Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Chamaedaphne calyculata


SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Pavek, Diane S. 1993. Chamaedaphne calyculata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : CHACAL SYNONYMS : Cassandra calyculata (L.) D. Don. SCS PLANT CODE : CHCA2 COMMON NAMES : leatherleaf Cassandra TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of leatherleaf is Chamaedaphne calyculata (L.) Moench. It is in the heather family (Ericaceae) [25,36,44]. Recognized varieties are [25]: C. c. var. calyculata C. c. var. angustifolia (Ait.) Rehd. C. c. var. latifolia (Ait.) Fern. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : Leatherleaf was listed as threatened in Illinois in 1989 by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board [77].


SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Leatherleaf is circumboreal and is found throughout Alaska and Canada [36]. Its distribution extends southward through the Lake States and the northeastern United States [25,70]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES19 Aspen - birch STATES : AK CT IL IN IA ME MA MI MN NH NJ NY NC ND OH RI VT WI AB BC MB NB NF NT NS ON PE PQ SK YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest K094 Conifer bog K095 Great Lakes pine forest K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest K106 Northern hardwoods K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 5 Balsam fir 12 Black spruce 13 Black spruce - tamarack 19 Gray birch - red maple 21 Eastern white pine 37 Northern white-cedar 38 Tamarack 45 Pitch pine 97 Atlantic white-cedar 107 White spruce SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Leatherleaf is a dominant shrub in seral dwarf-shrub wetland communities [15,16,48]. Leatherleaf occurs in pure stands on floating mats and in mixed stands that are grounded [33]. Leatherleaf associations are the most extensive communities in the bogs of the Lake States. Several subtypes of leatherleaf associations have been described for New England peatlands [20]. Sphagnum-leatherleaf community types have been described for this region and Canada [17]. Leatherleaf is usually present in the tall-shrub community types of bogs or heathlands [20,76]. In central and northern Canada, leatherleaf has been included in various open black spruce (Picea mariana) vegetation types [17,43,49,73]. Leatherleaf is named as a dominant or indicator species in the following classifications: (1) Ecology of peat bogs of the glaciated northeastern United States: A community profile [16] (2) Community classification of the vascular vegetation of a New Hampshire peatland [20] (3) Plant communities of Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, U.S.A. [48]. Species associated with leatherleaf that are not mentioned above are codominant shrubs such as bog kalmia (Kalmia polifolia), sheep laurel (K. angustifolia), bog labrador tea (Ledum groenlandica), blueleaf bog-rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), bog cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos), and sweet gale (Myrica gale) [20,48,55,73,76]. Other species occurring with leatherleaf are roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea), and sedges (Carex spp.) [16,17,39,48].


SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Leatherleaf is browsed and used for nesting by wildlife. It was a minor part of white-tailed deer winter browse in New Jersey [54]. Leatherleaf was consumed in small amounts by caribou in Michigan and northern Canada [14,61,67,69]. Sharp-tailed grouse browsed leatherleaf twigs during the winter in Wisconsin [68]. Moose occasionally browsed leatherleaf from June to November on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska [51]. Mallards nest in leatherleaf in North Dakota [13]. Leatherleaf occurred in cover types used year-round by ruffed grouse [57]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Current year's growth of leatherleaf that was collected in July and August in southeastern Manitoba had 7.5 percent crude protein, 48.1 percent acid detergent fiber, and 49.3 percent dry matter digestibility. One-year-old leaves had slightly more crude protein (8.0 percent) and less acid detergent fiber (33.4 percent) and dry matter digestibility (44.3 percent) [67]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Leatherleaf reclaimed large areas in raised bogs in the eastern United States that had been denuded by commercial peat removal over the past 4 to 92 years [24]. Seven years after powerline construction in a treed bog in northern Manitoba, leatherleaf had two times more biomass than other shrubs present. It had a frequency of 78 percent in disturbed areas and 94 percent in the control [71]. In the Pinhook Bog of Indiana, sphagnum mats containing leatherleaf were successfully transplanted to other bog areas that had been killed by runoff from stockpiled road salt [82]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Leatherleaf greatly increases following clearcutting; leatherleaf and other shrubs can suppress black spruce on medium to poor sites [42]. In Minnesota, leatherleaf and other shrubs rapidly increased after tree harvest; however, restocking was not affected by shrub density 4 to 6 years after harvest [37]. Despite dense leatherleaf in a black spruce swamp in Ontario, relative regeneration rates of black spruce were high [41]. There was no difference in stocking rates on nine burned and unburned cutover black spruce sites in northern Minnesota; seedbed cover by leatherleaf and bog labrador tea was at acceptable levels [1]. Control of leatherleaf by herbicides has been discussed [60]. Aboveground biomass of leatherleaf was estimated at 136.7 pounds per acre (122 kg/ha) for wildlife browse and ground fuels in open black spruce bogs in Nova Scotia [78]. Transplanting leatherleaf in summer or autumn stimulated shoot production more than spring transplanting [26].


SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Leatherleaf is a native evergreen shrub that grows up to 4.9 feet (1.5 m) tall [25,43]. Its woody rhizome extends down an average of 12.6 inches (32 cm) into organic matter [27]. Leatherleaf has many branches and forms dense thickets of up to 18.6 stems per square foot (200 stems/sq m) [10,33]. Average basal diameter of leatherleaf stems is 0.27 inch (0.68 cm) [21]. The one-sided racemes have 1 to 15 or more flowers that form persistent, many-seeded capsules [10,43,65]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Moist sphagnum surrounding leatherleaf shoots, roots, and rhizomes causes vigorous vegetative growth [5,26]. Sphagnum grows on leatherleaf stems and branches but does not inhibit growth [12,18]. Ice will break up leatherleaf shrubs, resulting in rapid expansion of colonies [33]. Leatherleaf establishes in windfall areas [18]. Leatherleaf seed set is usually high (50 to 95 percent). Seed set decreased when insects such as bombus bees were excluded from flowers. When self-fertilized, leatherleaf has low seed set (1 to 15 percent) [65]. Leatherleaf seeds germinate on sphagnum or sedge mats [12]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Leatherleaf is a true bog species and is found in practically all boreal bogs [18]. It occurs in lowland sites, treed or treeless bogs, peatlands, sedge fens and meadows, black spruce muskegs, and kettle pond edges [2,19,55,59]. It is found at elevations up to 5,300 feet (1,615 m) [47]. Sites are often poorly drained or have standing water [48,63]. Leatherleaf is acid tolerant and usually occurs where the pH is less than 5; it needs acidic conditions to become dominant [11,38,66]. It commonly occurs in drier areas on sedge mats that may be floating or in wet peat that is up to 43 feet (13 m) thick [12,16,38,55,83]. Leatherleaf is found on very moist ombrotrophic or minerotrophic sites with low nutrients [3,4,7]. It occurs on substrates such as thin till overlain with sandy loam or fine loamy clays with varying depths of humus, or on entirely organic substrates [7,30,43]. Permafrost is often discontinuous and can be shallow where leatherleaf grows [6,8,58]. Leatherleaf is found in maritime to continental climates with extreme seasonal variations in temperature [8,34]. Leatherleaf grows poorly on exposed sites with severe winters [16,33]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Although leatherleaf is not a pioneer mat former, it is a primary species in extending the bog mat [11,16,22,62]. It is the first shrub to enter a bog community after sphagnum is established [11,53]. Leatherleaf is characteristic of the mature and late stages of moss-low ericaceous shrub communities as open water in a bog sere disappears. It may dominate for 50 years in some communities [11,18,31]. Leatherleaf is shade intolerant [53,77]. Leatherleaf stands begin to thin as tall shrubs or bog forest species such as tamarack (Larix laricina) and/or black spruce establish [11,33,35,63,73]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Leatherleaf flowers from March to July from buds formed the previous growing season [10,25,47,75]. Fruits develop in late summer and fall [10,47,75].


SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Leatherleaf's persistence in communities over long periods of time has been attributed to its regeneration following fire [17]. Its rhizomes are buried deep in the mineral soil and survive all but the most severe fires [26]. Depth of rhizomes and season of fire affect leatherleaf shoot growth and recovery. Leatherleaf rhizomes were collected in spring, summer, and autumn and subjected to wet heat treatments from 113 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (45-60 deg C). All autumn-collected rhizomes died after treatment. Summer-collected rhizomes produced fewer shoots than spring-collected; both had significantly (p<0.05) fewer shoots than the controls [27]. Bogs are usually too wet to burn except during drought [56]. Fire is a primary factor disrupting boreal treed bog succession; leatherleaf invades after fires remove the tree associations [9,22,28,33]. Recurrent fires at approximately 50-year intervals in New England leatherleaf bogs or on peat surfaces controls tree invasion [53]. Fire recurrence in a New Brunswick bog was 370 years [28]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous low woody plant, rhizome in organic mantle Surface rhizome/chamaephytic root crown Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire top-kills leatherleaf. Leatherleaf probably survives severe fires because rhizomes are deep in water-saturated substrates and its stems are matted in debris [28,33]. Surviving root crowns and rhizomes sprout. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Leatherleaf was only slightly injured by summer or autumn fires in New Brunswick. Following spring burning, leatherleaf showed a strong increase in stem density; apparently, it had not yet depleted its reserves and was able to support new growth. Preburn and postburn percent relative abundance (stem density) after spring, summer, and autumn fires was as follows [26,29]: Season of Postburn burn Preburn 1 month 3 months 5 months -------------------------------------------------------------------- Spring 28 42 13 -- Summer 30 29 29 17 Autumn 36 32 -- -- Ten years after a lightning fire in Alaska, leatherleaf was present in low amounts on disturbed firelines and in one burned site [80]. It was present at 0.7 percent frequency in burned and at 2 percent frequency in unburned areas 20 to 24 years following fire in the Northwest Territories [45]. In northern Quebec, leatherleaf occurred 30 years after fire at 21 to 31 percent frequency in lowland boreal black spruce forest and at 1 to 20 percent in forest-tundra sites [72]. Leatherleaf had about 40 percent frequency 94 years following a high-severity fire in central New York [50]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Leatherleaf is a flammable shrub; crowning or foliage scorch is common with leatherleaf in the understory in the pine swamps or lowlands of New Jersey [52]. Fuel loading that was predominantly leatherleaf and bog labrador tea in cutover areas of black spruce was estimated at 15 to 25 tons per acre (33-56 t/ha) in the Blackduck Burns, Minnesota [40].


SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
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