (7.6+) 0.22 to 11.02 (0.05-2.47) 0.46 to 15.07 (0.10-3.38)

Rates of spread ranged from 2,640 to 3,696 feet per hour (805-1,126 m/hr) in fall burns, which had flame lengths of 8 to 10 feet (2.5-3.0 m). Spring burns produced average flame lengths of 3 feet (0.9 m) with rate of spread measured at 659 to 1,188 feet per hour (201-362 m/hr).

FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES:
Soils and fuels were drier in the fall, and heat transfer downward was presumably greater, thus increasing the likelihood of damage to underground regenerative structures. Portions of all spring-burned plants survived, but 60% of shrubs burned in the fall were killed. Many seedlings emerged on fall-burned plots, but none were observed on plots burned during the spring. Heat generated by the spring burns may not have been adequate to scarify the seeds. Exposed mineral soil, which normally serves as an excellent seedbed, was also lacking. By the fourth growing season, nearly 6,500 snowbrush ceanothus seedlings per acre (16,000/ha) were observed on the fall-burned plots, but none were present on plots burned in spring. Root crown sprouting following spring burns enabled snowbrush ceanothus to recover much more rapidly than after fall burns, where recovery was through seedling establishment. On the spring-burned plot, cover exceeded preburn values by the 1st growing season and had doubled by the 3rd growing season. Cover on fall-burned plots averaged only 0.2% 1 year after fire but increased to approximately one-half of preburn coverage by the 3rd growing season. Comparative cover values for snowbrush ceanothus were:

  Feet3/acre (m3/ha) Percent cover
Fall    
Preburn - 1979 35,948 (2,515) 18.5
Postburn - 1980 45 (3) 0.2
                 1981 6,001 (420) 6.7
                 1982 -- 10.4
Spring    
Preburn - 1979 27,991 (1,959) 11.5
Postburn - 1980 16,501 (1,155) 12.7
                 1981 28,648 (2,005) 19.6
                 1982 -- 21.5

FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS:
Both spring and fall fires can rejuvenate decadent stands of snowbrush ceanothus and produce sufficient stocking to improve wildlife browse. Lighter spring burns, after which shrubs reestablished through sprouting, promoted rapid short-term wildlife browse improvement. Fall burns produced vigorous seedling growth and more long-term benefits to wildlife as succession was delayed. Management programs that include a combination of spring and fall burns can produce both short and long-term benefits to wildlife. Potential for postfire reestablishment of snowbrush ceanothus on south slopes in Douglas-fir habitat types of western Montana is high.


2nd CASE STUDY:

FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION:
Tirmenstein, D. A., compiler. 1990. Effects of a preharvest burn in Lassen National Forest, California, on snowbrush ceanothus. In: Ceanothus velutinus. 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/ [ ].

REFERENCE:
 Weatherspoon, C. Phillip. 1985. Preharvest burning for shrub control in a white fir stand: preliminary observations. In: Proceedings, 6th annual forest vegetation management conference; 1984 November 1-2; Redding, CA. Redding, CA: Forest Vegetation Management Conference: 71-88. [280].

SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION:
spring/variable
fall/variable

STUDY LOCATION:
The study site is located on the Lassen National Forest in northeastern California.

PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY:
The stand was dominated by 60- to 70- year-old white fir (Abies concolor), but included a few scattered red fir (Abies magnifica). Basal area ranged from 300 to 350 ft2/acre (67-78 m2/ha) and the overstory canopy cover was described as "nearly complete". Shrubs were "not a significant factor" within the study area prior to treatment. However, a shrubfield dominated by bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens) and snowbrush ceanothus (Ceanothus velutinus) bordered the study area to the north and northeast.

TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE:
spring: leaf bud burst/ growth
fall: seed fall

SITE DESCRIPTION:
aspect - southeast
elevation - 6,200 feet (1,891 m)
slope - <10%
precipitation - 50 inches (127 cm) per year, primarily as snow between November and April

FIRE DESCRIPTION:
Management objective: To evaluate potential shrub control and reduction of competition with conifer seedlings using preharvest prescribed burning.

Initial preharvest burns were conducted during the spring of 1982. Fires were carried by natural fuels (15-20 tons/acre of downed woody fuels) and 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) of the upper forest floor. Stands were commercially thinned in the fall of 1982. Subsequent burns (2nd burns for the twice-burned plots) were carried out during the spring and fall of 1983. Harvested plots burned only once and uncut plots were burned only in 1983. 

FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES:
Because snowbrush ceanothus plants were not "a significant factor" in the study area before treatments began, sprouting was not a factor and only the production of snowbrush ceanothus seedlings from dormant seeds is described here. Seedling densities of snowbrush ceanothus were significantly lower (p<0.01) on plots burned twice than on the once-burned plots. Seedling density (number of seedlings per acre) in relation to treatment was:

Prescribed fire treatment Tree basal area (ft2/acre)
80 180 Uncut (300-350 ft2/acre)
1983 Unburned 1,700 900 --
  1 burn 29,000 57,000 --
1984 Unburned 900 1,000 0
  1 burn   spring 121,000 85,000 3,100
    fall 109,000 48,000 2,300
  2 burns   spring 62,000 87,000 --
    fall 36,000 42,000 --

Seedling densities were reduced with increasing slash depth. These reductions were particularly noticeable on unburned plots. 

The density of snowbrush ceanothus after burning increased with moderate burn depth, with density decreasing in response to high burns depth. Results suggest that a deep burn may kill much of the stored seed rather than stimulate germination. Snowbrush ceanothus densities (number of seedlings per acre) in relation to burn depth were as follows:

Plots Burn depth
N L F H
harvested 11,000 50,000 166,000 77,000
unharvested 800 1,500 5,500 3,600
N - unburned
L - fire burned into, but not deeper than the litter layer
F - fire burned into, but not deeper than fermentation layer (moderate severity)
H - fire burned into, or completely consumed, humus layer (high severity)


FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS:
These study results are inconclusive regarding the effectiveness of preharvest prescribed burning to reduce snowbrush ceanothus competition with conifer seedlings. Preharvest burning may reduce the amount of snowbrush ceanothus establishing after treatment. The preharvest fires in this study were relatively low consumption fires that provided insufficient heat scarification for many of the seeds stored in the soil. High consumption preharvest fires would presumably result in a reduction of snowbrush ceanothus seedlings. Fall preharvest fires or spring fires under dry conditions may stimulate more seeds to germinate and could result in greater reductions of snowbrush ceanothus seedlings. Higher severity fires may destroy more of the snowbrush ceanothus seed bank. Multiple preharvest fires may also reduce posttreatment snowbrush ceanothus density.

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Ceanothus velutinus
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Snowbrush ceanothus provides poor forage for domestic cattle, sheep, and horses [177,197,240]. Snowbrush ceanothus is a valuable year-round browse species for deer and elk [50,100,113,153,154,160,161,164,172,200,296]. However, some authors report that deer and elk will browse snowbrush ceanothus only if better forage is unavailable [197,240]. Shrubfields in the northern Rocky Mountains are an important source of browse and habitat for ungulates, and the presence of snowbrush ceanothus may extend their value by providing forage after other desirable shrubs have grown out of reach [164].

Snowbrush ceanothus is of moderate to high importance for mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goat, mountain sheep, elk, and moose winter browse [33,121,128,137,146,152,169,212,267]. In 1 California study, however, snowbrush ceanothus ranged from only 0.2 to 3.6% of mule deer stomach contents in the months of October though April [29]. Because it is evergreen and seldom grows over 3 feet tall, snowbrush ceanothus is generally available as browse [146]. Makela [169] noted that elk utilization of snowbrush ceanothus may be generally higher in more forested areas than in open shrubfield vegetation, though Irwin and Peek [137] found that winter elk use of snowbrush ceanothus was higher in seral brushfields. As coastal mule deer, bighorn sheep, and caribou winter browse, it is of low importance [33].

Small mammals and birds eat the seeds of snowbrush ceanothus [243,244,271]. Snowbrush ceanothus has also been recorded in stomach samples of mountain lions [270].

PALATABILITY:
The palatability of snowbrush ceanothus has been rated as follows [80]:

  Utah Wyoming Montana
Cattle poor fair poor
Domestic sheep poor good fair
Horses poor fair poor

Hill [128] found that snowbrush ceanothus is highly to moderately palatable for white-tailed deer in South Dakota during late fall and winter, but unpalatable during the remainder of the year.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE:
The following table presents mean nutrient content of snowbrush ceanothus branch material in the absence of recent fire at 4 sites in northwestern Montana [241]:

  micrograms per gram
Location Ca Cu Fe K Mg Mn N Na P Zn % ash
Site 1 (SW aspect) 5,819 7.5 65 4,368 1,046 134 15,890 104 358 16 3.0
Site 2 (SW aspect) 8,667 6 65 4,617 1,068 126 16,527 123 374 21 3.0
Site 3 (SE aspect) 7,188 7 77 4,673 1,177 69 17,226 113 399 19 3.2
Site 4 (SE aspect) 9,665 7 86 4,270 1,080 116 17,325 99 390 26 3.4

The foliage nutrient content of snowbrush ceanothus at 4 sites in Oregon is presented in the following table [287]:

Location % dry weight parts per million
  P K Ca Mg S B Zn Fe Mn
site 1 0.18 0.90 0.55 0.17 0.06 31 36 55 65
site 2 0.14 0.95 0.52 0.15 0.06 21 12 60 120
site 3 0.16 1.00 0.46 0.16 0.07 30 18 50 105
site 4 0.14 0.90 0.52 0.14 0.12 20 30 75 290

Snowbrush ceanothus has fair energy value and fair protein value for domestic livestock [80]. In 1 analysis, the crude protein content of snowbrush ceanothus ranged from 7.1% in January to 18.3% in June [29].

Mean nutritional content of snowbrush ceanothus for elk and domestic sheep is presented below [32]:

% sheep IVDMD* % elk IVDMD % crude protein % Calcium % Phosphorus Ca:P
57.0 57.8 14.2 1.28 .21 6.0
*In-vitro dry matter digestibility

The following table presents differences in the nutritional value of snowbrush ceanothus on burned and unburned sites. Sites were prescribe burned in October 1982, and study samples were subsequently collected during the summers of 1982 and 1983 [32].

  % sheep IVDMD % elk IVDMD % crude protein % Calcium % Phosphorus Ca:P
  1982 1983 1982 1983 1982 1983 1982 1983 1982 1983 1982 1983
Burned 49.1 54.1 47.4 61.9 18.2 14.5 0.93 1.34 0.23 0.20 4.0 6.1
Unburned 48.7 53.0 47.5 60.9 14.4 15.0 1.20 1.72 0.14 0.21 8.4 7.0

Snowbrush ceanothus nutritive value does not appear substantially affected by burning in quaking aspen stands. Information on the percent crude protein and in-vitro dry matter digestibility of snowbrush ceanothus during the 3rd year postfire growing season, for both burned and unburned aspen stands, is presented below [49]:

  % Crude Protein % IVDMD
Date 7/22 8/9 8/24 9/13 9/29 7/22 8/7 8/24 9/13 9/29
Burned 18.8 17.0 15.1 13.2 13.6 61.9 61.7 65.4 54.2 52.9
Unburned 19.7 17.1 15.9 13.7 14.4 63.8 63.3 58.3 52.2 54.8

As a nitrogen fixing plant, snowbrush ceanothus may provide high quality browse. The following table presents information on the biomass and nitrogen capital, according to plant part, of a snowbrush ceanothus stand on H. J. Andrews Experimental Ecological Reserve. Data are means and 1 standard error [67].

  Biomass Nitrogen capital
Snowbrush ceanothus component  kg/ha  % kg/ha
Leaves 3,551 + 945 1.78 63.4 + 16.8
Stems 30,339 + 2,880 0.36 109.2 + 10.4
Roots 8,040 + 2,280 0.43 34.6 + 9.8
Nodules 750 + 350 2.37 17.8 + 8.3
Totals 42,680   225.0


COVER VALUE:
Cover value of snowbrush ceanothus for wildlife has been rated as follows [80]:

  Utah Colorado Wyoming Montana
Elk fair --- fair poor
Mule deer fair --- fair  poor
White-tailed deer --- --- fair poor
Pronghorn poor --- poor ---
Upland game birds fair good good fair
Waterfowl poor --- poor ---
Nongame birds good fair good fair
Small mammals good fair good fair

Snowbrush ceanothus shrub layers provide nesting sites for small birds [244].

VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Snowbrush ceanothus is recommended for land reclamation, range restoration, and amenity planting [87,192,193,216,271]. Snowbrush ceanothus' ability to rapidly invade disturbed areas, its persistence, and its extensive soil-binding roots make snowbrush ceanothus valuable for reducing erosion potential [121,197,216]. The nitrogen-fixing ability of snowbrush ceanothus may be useful in replenishing soil nutrients in disturbed areas [39,63,216,295].

Artificial regeneration: Seed dormancy of snowbrush ceanothus can be broken by a hot water soak at 175 degrees Fahrenheit (75 oC) for 1/2 day [45]. Germination is improved by stratification, moistening and storing the seed for a few weeks near 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 oC) [109,197]. Borland [37] recommends seed be soaked in water at 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 oC) for several hours, then be subjected to a moist and cool (34-41 oF (1-5 oC)) period for 63 to 84 days. Hudson and Carlson [131] found that placing snowbrush ceanothus seed in water at 190 degrees Fahrenheit (88 oC) allowing it to cool followed by stratification at 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 oC) for 4 to 5 months was an effective pretreatment. Heit [123] found that 30 minutes in sulfuric acid or a hot-water soak of 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a moist prechilling of 2 months, resulted in optimum germination rates. The best germination is achieved when the treated seed is planted 0.25 to 0.5 inch (0.5-1.3 cm) deep and temperature is alternated between 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 oC) for 8 hours and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 oC) for 16 hours [37]. Fall planting of snowbrush ceanothus seeds is recommended, allowing for a natural required stratification period [123,193]. Seedling growth may be encouraged by nitrogen fertilization, and is improved by drier soil conditions [131].

Snowbrush ceanothus can be propagated from hardwood or softwood cuttings [240]. Semiripe tip cuttings treated with 0.8% idolebutyric acid can be rooted under mist with 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 oC) bottom heat, though rooted cuttings are difficult to overwinter [37]. 

Transplanting snowbrush ceanothus has been described as both effective [121,271] and unsuccessful [154].

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Wollum and Youngberg [290] suggest that temperature influences the rate of snowbrush ceanothus nodulation, with 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (22-26 oC) most effective for nodule development and nodulation inhibited at 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 oC). Over a 10-year period, snowbrush ceanothus nitrogen-fixing rates may range from 9 to 489 pounds per acre per year (10-556 kg/ha/yr) [48,72,180,297], with lower rates related to decreased moisture availability [48] and increased moisture stress [180]. Stands of snowbrush ceanothus older than 10 years may contain more than 445 pounds per acre (500 kg/ha) of nitrogen in the biomass [63]. Zavitovski [303] found that 15-year-old, mature stands of snowbrush ceanothus contained 678 pounds per acre (770 kg/ha) of nitrogen, representing approximately 22% of the nitrogen in the ecosystem. Nitrogen fixing by snowbrush ceanothus helps maintain the nutrient balance, replacing nitrogen lost to fire volatilization, soil erosion, and leaching [28,48,69,94,297,303].

In high densities, snowbrush ceanothus may compete with conifer seedlings for moisture and nutrients [55,61,63,81,108,109,126,141,214,215,259,263,302] and may shade out intolerant tree species [302]. Snowbrush ceanothus may substantially reduce height growth of Douglas-fir under the shrub cover [108]. In an Oregon study, the early growth rate of Douglas-fir trees decreased significantly (p=0.008) as the density of snowbrush ceanothus increased to 15,000 seedlings/ha [190]. Snowbrush ceanothus may also have the potential to reduce the growth of Douglas-fir seedlings by means of water soluble substances contained in the dead foliage [268]. However, beneficial nitrogen accretion from a lower density of snowbrush ceanothus may enhance long-term forest productivity [69,81,126], as well as provide beneficial partial shading for tree seedlings [81,109,141]. During the early period of establishment and growth of Douglas-fir [297,298] and ponderosa pine [277,297], snowbrush ceanothus may ameliorate harsh environmental conditions, including temperature and moisture, as well as improve nitrogen nutrition for tree regeneration. The nutrient-rich litter and debris produced by snowbrush ceanothus as a result of nitrogen fixing may provide microsites for conifer seedlings [63,102]. In 1 Douglas-fir/elk sedge habitat type, 21% of Douglas-fir seedlings occurred under Ceanothus spp. [102]. In an Idaho study, Douglas-fir seedlings were found to have a positive relationship with snowbrush ceanothus, occurring under snowbrush ceanothus canopies more than other shrub species [141].

Conifers established at the same time as snowbrush ceanothus will dominate the snowbrush ceanothus [301,303], emerging above the shrub canopy after 10 to 30 years [215]. Snowbrush ceanothus is eventually suppressed by conifers [283,301], but the period of dominance by snowbrush ceanothus may determine species composition of the succeeding conifer stand [301,302]. If snowbrush ceanothus remains dominant for more than 15 years, it will be succeeded primarily by shade tolerant species [301]. Releasing conifers from snowbrush ceanothus may increase conifer stem diameter and height growth [215].

Snowbrush ceanothus tolerates moderate browsing, and a level of use consistent with 40% removal of current annual twig growth has been suggested [96,97]. Heavy browsing may damage snowbrush ceanothus, and wildlife exclusion results in healthy, robust plants [264]. A study evaluating the effects of clipping current-year twig growth on snowbrush ceanothus growth found that light (25%) and moderate (50%) clipping yielded more twigs than other clipping treatments. Both treatments resulted in an abundance of foliage; however, lightly clipped plants were taller than moderately clipped plants after 4 years, and their crowns were more open near the ground. Unclipped plants were the tallest after 4 years, with a sparse amount of foliage. Heavily (75%) and completely (100%) clipped plants made no gains in height, and after the 4th harvest, as much as 20% of each crown of the heavily clipped plants died [96]. Tiedmann and Berndt [265] report that snowbrush ceanothus growth and density were much greater in an elk exclosure in central Washington than in the adjacent area under unspecified browsing pressure.

Control: Moderate to high damage to snowbrush ceanothus may be achieved with applications of triclopyr ester [17,47,55,56,62,120,185,186,187,279], 2,4-D [17,47,56,62,106,107,120,187,204,229], hexazinone, sulfometuron, imazapyr [55], metsulfuron methyl [56], picloram [62,204,279], dichlorprop [106], and glyphosate [47,55]. Effects of herbicide treatments may be temporary, as many applications result in top-kill of snowbrush ceanothus rather than plant death [106]. Spring and summer applications of herbicide may be more effective than fall treatments for controlling snowbrush ceanothus [156]. On sites in California, multiple glyphosate treatments reduced the height and cover of snowbrush ceanothus, but substantially increased the density of seedlings [179]. Miller [184] found that applications of glyphosate failed to control snowbrush ceanothus, with crown cover increasing an average of 41% following treatment.

Hand slashing treatments are not particularly effective for reducing snowbrush ceanothus cover due to its ability to resprout [120]. Unless burned to further stimulate sprouting and seed germination, snowbrush ceanothus responds to mechanical disturbance with a scattered, low percent cover [81]. The root crown of snowbrush ceanothus is resistant to removal by mechanical site preparation [178].

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