Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Salix alaxensis


SPECIES: Salix alaxensis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Uchytil, Ronald J. 1991. Salix alaxensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : SALALA SYNONYMS : Salix longistylis Rydb. Salix alaxensis ssp. longistylis (Rydb.) Hult. SCS PLANT CODE : SAAL SAALL COMMON NAMES : Alaska willow feltleaf willow felt-leaved willow TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of Alaska willow is Salix alaxensis (Andersson) Coville [3,6]. Two varieties, based on geographical and ecological separation, are currently recognized: var. alaxensis - occurs in the arctic, and in lower latitude alpine and subalpine environments var. longistylis (Rydb.) Schneid - occurs in boreal regions at lower elevations; its range does not extend to the Arctic LIFE FORM : Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Salix alaxensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Alaska willow occurs throughout Alaska but is absent from most of the Alleutian Islands, some Bearing Sea islands, and southeastern Alaska south of Glacier Bay [3]. It does not occur in the contiguous United States. It is distributed throughout northwestern Canada from the northwest side of Hudson Bay west to the northern Yukon Territory and south to central British Columbia [6,24]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES44 Alpine STATES : AK AB BC NT PQ YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K015 Western spruce - fir forest K052 Alpine meadows and barren SAF COVER TYPES : 201 White spruce 202 White spruce - paper birch 203 Balsam poplar 204 Black spruce 206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir 251 White spruce - aspen SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Alaska willow dominates early seral willow communities along the banks of rivers and streams. These short-lived communities are common and widespread throughout Alaska [17,37]. Published classifications describing Alaska willow community types are presented below: Area Classification Authority AK general veg. cts Viereck & Dyrness 1980 nw AK general veg. cts Hanson 1953


SPECIES: Salix alaxensis
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Alaska willow is often the only wood available for fuel in parts of northern Alaska [44]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Alaska willow is an extremely important moose browse. When browsing, moose often pull down and break Alaska willow branches and trunks up to 1.5 inches (4 cm) in diameter [44]. A study on the north slope of Alaska indicated that moose browsing of Alaska willow thickets was intense, with up to 90 percent of available twigs eaten every winter. In some areas of the north slope, it provided over 95 percent of winter moose browse [9]. In Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska willow accounted for 44 percent of all biomass consumed by moose in winter [35]. Willows (Salix spp.) in general are a preferred food and building material of beaver [2]. Willow shoots, catkins, leaves, and buds are eaten by numerous small mammals and birds [16]. Alaska willow is browsed by snowshoe hare, sometimes quite heavily [46]. PALATABILITY : Alaska willow is highly palatable to moose. Moose prefer it over tall blueberry willow (Salix novae-angliae), Park willow (S. monticola), tealeaf willow (S. planifolia ssp. pulchra), littletree willow (S. arbusculoides), highbush cranberry (Viburnum edule), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), and aspen (P. tremuloides); but it is less palatable than sandbar willow (Salix interior) [32,47]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Alaska willow stems have relatively high moisture, protein, and caloric contents [32]. Stems collected in March from the interior of Alaska, had the following nutritional values [30]: (percent by dry weight) protein ether extract crude fiber nitrogen free extract 7.0 2.7 33.6 54.5 Nutritional data from an analysis of Alaska willow collected between January and April in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, are presented below [36]: cell wall gross energy % in vitro digestible crude protein constituents (Kcal/gram) organic matter (% dry matter) (% dry matter) 5.14 38.8 7.1 57.6 acid detergent fiber lignin ash ether extract (% dry matter) (% dry matter) (% dry matter) (% dry matter) 43.6 16.6 2.0 7.7 COVER VALUE : Alaska willow forms thickets which presumably provide cover for wildlife. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Within its range, Alaska willow is recommended for wildlife habitat restoration, streambank protection, and reclamation of sites disturbed by mining and construction. Alaska willow cuttings successfully established on sites disturbed by pipeline construction in Alaska [9] and in the Northwest Territories [27]. The Alaska Plant Materials Center released the cultivar 'Rhode' for this project in 1985 [48]. Three general methods of planting Alaska willow on disturbed sites in Alaska are: (1) planting cuttings [9,10,18,27,33], (2) transplanting containerized rooted cuttings or seedlings [8,48], and (3) planting bundles of dormant branches [48]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : All willows produce salacin, which is closely related chemically to aspirin. Native Americans used various preparations from willows to treat tooth ache, stomache ache, diarrhea, dysentery, and dandruff [29]. Native Americans also used flexible willow stems for making baskets, bows, arrows, scoops, and fish traps [21]. Hulten [19] reported that native peoples of Alaska ate the inner bark of Alaska willow. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Salix alaxensis
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Alaska willow is a deciduous shrub or small tree reaching heights of 20 to 30 feet (6-9 m) and stem diameters of 4 to 7 inches (10-18 cm) [44]. In exposed high arctic and alpine sites it may assume a low, semiprostrate growth form [6]. The bark is gray and smooth but becomes rough and furrowed into scaly plates with age [44]. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants in 2- to 4-inch-long (5-10 cm) erect catkins [3]. The fruit is two-valved capsule. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Alaska willow's primary mode of reproduction is sexual. It produces an abundance of small, light-weight seeds. Like most willows, it probably begins seed production at an early age (between 2 and 10 years) [16]. At maturity, the fruit splits open, releasing the seed. Each seed has a cottony down that aids in dispersal by wind and water. The seeds are dispersed during the growing season. They remain viable for only about 1 week without moisture. Viable seeds will germinate within 24 hours of dispersal on moist seedbeds [11]. In germination tests, 94 to 97 percent of the seeds germinated within 1 to 3 days at temperatures between 50 and 77 degrees F (10-25 deg C) [52]. Seedlings are common on freshly deposited river alluvium [5,37,42]. Silty soil tends to be a good germination medium because it usually remains moist; however, sandy soils is a poor germination medium because it tend to be dry [22]. Forest litter prevents Alaska willow germination and establishment [46]. Seedlings readily establish on disturbed forested sites where mineral soil is exposed. Vegetative reproduction: Alaska willow sprouts from the rootcrown or stem base if aboveground stems are broken or destroyed by cutting, flooding, or fire [22]. Detached stem fragments quickly form adventitious roots if kept moist. Thus, Alaska willow stem fragments transported by floodwaters develop into new plants when deposited on riverbars [10]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Alaska willow is shade-intolerant and usually found in open or semi-open habitats such as stream and riverbanks, lakeshores, alpine slopes and meadows or less frequently in forest openings [3,6,17]. It is relatively common in open white spruce (Picea glauca) forests, but is otherwise restricted to forest openings in more dense forests [36,40]. Associates: Alaska willow often mixes with other willows, including Bebb willow (S. bebbiana), grayleaf willow (S. glauca), Sitka willow (S. sitchensis), Pacific willow (S. lasiandra), barren-ground willow (S. brachycarpa), halberd willow (S. hastata), littletree willow, and tealeaf willow [1,3,12,37]. Alders (Alnus spp.) and cottonwoods and poplars (Populus spp.) are also commonly associated with Alaska willow. Common herbaceous associates include horsetails (Equisetum spp.) and bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis) [1,17,37]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Alaska willow is an early seral species. Abundant wind-dispersed seed and rapid seed germination allow it to quickly colonize moist disturbed sites. It is one of the first species to colonize newly formed silt bars following flooding, where it quickly forms thickets [42]. It also pioneers recently deglaciated sites [1]. Alaska willow communities are usually short-lived. Thinleaf alder (Alnus incana ssp. tenuifolia) often establishes within 5 years of initial Alaska willow colonization [42]. Balsam poplar often establishes with or shortly after the alder, and 20 to 30 years after Alaska willow first colonized the site, the poplars begin to overtop the brushy canopy and dominate. By this stage in succession, overstory shade has eliminated most Alaska willow plants, but some may persist as scattered individuals [42]. In riverbank communities of the Tanana River, near Fairbanks, the oldest Alaska willow was 48 years old and found in the balsam poplar stage of succession [46]. As the river terrace builds up, these sites eventually become climax white spruce forests. In northern Alaska, pioneer Alaska willow communities on river alluvium are also short-lived. They are replaced by low-statured willows and dwarf shrubs which form dwarf heath meadow communities [5,9]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Alaska willow catkins appear in the spring before the leaves. In Alaska, flowering generally occurs in May and June, and seeds generally mature in June and July [44]. Seeds are dispersed shortly after ripening. In general, seeds are dispersed later as latitude and elevation increase [11]. Dispersal often coincides with receding spring floodwaters, when newly exposed mineral soil seedbeds are moist [46].


SPECIES: Salix alaxensis
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Alaska willow is a fire-adapted species. Most plants sprout from the root crown following top-kill by fire [31,47]. Viereck and Schandelmeier [45] reported that even old, decadent willows produce sprouts prolifically immediately after fire. The sprouting ability of willows is apparently more vigorous and prolific than that of birches (Betula spp.) or alders (Alnus spp.) [45]. Alaska willow's abundant, wind-dispersed seed is important in colonizing burned areas. Seed is dispersed in the summer and remains viable for only about 1 week; thus the season of a fire often determines if Alaska willow can establish during the first or subsequent postfire years [41,45]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex off-site colonizer; seed carried by wind; postfire years 1 and 2 off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2


SPECIES: Salix alaxensis
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Alaska willow is sometimes present as scattered individuals in white or black spruce (Picea mariana) forests. Severe fires in these vegetation types can kill willows by completely removing soil organic layers and charring the roots [49]. Less severe fires only top-kill plants. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Alaska willow sprouts from the root crown following most fires. Sprouts develop more rapidly than seedlings and probably reach heights over 20 inches (50 cm) after the first growing season [47]. Alaska willow was common on 11- to 19-year-old burns in bottomland black and white spruce sites in interior Alaska [47]. One 11-year-old burn had about 4,700 Alaska, grayleaf, and tealeaf willow stems per acre (11,600 /ha) with lesser amounts of spruce and poplar. Alaska willow's density probably increases or remains constant for up to 30 years after a forest fire, but thereafter declines as young trees overtop it [14,31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Fire severity affects the mode of Alaska willow postfire recovery. Following light fires most willows recover quickly, sending up new shoots from undamaged root crowns. Few if any seedlings establish following this type of burn because organic soil layers are only partially consumed and prevent seedling establishment. Following severe fires, however, the primary mode of recovery is seedling establishment. Severe fires that burn deep into organic soils kill willows but expose mineral soils, which provide excellent seedbeds. Following experimental burning on black spruce/feather moss sites in interior Alaska, artificially sown Alaska willow seeds germinated only on plots where fire removed all of the organic matter [51]. On these plots, 181 seedlings (out of 400 germinants) survived three growing seasons, but no seedlings were found on plots where burning only partially removed organic soil layers. For information on prescribed fire and postfire responses of many plant species, including Alaska willow, see these Research Project Summaries: FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Salix alaxensis
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