Quercus havardii



  R.E. Rosiere, Tarleton State University
Gucker, Corey L. 2006. Quercus havardii. 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/ [].




sand shinnery oak
shinnery oak
shin oak
Havard oak

The scientific name of sand shinnery oak is Quercus havardii Rydb. (Fagaceae) [33,34,43,49,97]. Sand shinnery oak belongs to the white oak group (Leucobalanus) [19]. Some [43,97] recognize 1 or more varieties, Q. h. Rydb. var. havardii and/or Q. h. Rydb. var. tuckeri Welsh, but other taxonomic authorities do not [33].

Sand shinnery oak populations in the Navajo Basin of Utah and Arizona are considered pure sand shinnery oak (Q. havardii var. tuckeri) by some [97], but introgression with Gambel oak (Q. gambelii) and perhaps shrub live oak (Q. turbinella) make taxonomic identification of Utah and adjacent Arizona sand shinnery oak populations difficult [90].

Sand shinnery oak also hybridizes with Mohr oak (Q. mohriana) and post oak (Q. stellata) [59,70,95]. Post oak sand shinnery oak hybrids are likely a result of post oak's historic range, which extended more westerly than it does today. Mohr oak sand shinnery oak hybrids are restricted to habitats intermediate to those occupied by the 2 species. Mohr oak inhabits limestone soils, and sand shinnery oak occurs on deep sand soils [59].


No special status

Information on state-level protected status of plants in the United States is available at Plants Database.


SPECIES: Quercus havardii
Sand shinnery oak is best represented in southeastern and south-central New Mexico, the panhandle of Texas, and eastern Oklahoma. However, relict populations occur in northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah [59,70,97]. Freeman [31] reports that a native sand shinnery oak population occurs in southwestern Kansas, and a herbarium specimen from Comanche County exists. Populations in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and likely Kansas are considered Q. h. var. havardii, while the populations in Utah and adjacent Arizona are recognized as Q. h. var. tuckeri by some [43]. For additional information on the taxonomy of sand shinnery oak and hybrid populations, see Taxonomy.

A review reports that sand shinnery oak occupies 5 to 7 million acres (2-3 million ha) in the southern Great Plains [65]. A majority of sand shinnery oak vegetation occurs on private land utilized for agriculture and/or livestock production. It is considered undesirable on grazing lands, and the use of chemical and mechanical control methods has been extensive (see Control), making it unlikely that the sand shinnery oak range is expanding [56]. The Flora of North America provides a distributional map of sand shinnery oak.

FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES31 Shinnery
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES40 Desert grasslands

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)


12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains

K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K039 Blackbrush
K057 Galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe
K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
K060 Mesquite savanna
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie
K071 Shinnery
K074 Bluestem prairie
K085 Mesquite-buffalo grass
K086 Juniper-oak savanna
K087 Mesquite-oak savanna

66 Ashe juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper
67 Mohrs (shin) oak
68 Mesquite
239 Pinyon-juniper
242 Mesquite

412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
413 Gambel oak
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
701 Alkali sacaton-tobosagrass
702 Black grama-alkali sacaton
708 Bluestem-dropseed
710 Bluestem prairie
712 Galleta-alkali sacaton
717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass
718 Mesquite-grama
720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)
721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)
722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie
727 Mesquite-buffalo grass
729 Mesquite
730 Sand shinnery oak
733 Juniper-oak

Sand shinnery oak is a dominant species in the following vegetation types:

New Mexico: Oklahoma: Texas:


SPECIES: Quercus havardii


  R.E. Rosiere, Tarleton State University

This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available (e.g. [34,49,95,97]).

Aboveground description: Sand shinnery oak is a deciduous, low-growing, thicket-forming, rhizomatous shrub. Shrubs are less than 7 feet (2 m) tall and often less than 3 feet (1 m) tall. Sand shinnery oak hybrids measure as tall as 10 feet (4 m) [34,67,70,95,97]. Sand shinnery oak is slow growing and long lived [29]. Clones may reach hundreds to thousands of years old [65]. Aboveground sand shinnery oak stems, however, live only 11 to 15 years. Hybrid stems may live longer than 80 years [69,98]. The oldest stems of clones in Ward and Wheeler counties of Texas were 11 years of age [58]. Canopy coverage of sand shinnery oak can be as high as 90% but averages 20% to 30% throughout its range. Biomass production averages 1,000 to 2,200 lbs/acre throughout sand shinnery oak's range [67], although annual production as high as 4,500 lbs (2,000 kg) of air-dry forage/acre has been reported [65].

Leaves, stems, and acorns are highly variable in color, size, shape, and/or texture, and no character is readily associated with another [98]. Stems are rarely larger than 0.8 inch (2 cm) in diameter [58]. Bark becomes rough and scaly with age [49,60]. Leaves are leathery, rippled, entire, alternate, and toothed or lobed. Leaves measure 0.75 to 4 inches (2-10 cm) long and 0.75 to 1.5 inches (2-3.8 cm) wide. Number of lobes or teeth is typically 6 to 10 [34,49,70,95,97]. Male and female catkins occur on the same plant. Male catkins are 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1.5-3.8 cm) long and densely flowered. Pistillate catkins measure 0.1 to 0.3 inch (3-7 mm) long and contain 1 to 5 flowers [60,95,97]. Sand shinnery oak acorns mature in 1 year [19,34]. Acorns occur alone or in clusters of 2 or 3. Acorns are 0.5 to 1 inch (12-25 mm) long by 0.55 to 0.71 inch (14-18 mm) wide. The cups enclose 33% to 66% of the acorn [49,70,95,97].

Belowground description: The sand shinnery oak root and rhizome system is extensive. Nellessen [60] reports that rhizomes range from 1 to 6 inches (3-15 cm) in diameter and are concentrated in the top 20 inches (60 cm) of soil, although 30-foot (9 m) penetration depths are possible. Lateral roots and woody rhizomes are widespread near the soil surface. Taproots extend 15 to 20 feet (4.6-6.1 m) deep [20,52,53]. Taproots with a diameter "equal to that of a man's thigh" are not uncommon [52]. Rhizome length is typically from 4 to 40 inches (10-100 cm) [58].

Ninety percent or more of sand shinnery oak's biomass is under ground, and root grafting is common [66]. The mass of sand shinnery oak roots and rhizomes is typically 10 to 16 times greater than that of the aboveground stems [69]. In a sand shinnery oak community in Cochran and Yoakum counties of Texas, an average of 67% of the total sand shinnery oak biomass was below ground. The root:shoot ratio was 11 for sand shinnery oak shrubs measured in July [80].

Drought adaptations: An extensive root and rhizome network as well as physiological and morphological aboveground adaptations make sand shinnery oak highly drought tolerant. Leaves mitigate water loss through a thick, waxy leaf epidermis [65,69]. Leaves may be dropped or leaf out postponed in adverse conditions. The extensive root system is important for water storage and utilization of available water [65].


Rhizome extension is important in the horizontal spread of sand shinnery oak, but sexual regeneration is episodically important [51]. Muller [58] suggests that although abundant seed is produced, seedling establishment is rare and often restricted to open or disturbed sites. In a review, inadequate moisture conditions for seed germination and seedling establishment are proposed as reasons for poor seedling establishment rather than lack of seed production [65].

Work in western Texas and western Oklahoma suggests that sexual regeneration is rare. Researchers conducting studies in the Llano Estacado area of western Texas found no seedlings in a year-long study of sand shinnery oak communities, and later in the same area no viable acorns were found [20]. In observational studies of sand shinnery oak communities in western Oklahoma, Wiedman [98] encountered no seedlings.

Pollination: Oak (Quercus spp.) flowers are wind pollinated. Catkin morphology aids in successful wind dispersal of pollen [82].

Breeding system: Sand shinnery oak is a monoecious shrub [34], and the existence of hybrids suggests that outcrossing is common. Self compatibility of flowers was not described in current (up to 2006) literature.

Seed production: On average acorn crops are produced in 3 of 10 years [69]. Nellessen [60] reports that although acorn crops are produced in 3 of every 10 years per clone, acorns are likely found within a community each year. Hanson [35] reported that sand shinnery oak produced large quantities of large-sized acorns during his study of northern bobwhites in 1951 and 1952 in northwestern Oklahoma.

Peterson and Boyd [65] report that "heavy local crops occurred somewhere every year," but within a community, acorn crops were not produced more than 2 years in 5 from 1977 to 1997 in New Mexico. If shrubs experience a freeze after flowering, no acorns are produced [69].

Seed dispersal: Small mammals and birds may aid in the dispersal of oak acorns by abandoning caches. American and European jays often cache acorns a few meters apart in open environments and cover them with debris or soil [26].

Seed banking: Sand shinnery oak acorns rarely survive after early January because of heavy predation by insects and other animals [35], suggesting that a seed bank is unlikely. Acorns of the white oak group have little or no dormancy and are capable of germination immediately after falling. It is likely that acorns that survived predation would not persist in the seed bank [9].

Germination: Moisture at the time of seed fall and successful avoidance of predators are necessary for germination of sand shinnery oak acorns [60,69]. Seed viability is lost when acorn moisture levels drop below 30% to 50% [60]. Late July and/or early August moisture is required for successful sand shinnery oak germination [69].

Germinating acorns 1st produce root tissue. The initial root may be 12 inches (30 cm) long before the 1st leaves emerge [69].

Seedling establishment/growth: Sand shinnery oak growth rates above and below ground are often greater with increased moisture. Monitoring the root growth of acorns with approximately 0.8 inch (2 cm) radicle emergence using glass-front growth chambers revealed that growth is more dependent on soil moisture than soil temperature. Just 2 of 15 seedlings survived cool-dry treatments, and root extension stopped after 2 weeks in dry-warm treatments. Regardless of temperature, moist and wet treatments produced root extension rates of 0.080 to 0.094 inch (0.20 to 0.24 cm)/day throughout the 52-day study. Researchers suggest that sand shinnery oak regeneration from acorns is likely restricted to long wet periods [84].

Growth rates of sand shinnery oak in Ellis County, Oklahoma were 1.1 mm/year and in hybrid populations in Harmon County were 0.2 inch (5.2 mm)/year [98]. Sand shinnery oak post oak hybrids in Texas grew at an extremely slow rate. Tree-shrubs over 50 years old were developing a "heart rot like condition," and ring growth was less than 0.2 mm/year. Two growth rings revealed more rapid growth rates that likely coincided with above-average precipitation levels [68].

Asexual regeneration: Sand shinnery oak spreads by rhizome growth and sprouts from rhizomes following aboveground stem damage. Lateral woody rhizomes are capable of sprouting along their entire length [52,53]; however, spread by rhizomes is slow. Studies in Oklahoma showed a spread of just 30 feet (9 m) in 50 years [69]. Sprouting after destruction of aboveground stems is quick. New stem growth is typically visible within 1 to 2 months after removal of or damage to aboveground stems [65]. Shoot regeneration rates of 10 to 20 inches (30-60 cm) per year were reported following aboveground kill or damage [60].

Clone size can be very large. In Yoakum County, Texas, 2 acres (1 ha) contained an average of 15 distinct sand shinnery oak clones. Researchers speculated that vegetative reproduction was important in horizontal spread but was not a substitute for sexual reproduction, which may occur only episodically. Clonal shape was variable. Some were densely clumped and circular, others were long and narrow or meandering, and others were convoluted and fragmented by other clones. Clone size ranged from ~100 to 7,000 m [51]. Clone size in Ward and Wheeler counties of Texas ranged from 10 to 49 feet (3-15 m) in diameter [58]. Sand shinnery oak post oak hybrid clones in Texas were a product of extensive asexual regeneration. Eighty nine tree-shrubs were determined to be a single clone. Sand shinnery oak post oak and sand shinnery oak seedlings were rare in the field [68].

Sandy plains, sand dunes, and sand hills of the southern Great Plains are typical sand shinnery oak habitat [19,34,60]. In southern Utah and adjacent Arizona, sand shinnery oak occurs on sandy sites with blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima), ephedra (Ephedra spp.), purple sage (Salvia dorrii), and/or pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.) [97].

Elevation: Sand shinnery oak occupies relatively low elevation sites.

State/region Elevation (feet)
NM 3,500-4,000 [49]
TX, Trans-Pecos 2,300-3,400 [70]
UT 3,690-7,000 [97]

Soils: Habitats occupied by sand shinnery oak have sandy loam or loamy sand soils. Characteristics of these soils were summarized in a review [65]. Infiltration rates are rapid and pH is neutral or slightly basic. Soils are highly susceptible to erosion and low in organic matter, nitrogen, and phosphorus. A caliche layer more than 3 feet (1 m) below the soil surface is possible. Most sandy soils occupied by sand shinnery oak have a thin clay layer near the surface according to McIlvain [53].

Soils underneath sand shinnery oak shrubs were sampled, analyzed, and compared with soils underneath other vegetation in the Los Medanos area of southeastern New Mexico. Soil samples were taken from 0 to 5.9 inches (0-15 cm) deep. Soil moisture, organic matter, nitrate, and phosphorus were all much lower in the sand shinnery oak-sand sagebrush community type than in the honey mesquite-javelin bush (Condalia ericoides) community type. Average summer soil moisture beneath sand shinnery oak ranged from 2.29% to 2.99% for a 2-year period, and organic matter averaged 0.36%. Below is a summary of the nutrient levels in the soil underneath sand shinnery oak shrubs [81].

Nitrate Ammonium Phosphorus Calcium Magnesium


June July Aug. June July Aug. June July Aug. June July Aug. June July Aug.
0.1 0.1 0.4 0.38 0.36 0.16 0.1 0.1 0.1 18.9 35.1 21.6 1.1 1.4 1.1

Researchers found that the abundance of galls on sand shinnery oak was greatest on sites with the highest salt levels. Shrubs were studied at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Researchers speculated that salt stress may have made sand shinnery oak more susceptible to insect attacks [24].

Climate: Sand shinnery oak occurs in semiarid warm temperate and continental climates. Researchers summarized the climate data for 3 areas where sand shinnery oak is common. The table below provides these data [65].

  NM, Eddy Co. OK, Roger Mills Co. TX, Yoakum Co.
Mean annual precipitation (mm) 316 651 404
Mean date of last frost 31 March 2 April 13 April
Mean date of first frost 7 November 28 October 1 November
Mean January temperature ( C) 6.7 2.7 5.6
Mean July temperature ( C) 27.5 28.2 26.4

Droughts lasting from 2 years to decades are possible in sand shinnery oak habitats. In the northern and southern parts of sand shinnery oak's range, 1 to 2 years and 2 to 3 years, respectively, with precipitation levels of 75% below average are common within a 10-year period [65].

In northwestern Oklahoma, sand shinnery oak rangelands receive an average of 22 inches (560 mm) of precipitation annually, but the range of annual precipitation is 10 to 40 inches (250-1,000 mm). Wind speeds and water evaporation rates are high in this area [54]. In Oklahoma's Black Kettle National Grasslands, where sand shinnery oak dominates some communities, precipitation is variable, with peaks common in May and June, and in August and September [37]. In north-central Yoakum County, Texas, 80% of the annual precipitation is delivered in brief intense storms from May through October [94].

In a review, researchers indicate that sand shinnery oak is tolerant of disturbance, occurs as a very old shrub in late seral communities, but colonizes open sites at a very slow rate. Following top-killing disturbances, sand shinnery oak regeneration is typically quick. In some sand shinnery oak communities, root and rhizome systems are estimated to be hundreds to thousands of years old.

Sand shinnery oak's response to grazing pressure is mixed. Some have labeled sand shinnery oak as an "increaser" on grazed sites, while others have reported no change or a decrease in sand shinnery oak on grazed sites [65].

Sand shinnery oak does not readily colonize open sites. If removed from a site, reinvasion is slow. Old field sites in Oklahoma, abandoned in the early 1900s, were dominated by grasses 50 years later, although sand shinnery oak communities surrounded the sites [53].

Sand shinnery oak buds break in mid-March, and leaves and flowers appear in April and May [49,92]. Flowers appear before the leaves [52]. Acorns are mature by mid-July or September [60]. Shrubs are typically physiologically active until October or late November [92].


SPECIES: Quercus havardii
Fire adaptations: Sand shinnery oak sprouts from rhizomes soon after fire [3,11,53]. In sand shinnery oak communities of northwestern Oklahoma, the density of sand shinnery oak stems increased by approximately 15% in the 1st postfire year, and researchers described the communities as "extremely fire hardy" [54].

Fire regimes: The presettlement fire frequency is estimated at less than 35 years for sand shinnery oak communities. Since the late 1800s, however, fire frequency and fire size have decreased as a result of European settler's farming, grazing, and fire exclusion practices.

Presettlement fire frequency: While some have estimated the presettlement fire return interval for sand shinnery oak communities, fire scar records are unavailable, so the fire regime in sand shinnery oak vegetation is largely unknown [11]. Fire frequency estimates of neighboring southern Great Plains grasslands in areas with rolling topography range from 5 to 10 years. In the Rolling Plains and Edward Plateau regions, vegetation is often fragmented by breaks and rivers, and fires likely burned every 20 to 30 years [99].

Researchers report that Native Americans may have burned sand shinnery oak habitats in western Oklahoma as often as every year [65]. Paysen and others [64] suggest that shinnery, Texas savannah, and pinyon-juniper vegetation types experienced a mixture of understory and stand-replacing fires at intervals of less than 35 years.

Changes since settlement: Repeated fires in grasslands were typical in presettlement times; however, since the late 1800s fire occurrence has declined substantially. Together with successful fire exclusion by settlers, heavy livestock grazing in the Southwest removed much of the fire-carrying fuels and reduced the fire incidence in grasslands [30]. In presettlement times, large grassland fires were typical in drought years that followed 2 or 3 years of above average precipitation. However, since most grassland vegetation occurs in patches between agricultural and private lands today, large fires are more rare [101].

"Recurrent fires were a primary influence on stabilizing grassland or savannah vegetation composition" in the Edwards Plateau region of Texas. Most fires burned in the summer. Warm-season grasses of the Edwards Plateau have completed at least 60% of their annual growth by 1 August. Hot, dry conditions in July and August typically coincide with lightning strikes, making summer fires likely. Tall grasses were overgrazed by the late 1800s,  reducing fine fuels and fire frequency. Shortly thereafter laws were enacted that successfully excluded fire from the landscape. In the late 1990s, landowners formed the Edwards Plateau Prescribed Burning Association (EPPBA). The EPPBA has restored fire to parts of the Edwards Plateau. The EPPBA provides members with fire safety training, a pool of necessary equipment, and an educated labor force. Prescription fires set by the EPPBA burn mostly in the summer to mimic the area's natural fire regime. Since the founding of the association they have burned approximately 40,000 acres (20,000 ha) [88].

The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where sand shinnery oak is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.

Community or ecosystem Dominant species Fire return interval range (years)
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [45,64]
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. <35 [64,100]
blackbrush Coleogyne ramosissima <35 to <100 
juniper-oak savanna Juniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana <35 
Ashe juniper Juniperus ashei <35 
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum <35
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. <35 [64]
mesquite Prosopis glandulosa <35 to <100 [55,64]
Texas savanna Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa <10 
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest) Quercus-Juniperus spp. <35 to <200 [64]
oak savanna Quercus macrocarpa/Andropogon gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium 2-14 [64,96]
shinnery Quercus mohriana <35 
little bluestem-grama prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp. <35 [64]

Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Quercus havardii
Sand shinnery oak is top-killed by fire. Fall, winter, and spring prescription fires top-killed nearly 100% of sand shinnery oak in western Oklahoma [11].

No additional information is available on this topic.

Sand shinnery oak sprouts vigorously from rhizomes following fire [3,52,53]. Postfire sprouting is quick. In a review, Peterson and Boyd [65] report that new aboveground stem growth is visible within 1 to 2 months after top-kill or aboveground damage. Immediately following fire, sand shinnery oak is reduced in size, but burned stands are normally "thicker" than unburned stands due to postfire sprouting [53]. Shrubs can reach 3 to 4 feet (0.9-1 m) tall by the 2nd or 3rd postfire year [52]. In northwestern Oklahoma, sand shinnery oak stem density increased by approximately 15% in the 1st postfire year, and researchers described the communities as "extremely fire hardy" [54].

Few studies report pre- and postfire or burned and unburned sand shinnery oak abundance. Based on the very few studies, the following generalizations can be made: reductions in sand shinnery oak coverage are typical in early postfire communities, density and frequency may increase following fire, and as time since fire increases so does sand shinnery oak coverage. To date (2006), just 1 study reports sand shinnery oak recovery following spring, fall, and winter fires. Without more studies, the above generalizations are indeed fallible.

In Kent County, Texas, sand shinnery oak coverage decreased following a fire on 11 March. Fire characteristics were not provided. The prefire coverage of sand shinnery oak was 95%; coverage the 1st and 2nd postfire years was 63.3% and 66.9%, respectively [85].

In sand shinnery oak-dominated areas of the Black Kettle National Grassland in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma, sand shinnery oak stem density increased on spring- ( April), fall- (October), and winter- (February) burned sites, but flower and acorn production were typically lower on burned than unburned sites. Sites had not burned for at least 10 years. Sand shinnery oak leaf litter was approximately 3 inches (8 cm) deep before the prescribed fires. Strip headfires were set when relative humidity was below 20%, air temperature was below 84 F (29 C), and surface wind speed was under 9.9 miles/hour (16 km/hr). The burning conditions and fire behavior characteristics are summarized below for the fall, winter, and spring fires [11,13].

  Fall Winter  Spring
Burn date 1-24 October 27 January-5 February 28 April-1 May
Air temperature ( C) 16-30 -1-16 18-29
Relative humidity (%) 21-50 24-72 20-59
Wind speed (km/hr) at 2 m above ground 6-11 5-16 3-16
1-hour live fuel (kg/m);  fuel moisture (%) 0.14; 66.6 0 0.013; 34.6
1-hour dead fuel (kg/m);  fuel moisture (%) 1.08; 17 1.3; 18.9 1.3; 14.7
10-hour dead fuel (kg/m);  fuel moisture (%) 0.15; 27.4 0.09; 34.3 0.08; 21.3
Flame depth (m) 1.3 2.8 2.4
Rate of spread (m/sec) 0.2 0.22 0.27
Fireline intensity (kW/m) 2,988 2,562 4,335
Heat per unit area (kJ/m) 15,924 11,966 16,132
Fuel consumption (kg/m) 0.94 0.70 0.95
Reaction intensity (kW/m) 1,939 974 1,680

Fires top-killed nearly 100% of sand shinnery oak on all burned plots. Four months following spring fires oak sprouts were 10 to 20 inches (30-40 cm) tall. Sand shinnery oak stem density was greater on burned plots, and increases were greatest on winter- and spring-burned sites. Sand shinnery oak coverage and height decreased following all seasons of burns, and decreases were greatest on spring-burned sites. As time since fire increased, however, so did sand shinnery oak coverage. Sand shinnery oak coverage was 55.6% on control sites and 49.5% , 45.1% , and 29.1% on winter-, fall-, and spring-burned sites in the 1st postfire growing season, respectively. Average sand shinnery oak coverage was 36.4% for all seasons in the 1st postfire year and 52.0% in the 2nd postfire year [11,13].

Spring fires occurred when sand shinnery oak leaf expansion was approximately 50% and underground carbohydrate storage was greatest. There was a significant (p<0.05) correlation between sand shinnery oak postfire growth and postfire soil phosphorus levels. Researchers suggested that phosphorous may promote growth and/or sprouting. Average sand shinnery oak density and height on spring-, fall-, winter-, and twice-burned sites are provided below for the 1st and 2nd postfire growing seasons [11,13].


Stem density (stems/m)

Canopy height (cm)

1st postfire growing season
Control 22.3 66.5
Fall 49.5 42.0
Winter 39.5 44.3
Spring 37.5 38.3
Twice-burned sites 38.7 39.6
2nd postfire growing season
Control 17.8  
Fall 42.3 46.2*
Winter 36.9
Spring 34.2
*Average height in 2nd postfire growing season for all fire seasons.

In the 1st postfire summer, no catkins or acorns were produced on burned sites. In the 2nd postfire growing season, however, the greatest density of acorns was produced on fall-burned plots. The density of catkins and acorns was lowest on spring-burned plots. Density of catkins and acorns on burned and unburned sites is summarized below [10]. For information on the nutritional quality of buds and catkins on burned and unburned sites see Palatability/nutritional value.

  Catkin density
Mast density
(no. of acorns/m)
Unburned 517.4 8.0
Fall burned 249.4 11.5
Winter burned 290.2 5.8
Spring burned 13.6 0.1

In the same area, the effect of fire on sand shinnery oak was monitored for 2 growing seasons after 2 consecutive spring fires and for 4 growing seasons following a single spring fire. Frequency of sand shinnery oak was relatively the same on unburned and burned sites evaluated 1, 2, and 4 growing seasons after a single spring fire. The percent frequency of shinnery oak was 96% on unburned plots, and 94%, 98%, and 96% on burned sites visited in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th postfire growing seasons, respectively. Sand shinnery oak was the dominant shrub on all plots. Shrub coverage (dominated by sand shinnery oak, but including sand sagebrush, fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), sand plum (Prunus spp.), soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca), netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulata), leadplant (Amorpha canescens), wait-a-minute (Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera), and/or honey mesquite) on unburned sites was 51%. Shrub coverage was significantly less (p<0.01), 38%, in the 1st postfire growing season. On 2- and 4-year-old burned sites, shrub coverage was 56%. On twice-burned sites, coverage of shrubs was 53% in the 1st postfire growing season and 71% in the 2nd postfire growing season. Researchers noted that 4 growing seasons were required for litter coverage to equal that of prefire levels [37].

The importance of sand shinnery oak catkins and acorns in lesser prairie-chicken diets may affect the fire management of sand shinnery oak habitats [18,76], because neither catkins nor acorns are not produced in the 1st postfire year [10,54].


SPECIES: Quercus havardii
Diverse wildlife species utilize sand shinnery oak habitats for cover and food. Collared peccaries, lesser prairie-chickens, northern bobwhites, and other wildlife species eat sand shinnery oak acorns [19,65,70,95]. Deer, pronghorn, and southern plains woodrats browse sand shinnery oak [60]. In a review, Peterson and Boyd [65] report that black-tailed jackrabbits, desert cottontails, eastern cottontails, wild turkeys, western box turtles, a diversity of arthropods, approximately 25 snake species, and approximately 10 lizard species utilize sand shinnery oak habitats. Scaled quail and northern bobwhites use sand shinnery oak habitats extensively, and sand shinnery oak habitats are considered "the principal home for white-tailed deer in the southern Great Plains" [65].

Livestock: Sand shinnery oak is poisonous to horses, domestic sheep, goats, and cattle. Tannic acid is considered the poisoning agent, but other compounds may contribute [1]. Cattle consuming high levels of sand shinnery oak develop rumen ulceration and eventually suffer liver and kidney failure. Domestic goats tolerate a diet with more sand shinnery oak than cows; however, a diet of just sand shinnery oak kills goats [69]. Livestock poisoning is most common in the spring when sand shinnery oak buds and immature leaves are consumed readily and other food is scarce. Without treatment livestock death rates can be as high as 85%. Removing livestock from sand shinnery oak-dominated sites or providing additional feed may reduce the chance of poisoning [1]. For additional information on tips for avoidance and symptoms of poisoning, see James and others [41].

When oak species make up greater than 50% of the forage, livestock poisoning may occur. If diets exceed 75% sand shinnery oak, animals may die [36]. The 50% and 75% consumption estimates, however, are based on consumption of plants with 2% to 6% tannin concentrations. Early in the spring tannin levels can be as high as 18% to 20%, meaning that consumption levels much lower than 50% could cause illness or death [92]. For additional information on stocking rates and rotational grazing patterns that may decrease the chances of poisoning in sand shinnery oak habitats, see Peterson and Boyd [65].

Cattle may be poisoned by consuming sand shinnery oak. Sand shinnery oak is most toxic in the spring growing season [56] and if consumed without other forage [57]. Poisoned cattle initially excrete dark, dry feces with mucus and blood and have a decreased appetite. Without supplemental feeding or treatment, cattle have bloody diarrhea, urinate frequently, and drink water excessively. A rough coat, dry muzzle, and reddish urine are typical in the late stages of poisoning. Nursing calves may be the most susceptible. Tannins consumed by the mother concentrate in the milk. Sand shinnery oak poisoning is considered a "symptom of overstocking and poor range condition" [92].

Cattle browse high levels of sand shinnery oak when other forage is unavailable, during drought conditions, or in heavily grazed areas. Researchers suggest that animals should be kept off oak-dominated ranges until foliage is at least 30 days old [36]. In sandhills communities in the Texas panhandle, researchers found that sand shinnery oak made up 15.3% of spring, 16.2% of summer, and 23.8% of fall cattle diets. Diet was determined through fecal analysis and observations. Sand shinnery oak abundance rather than preference was responsible for cattle consumption levels [77].

Domestic goats: Angora and Spanish goats browse sand shinnery oak extensively without suffering the poisoning described above. Sand shinnery oak made up 31.7%, 45.0%, and 55.1% of Angora and Spanish goat diets in June, July, and August, respectively. Goats were in north-central Yoakum County, Texas, where sand shinnery oak made up 80% of the available forage. Tannin content did not change much from June to September and averaged 36.7 mg/g in leaves and 37.6 mg/g in stems [93,94]. A review reports that domestic goats that continually browse sand shinnery oak lose weight [60].

Sheep: In the Palo Duri Canyon of Texas, fecal samples were collected for approximately 2 years. Researchers found that sand shinnery oak made up 31.0% of the relative density of Barbary sheep diets. Diets of mule deer and Barbary sheep in the area had a high degree of overlap [44]. Peterson and Boyd [65] speculate that this study may have mistaken sand shinnery oak for Mohr oak.

Native animals: Native ungulates, small mammals, birds, insects, and lizards utilize sand shinnery oak habitats and/or consume sand shinnery oak.

Pronghorn: Spring, summer, fall, and winter pronghorn diets were 7.8%, 20.8%, 21.4%, and 3.6% sand shinnery oak in sandhill communities of the Texas panhandle. Pronghorn diets had a high degree of overlap with cattle in the same area in the summer and fall months [77].

Deer: Sand shinnery oak is important deer browse. In the Palo Duri Canyon of Texas, fecal samples were collected for approximately 2 years. Researchers found that sand shinnery oak made up 37.2% of the relative density of mule deer diets. Armstrong [3] reports that the occurrence of heavily browsed plants in July and August indicates overutilized white-tailed deer range.

Lesser prairie-chickens: Sand shinnery oak is important in lesser prairie-chicken habitats and diets. Lesser prairie-chickens are candidates for listing as threatened or endangered throughout their range. For more on the lesser prairie-chicken and its current status, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Sand shinnery oak was a major component of the lesser prairie-chicken's spring and summer diets in the Mescalero Sands of eastern New Mexico. Based on a 2-year study, lesser prairie chicken diets were 15.2% sand shinnery oak acorns, 31.8% catkins, and 2.1% leaves in the spring (March-May) and 21.2% acorns and 0.2% leaves in the summer (Jan-April). In the study area, sand shinnery oak made up 29.1% to 48.8% of the vegetation composition [18]. In Chaves County, New Mexico, sand shinnery oak acorns comprised 17% to 61% of fall diets and 69% of winter diets. Sand shinnery oak insect galls made up 5% of winter and 14% of fall diets based on crops collected over a 2-year period. Researchers indicated that sand shinnery oak is the most heavily utilized year-round food source for lesser prairie-chickens [74].

In Cochran County, Texas, 90 lesser prairie-chicken crops were collected and analyzed over a period of 3 years. The frequency of sand shinnery oak leaves, acorns, and galls were 8.0%, 15.9%, and 39.7%, respectively. Percentage of sand shinnery oak leaves, acorns, and galls by volume were 0.3%, 5.0%, and 15.3%, respectively [15]. The percentage of lesser prairie-chicken body fat was significantly (p<0.05) greater on untreated than on herbicide (tebuthiuron)-treated sites in Cochran and Yoakum counties of Texas and Lea and Roosevelt counties of New Mexico. Treated sites had significantly less (p<0.01) sand shinnery oak based on basal composition percentages than untreated sites [61].

Lesser prairie-chicken populations in sand shinnery oak communities in New Mexico and Oklahoma's Sutton Avian Research Centers utilized sites with increased coverage and density of shrubs. Survivorship of the lesser prairie-chicken was greater when sites had over 20% shrub cover than when sites had less shrub cover. Sand shinnery oak dominated the shrub layer in New Mexico, but its importance decreased in Oklahoma [63]. In Cochran and Yoakum counties of Texas, fewer lesser prairie-chicken nests were located in herbicide-treated than in untreated sand shinnery oak sites. Of 10 nesting females, 8 nested in untreated sites, and 2 nested in treated sites. Researchers indicated that sand shinnery oak stems and foliage provided important vertical screening cover for nests [38]. However, in high plains bluestem vegetation in southeastern New Mexico nests were more successful when tall grasses provided the principal nest cover. Of the 4 nests with sand shinnery oak as the principal cover, none were successful (hatched at least 1 young) [75].

Other birds: Hawks, mourning doves, and scaled quail occupy sand shinnery oak habitats. Harris' and Swainson's hawks utilize sand shinnery oak shrublands of southeastern New Mexico [4,5]. Mourning doves occupy sand shinnery oak habitats in southeastern New Mexico [7]. Sand shinnery oak habitats in northwestern Oklahoma supported 0.035 mourning dove breeding pairs, and ground nesting success was 33% based on data collected for a single nesting season [25]. In southeastern New Mexico, sand shinnery oak was 2.6% of the average volume of foods in 50 scaled quail crops collected in 1971. Crops collected in 1970, 1972, and 1973 did not contain sand shinnery oak. Sand shinnery oak was abundant in part of the study area, but abundance values were not reported [17]. The crops of northern bobwhites harvested from sand shinnery oak habitats in northwestern Oklahoma contained 10.9% sand shinnery oak by volume [35].

Small mammals: Sand shinnery oak communities provide important habitat and cover and an occasional food source for a variety of small mammals. The following rodents were trapped in sand shinnery oak-dominated sites of Yoakum County, Texas: Ord's kangaroo rat, plains pocket, hispid pocket mouse, deer mouse, western harvest mouse, plains harvest mouse, northern grasshopper mouse, hispid cotton rat, southern plains woodrat, house mouse, and spotted ground squirrel [14]. Based on stomach content analyses, a single Ord's kangaroo rat consumed sand shinnery oak. Sand shinnery oak was not recovered from northern grasshopper mouse, southern plains woodrat, or spotted ground squirrel stomachs. All trappings occurred in sand shinnery oak-mesquite grasslands of southeastern New Mexico from March 1978 to December 1979 [8]. Ringtails are also common in sand shinnery oak communities [86].

Herptiles: Snell (personal communication in [79]) indicates that dune lizard populations declined by 70% to 94% in New Mexico when sand shinnery oak was removed.

Insects: Weevils, caterpillars, and grasshoppers utilize sand shinnery oak as a food source or as habitat. Likely the diversity of insects utilizing sand shinnery oak is greater than current research suggests. A puss caterpillar of Oklahoma feeds extensively on sand shinnery oak. Tannins of the leaves are used in their venomous hairs or spines [47]. Sand shinnery oak is a primary component of spotted bird grasshopper diets in New Mexico. Levels of grasshopper herbivory were greatest on plots where sand shinnery oak had the fewest galls [24]. Boll weevils overwinter in sand shinnery oak litter, which is considered prime overwintering habitat [85].

Palatability/nutritional value: In western Oklahoma, researchers evaluated the nutritional quality of sand shinnery oak leaf buds and catkins on unburned, ungrazed, grazed, and fall-, winter-, and spring-burned sites. Values were reported for the 2nd postfire year, and ungrazed sites were free of cattle for a single growing season. Nutritional quality of buds and catkins on burned, unburned, grazed, and ungrazed sites were similar. The percentage of phenolics was greater on burned and grazed than unburned and ungrazed sites. Comparisons of catkin nutrition were not made on grazed and ungrazed sites because catkins were too few on grazed sites. The nutritional quality of buds and catkins on burned and unburned sites is summarized below [12].

  Crude protein (%) Phenolics (%) Acid-detergent fiber (%) Ash (%)
Unburned 22.4 16.1 23.5 4.6
Fall burned 23.2 18.1 20.9 4.3
Winter burned 22.9 15.3 22.5 4.1
Spring burned 24.1 18.6 22.6 4.2
Unburned 20.7 12.2 18.2 4.4
Fall burned 21.1 15.2 18.9 4.3
Winter burned 21.5 15.0 18.2 4.2
Spring burned 21.7 15.1 21.2 3.9

Cover value: The importance of sand shinnery oak as cover and in the habitats of wildlife species has been integrated into the above sections. For additional information on the importance of sand shinnery oak in wildlife habitats, see the species group of interest within Importance to Livestock and Wildlife.

Sand shinnery oak's extensive root and rhizome system is valuable as a soil stabilizer on sandy sites [60]. However, ease of establishment of this species in restoration or revegetation projects is unknown.

Acorns were likely consumed by native people in the southern Plains. Presence of sand shinnery oak may have also indicated productive hunting areas.

Wildlife-livestock management: Sand shinnery oak habitats are likely candidates for wildlife-livestock management conflicts. Boll weevil pests overwinter in sand shinnery oak litter [85], and cattle may be poisoned by sand shinnery oak [92]. Many have attempted to control sand shinnery oak to lessen the success of boll weevils, increase available livestock forage, and reduce livestock poisoning risks [27,39,85]. However, sand shinnery oak provides important habitat and food for a variety of wildlife and plant species [65], some of which are endangered as of this writing (2006). The Texas poppymallow (Callirhoe scabriuscula) and aplomado falcon occur in sand shinnery oak habitats and are federally endangered. The Texas horned lizard that occurs in sand shinnery oak habitats is threatened in Texas [21], and the lesser prairie-chicken that is highly dependent on sand shinnery oak is a candidate for listing. See U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NatureServe, and/or Texas Parks and Wildlife databases for more information on the current status of these species.

Competition/allelopathy: Studies found that extracts of sand shinnery oak leaves significantly (p<0.05) suppressed the initial root elongation of 'Ermelo' weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula) seeds. Germination percentage and shoot elongation of seeds kept moist with sand shinnery oak leaf extracts were not reduced. Weeping lovegrass seed produced roots that were 1.2 inches (31 mm) in distilled water, but roots were 0.08 inch (2 mm) long in sand shinnery oak extracts [50].

Control: The following references include information on a variety of control methods and may prove useful in the quest for additional information [27,39,42,65,85]. Herbel and others [39] provide information on the timing of sand shinnery oak control. They do not recommend complete eradication of sand shinnery oak and indicate that forage production is typically greater if some sand shinnery oak remains in the community. Peterson and Boyd [65] present information on stocking rates and rotational grazing patterns that may reduce the incidence of sand shinnery oak poisoning of cattle.

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