SPECIES: Ephedra nevadensis
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|Nevada ephedra on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo
courtesy Dennis Woodland, Andrews University.
The Flora of North America provides a distributional map of Nevada ephedra.ECOSYSTEMS :
In California, common associates of Nevada ephedra in singleleaf pinyon-California juniper/western juniper (Pinus monophylla-Juniperus californica/J. occidentalis) woodland include California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), green ephedra (E. viridis), desert almond (Prunus fasciculata), peach thorn (Lycium cooperi), Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), and Mojave yucca (Y. schidigera) . In desert chaparral communities, Nevada ephedra commonly occurs with chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), red shank (A. sparsifolium), jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis), California juniper, and Mojave yucca . Other common associates are mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus spp.), saltbush (Atriplex spp.), creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), and prickly-pear (Opuntia spp.) [13,66].
In Nevada, Nevada ephedra may codominate with Colorado pinyon (Pinus edulis) , spiny hopsage (Grayia spinosa), spiny menodora (Menodora spinescens), winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), or eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) [26,52]. In Utah, it may codominate with winterfat, Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), or galleta (Pleuraphis jamesii) . Nevada ephedra is particularly common as a community dominant in the transition zone between the Mojave and Great Basin deserts .West and others  classify Nevada ephedra as a plant community dominant in Nevada.
Cone-bearing stem. Photo © 2004, James M. Andre.
Nevada ephedra is a native erect, spreading shrub that reaches 1 to 4 feet (0.3-1.2 m) tall [9,50,59,77]. It is essentially aphyllous with jointed [1,9,9,50,50,77], evergreen stems . The thick, woody roots can grow to 6.5 feet (2 m) deep [41,83], and may spread laterally and produce clones .
Ephedra spp. are gymnosperms. Stamens bear 1 to 8 pollen sacs, and 1 to 2 ovules are exposed at the tips of small, scaly cones. After pollination, these ovules develop directly into seed . The male cones are 0.16 to 0.3 inch (4-8 mm) long, while female cones are 0.2 to 0.4 inch (5-11 mm) long. Seeds are 0.16 to 0.35 inch (4-9 mm) long  and occur singly or in pairs [16,73].
A study of replicated photographs in Arizona estimates that Ephedra spp. can survive over 100 years (80-95% of 3 different populations survived from the late 1800s to 1994) ; however, the study did not specifically document the longevity of Nevada ephedra.RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Breeding system: Nevada ephedra is primarily dioecious with small cones [17,66].
Pollination: Ephedra pollen is wind-distributed .
Seed production: Nevada ephedra produces large quantities of small seeds at erratic intervals [16,58,76].
Seed dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by small mammals and deposited in shallowly buried caches .
Seed banking: No information is available on this topic.
Germination: Germination requires 21 days prechill at 37 to 41 oF (3-5 oC), with germination most successful at 68 oF (20 oC). Average germination under these conditions ranges from 80%-100%. Other effective germination temperatures are 41, 50, 59 oF (5, 10, 15 oC) constant and 68/77 oF (20/25 oC) alternating [9,87].
After 15 years of warehouse storage, germination rates of Nevada ephedra seeds did not decrease appreciably; rates remained above 85% . Nevada ephedra germination rates were >85% during the1st 10 years of storage in an open, unheated, uncooled warehouse, with rates only decreasing to 77% after 25 years of storage . In another study, however, seed storage for 12 months at room temperature substantially reduced germination (from 65%-75% to 15%-20%) .
Seedling establishment/growth: No information is available on this topic.
Asexual regeneration: Manning and Groeneveld  describe a Nevada ephedra community in California in which clones are produced from lateral roots. Others describe crown sprouting of Nevada ephedra in response to herbicides .SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
|Baja California||3,900-4,200 feet (1,190-1,280 m) |
|Great Basin||2,790-7,050 feet (850-2,150 m) |
|California||<3,600 feet (1,100 m) |
|Nevada||2,500-6,000 feet (760-1,830 m) [12,32]|
|Utah||4,000-6,000 feet (1,220-1,830 m) |
Nevada ephedra is commonly found on ridgetops as well as upper and lower slope positions. It also grows well in floodplain areas. Nevada ephedra is associated with shallow, rocky soils (to 2 feet (0.6 m) deep) , often limestone-derived . Nevada ephedra has a high saline tolerance  and is common on the margins of salt deserts . However, it has no tolerance for acidity . Nevada ephedra is drought tolerant  and requires approximately 7 inches (178 mm) annual precipitation .SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Fire regimes: Most plant communities in which Nevada ephedra commonly occurs historically experienced stand-replacement fire regimes. Sagebrush types historically had fire intervals from 20 to 70 years, while other desert shrub types and desert grassland communities had fire intervals of <35 to <100 years . Fires may not carry on some Nevada ephedra sites due to insufficient fuels. Periods of above normal precipitation can contribute to increased stand flammability by promoting the growth of annuals . Pinyon-juniper communities are subject to a mixed-severity fire regime, with fire intervals <35 years or 400+ years [21,24,35,54]. On less productive sites with discontinuous grass cover, fires are less frequent and small. On sites where grass cover is more continuous, fires are likely more frequent and extensive. Stage of stand development also contributes to fire susceptibility and severity. Young open stands may have sufficient understory fuel to carry fire, but as stands mature this cover becomes sparse. The trees may remain too widely spaced to carry crown fire, except under extreme conditions .
Some sagebrush and desert shrub ecosystems are experiencing changes in fire regime, particularly in response to invasion by annual grasses such as red brome (Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens) and cheatgrass (B. tectorum). Cheatgrass expansion has dramatically changed fire regimes and plant communities over vast areas of western rangelands by creating an environment where fires are easily ignited, spread rapidly, cover large areas, and occur frequently . Cheatgrass promotes frequent fires by increasing the biomass and horizontal continuity of fine fuels that persist during the summer lightning season and by allowing fire to spread across landscapes where fire was previously restricted to isolated patches [37,69,85].
Fire regimes for plant communities and ecosystems in which Nevada ephedra occurs are summarized below. For more information on the fire regimes of these communities, see the FEIS species summary for the dominant species listed below.
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|California chaparral||Adenostoma and/or Arctostaphylos spp.||< 35 to < 100 |
|basin big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata||12-43 |
|mountain big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana||15-40 [4,14,46]|
|Wyoming big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis||10-70 (40**) [75,86]|
|coastal sagebrush||Artemisia californica||< 35 to < 100|
|saltbush-greasewood||Atriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus||< 35 to < 100|
|desert grasslands||Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica||5-100|
|grama-galleta steppe||Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii||< 35 to < 100 |
|cheatgrass||Bromus tectorum||< 10 [56,80]|
|curlleaf mountain-mahogany*||Cercocarpus ledifolius||13-1,000 [5,63]|
|mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub||Cercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii||< 35 to < 100|
|blackbrush||Coleogyne ramosissima||< 35 to < 100|
|western juniper||Juniperus occidentalis||20-70|
|Rocky Mountain juniper||Juniperus scopulorum||< 35|
|creosotebush||Larrea tridentata||< 35 to < 100|
|pinyon-juniper||Pinus-Juniperus spp.||< 35 |
|Mexican pinyon||Pinus cembroides||20-70 [49,71]|
|Colorado pinyon||Pinus edulis||10-400+ [21,24,35,54]|
|galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe||Pleuraphis jamesii-Aristida purpurea||< 35 to < 100 |
|mesquite||Prosopis glandulosa||< 35 to < 100 [44,54]|
Nevada ephedra seeds provide food for small mammals and birds .
Palatability/nutritional value: Nevada ephedra has been rated as fair forage for domestic sheep, cattle, goats and horses; it also provides fair forage for pronghorn, mule deer, small nongame birds, and upland game birds [18,30,61]. It has been rated poor forage for elk and waterfowl, but good for small mammals . Tests of Nevada ephedra in pregnant domestic sheep showed no maternal or embryo/fetal toxicity .
Specific nutrient content varies according to plant part, phenological development, and site characteristics. Nutrient composition for Nevada ephedra sampled in Nevada is as follows .
-------- Date sampled ---------
|Feb. 11||March 17||April 4||May 21||June 19||July 29||Sept. 24||Dec. 31|
|-------------------percent dry weight-------------------|
|-------------- ppm --------------|
The National Academy of Sciences lists the following values for Nevada ephedra samples (% dry matter): calcium 5.81%, magnesium 1.28%, and phosphorus 0.50% .
Cover value: Nevada ephedra provides good cover for small mammals; fair cover for pronghorn, small nongame birds, and upland game birds; and poor cover for game animals and waterfowl .VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Nevada ephedra is easily propagated in
the nursery or greenhouse, but root and shoot systems of the seedlings are
fragile and easily damaged during transplanting . A study of
transplanted Nevada ephedra found heavy mortality, with only 10% of plants
surviving after 6 years and none surviving to 12 years . Other efforts have resulted in
successful transplanting of container stock,
with 67% survival after 5 years on irrigated plots and 100% survival on nonirrigated plots .
Seedlings are drought tolerant and
generally establish well after fall or winter plantings .
Native Americans used Nevada ephedra as a tea to treat stomach and kidney ailments [8,17].
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Atrazine may be effective in controlling Nevada ephedra, though some plants can survive through crown sprouting. Irrigation may increase control by atrazine .
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