|Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin State Herbarium and Kitty Kohout.|
Western snowberry is a stiffly erect and freely branching shrub [35,79,144] that grows from 1 to 5 feet (0.3-1.5 m) tall [23,35,60,71,78,79,100,144,167] and commonly forms dense, low thickets [79,144]. When young, the branches are minutely hairy [60,71,100,167]. As shrubs mature, bark forms on the branches that becomes shreddy with age [144,147,159]. Leaves are deciduous, 0.8 to 3 inches (2-8 cm) long, and 0.6 to 2.2 inches (1-5.5 cm) wide [23,60,71,79,144,147,159,166,167]. Juvenile shoots sometimes produce larger leaves that are 4 inches (10 cm) long and 3 inches (8 cm) wide . Flowers, born in racemes [35,79,167], occur in dense clusters of 2 to 10 at the end of branches and in the axils of leaves [60,71,100,117,144,165,166]. The fruits of western snowberry occur in crowded clusters and are berrylike drupes that each contain 2 nutlets [117,144]. Fruits are 6 to 9 millimeters in diameter, approximately 2.5 to 3.5 millimeters long, and 1.5 to 2.5 millimeters wide [35,60,71,79]
Colonies: Western snowberry forms dense colonies along ditches, streams, and floodplains; and in moist, open, grassy swales on mesas and plains [35,56,58,60,71,159,165,166,167]. Colonies range from 3 to 700 feet (1-200 m) or greater in diameter [25,83,117,122].
Rhizomes: Pelton  provides a detailed description of western snowberry rhizomes in 2 colonies in Minnesota. Western snowberry rhizomes tend to be very long and sparsely branched, and typically grow to a depth of 14 inches (35 cm). A rhizome from a 4-year-old plant at the periphery of a western snowberry colony measured 30 inches (80 cm) long, and roots from the rhizomes extended 5.09 feet (1.55 m) belowground. New sprouts from rhizomes develop in spring at approximately the same time shoots develop on older stems. In the first year of growth, new sprouts commonly attain the same height of mature stems and sometimes produce "abundant" fruit. Rhizome sprouts are generally reproductively mature for several years before the rhizome connection with the parent plant severs or decays. Rhizomes in the interior of one colony were approximately 20 years old .RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Pollination: Western snowberry is generally insect-pollinated [59,117]. However, self-pollination may take place when pollen falls on stigmas from horizontal or pendulous flowers .
Breeding system: Western snowberry has perfect flowers [144,147].
Seed production: There is little information on seed production of western snowberry. Near Minneapolis, Minnesota, mean fruit production of western snowberry increased with size and age .
|Mean number of western snowberry fruits/stem in relation to stem height, diameter, and age |
|Measurement||Size or age class||Total # of stems||Mean # of fruits|
Seed dispersal: Western snowberry seeds are dispersed primarily by small mammals and birds [103,117,149], though wind and water may play a small part in their dispersal. In a feeding trial, 10.7% of 150 western snowberry nutlets passed through the digestive tract of domestic chickens intact and viable. Western snowberry nutlets will float in water for approximately 48 hours before sinking .
Seed banking: Little information is available on western snowberry seed banking. Pelton  claims that western snowberry utilizes a seed bank "limitedly". The fruit of western snowberry can remain on the plant for a year or more .
Germination: Western snowberry has embryo dormancy, requiring an afterripening period for adequate germination . Warm stratification at room temperature for 3 to 4 months followed by cold stratification at 41 °F (5 °C) for 4 to 6 months increases germination [72,117]. Pelton  notes that western snowberry seeds likely require more than 1 summer and winter in the soil to break dormancy.
Western snowberry seeds appear to favor cool season germination. Western snowberry seed germination rates under constant and alternating temperatures are presented below. In the alternating temperature experiment, the western snowberry seeds were exposed to the high temperature for 8 out of each 24 hours.
Percent germination of western snowberry seeds under alternating and constant temperatures 
|Alternating temperatures (°C)||-5/5||-5/10||5/10||5/15||5/20||10/15||10/20||10/25||15/20||15/25|
|Constant temperatures (°C)||5||10||15||20||25|
Seedling establishment/growth: Western snowberry rarely establishes by seedlings [24,117,122]. In Minnesota, western snowberry seedlings growing in "poor" soil reached a height of 4 inches (9 cm) by the end of the first growing season. During the same time period, seedlings grown in "rich" potting loam reached a height of 18 inches (45 cm). While the seedlings in the potting loam grew "vigorously", they did not produce rhizomes or flowers during the first growing season . In a review by Moles and Westoby , the cause of western snowberry seedling mortality during 1 growing season in a grazed pasture in Minnesota was discussed. Major mortality agents included fungal attack (18.9%), herbivory (32.8%), and drought (29.9%).
Vegetative regeneration: Western snowberry regenerates vegetatively by rhizomes [1,35,60,79,147,151,159]. It can be propagated by stem and root cuttings  and will sprout following mowing or cutting . Research on other sprouting species indicates that development of new shoots on shrubs is controlled by apical dominance. The death of apical buds removes the hormonal control of lateral buds on rhizomes .SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Climate: Western snowberry occurs in continental-type climates characterized by extreme temperature ranges and light to moderate precipitation [32,117]. Western snowberry is adapted to survive moderate drought conditions [163,164].
Extensive climatic data are available for the aspen parklands of central Canada  and the prairie province mixed grasslands [31,32,34] where western snowberry is common.
Elevation: The elevational range of western snowberry by state or province is presented below.
|Elevation range of western snowberry|
|New Mexico||5,000-8,500 |
|North Dakota||800-1,800 |
|South Dakota||4,125-7,000 [21,115]|
Grasslands: Western snowberry is a common shrub component in mixed-grass prairies. In a mixed-grass prairie in The Gap Community Pasture near Regina, Saskatchewan, density of western snowberry was significantly (P<0.05) lower in plots with "low" water availability than in plots with "normal" to "high" water availability .
Invasive species: In Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the effect of leafy spurge on species richness was estimated in floodplain communities where western snowberry is an indicator species. Species richness was 19% lower in infested sites than in noninfested sites .
Soil: Western snowberry occurs on most soil textures except for loose sands . On floodplains where it occurs, alluvial soils are generally fine textured, composed primarily of silt with moderate quantities of clay and fine sand . It may also occur on infertile sand or rocky substrates, rich loams, or compact clays [117,126,164]. It can tolerate "imperfectly" drained soils and considerable flooding but is intolerant of prolonged flooding or permanent high water tables. Western snowberry is common on mildly alkaline to slightly acidic soils [22,67,164].
Detailed analyses of soils where western snowberry occurs in Minnesota , eastern North Dakota , wooded draws of the southern Great Plains , and southwestern North Dakota  are available.
Topography: In the more humid parts of its
range, western snowberry occurs on drier topographic sites such as exposed bluffs, open hillsides,
and south and west facing slopes. In drier areas, western snowberry is most commonly found on
moister sites such as depressions, ravines, the shores of lakes and sloughs, along stream banks
and floodplains, at the base of steep slopes susceptible to runoff, and on north or east facing
Western snowberry occurs in climax communities [25,101] but is generally found in seral communities on immature soils and in the transition zones between grasslands and forests . Western snowberry is most commonly found where full or nearly full sunlight is available. However, it is also frequently found at forest borders where it can survive under partial to dense shade [67,117].
Disturbed sites: Western snowberry thrives following disturbances such as fire [57,109,119], logging , animal activity [18,150], and various other soil disturbances [144,161]. On alluvial floodplains in northwestern Montana, the western snowberry community type generally represents a disturbance-induced seral stage of the interior ponderosa pine/red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) and/or Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir/red-osier dogwood habitat types .
Grazing: Western snowberry sometimes occurs in communities characterized as a moderately disturbed secondary successional stage following grazing and/or browsing . On low-elevation riparian and wetland sites in central and eastern Montana, prolonged browsing of eastern cottonwood/red-osier dogwood communities leads to the disturbance-induced eastern cottonwood/western snowberry community-type . In eastern Idaho, continued grazing or browsing pressure in narrowleaf cottonwood/red-osier dogwood and black cottonwood/red-osier dogwood communities leads to a grazing disclimax narrowleaf cottonwood/western snowberry community and black cottonwood/red-osier dogwood community. If grazing or browsing is heavy enough, all shrubs will be eliminated, leaving an herbaceous understory dominated by Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), timothy (Phleum pratense), smooth brome (Bromus inermis), and variety of "weedy" forbs .
Grasslands: When western snowberry spreads onto
grasslands, it reduces forage production . Pelton  states that western snowberry's most
important successional role is that it can successfully invade grasslands to the point where it
shades out grasses, thereby facilitating the invasion of trees. In Canada, the invading tree is
quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), while in Iowa and Nebraska it is primarily bur
Flowering dates for western snowberry are presented below.
|Western snowberry flowering periods in the United States and Canada|
|New Mexico||May-August [100,159]|
|South Dakota||June-July |
|Great Plains||June-August [60,151]|
|Intermountain West||June-August |
|North-central Plains||June-August |
|Northeastern United States and adjacent Canada||June-August |
|Pacific Northwest||June-August |
|Uinta Basin, Utah||May-July |
The fruiting period of western snowberry across its range is generally from August through October [144,147,159,163].
From 1979 to 1984 first-flowering dates and flowering periods for western snowberry were observed and reported in a mixed-grass prairie near Woodworth, Stutsman County, North Dakota. Flowering dates and periods for western snowberry are presented below .
|First-flowering dates and periods for western snowberry |
|Earliest first bloom||Latest first bloom||Median date of first 10 plants with flowers||Median date of full flowering||Median date when flowering 95% complete||Length of flowering period|
|13 May 1980||10 July 1979||25 June||6 July||28 July||33 days|
The phenological development of western snowberry in a prairie habitat northwest of Lincoln, Nebraska was observed by McMillan and Pagel  in 1956 and 1957.
|Phenological development of western snowberry during 1956 and 1957 |
|Observation year||Leaf bud opening||Initial anthesis|
|1956||26 March-21 April||16 June-22 July|
|1957||13 April-21 April||23 June-22 July|
Fire regimes: There is little information directly relating to western snowberry fire regimes. Western snowberry may occur where the fire-return interval is as short as 1 year and as long as 500 years.
Northern Great Plains/Mixed-grass prairie: Fire has played an important role in northern Great Plains mixed-grass prairies, where western snowberry occurs. The historically large tracts of continuous mixed-grass prairie, which occur in hot, dry areas, accumulated much fine fuel and were susceptible to frequent lightning fires. Early records kept by explorers, trappers, and settlers noted a high occurrence of fires, both natural and anthropogenic , with frequent low-severity fires occurring at intervals of 5 to 10 years [37,116,173]. In a review by Sieg , the fire-return interval for level to rolling topography in the northern Great Plains is 5 to 10 years. On more dissected topography, such as breaks and rivers, the fire-return interval ranges from 20 to 30 years. In mixed-grass prairies of Badlands National Park, South Dakota, frequent low-intensity surface fires occurred at frequencies of 1 to 25 years . Since the early 1900s, fire has been excluded and nonnative species, including Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus), smooth brome, Kentucky bluegrass, crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum), and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), are widely established in the area . Fire exclusion has also allowed the encroachment of western snowberry into grasslands of the northern Great Plains [114,117].
Western snowberry-dominant communities: Fire has played an active role in shaping the interior ponderosa pine/western snowberry and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir/western snowberry communities of the Little Rocky Mountains  and the Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir/western snowberry communities of the Bear's Paw Mountains . In a review by Fischer and Clayton , it is suggested that the fire frequency of interior ponderosa pine communities with a shrub understory is "considerably" less than 50 years, and that of Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir ranges from 5 to 20 or more years. Long-term exclusion of surface fires has altered Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir sites, creating more flammable conditions. On Bureau of Land Management lands in southern and eastern Idaho, narrowleaf cottonwood/western snowberry and black cottonwood/western snowberry communities typically burn during the late summer and fall .
The following table provides fire regime information on vegetation communities in which western snowberry may occur:
|Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which western snowberry may occur. For each community, fire regime characteristics are taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models . These vegetation models were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and/or expert opinion as documented in the .pdf file linked from the name of each Potential Natural Vegetation Group listed below. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|Idaho fescue grasslands||Replacement||76%||40|
|Surface or low||78%||13|
|Ponderosa pine (xeric)||Replacement||37%||130|
|Surface or low||16%||300|
|Dry ponderosa pine (mesic)||Replacement||5%||125|
|Surface or low||82%||8|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|Great Basin Grassland|
|Great Basin grassland||Replacement||33%||75||40||110|
|Mountain meadow (mesic to dry)||Replacement||66%||31||15||45|
|Great Basin Shrubland|
|Mountain shrubland with trees||Replacement||22%||105||100||200|
|Great Basin Woodland|
|Surface or low||78%||13|
|Great Basin Forested|
|Interior ponderosa pine||Replacement||5%||161||800|
|Surface or low||86%||9||8||10|
|Surface or low||39%||65||15|
|Aspen with conifer (low to midelevation)||Replacement||53%||61||20|
|Surface or low||23%||143||10|
|Douglas-fir (warm mesic interior)||Replacement||28%||170||80||400|
|Stable aspen-cottonwood, no conifers||Replacement||31%||96||50||300|
|Surface or low||69%||44||20||60|
|Stable aspen without conifers||Replacement||81%||150||50||300|
|Surface or low||19%||650||600||>1,000|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|Northern Rockies Grassland|
|Northern prairie grassland||Replacement||55%||22||2||40|
|Northern Rockies Shrubland|
|Mountain shrub, nonsagebrush||Replacement||80%||100||20||150|
|Northern Rockies Forested|
|Ponderosa pine (Northern Great Plains)||Replacement||5%||300|
|Surface or low||75%||20||10||40|
|Ponderosa pine (Northern and Central Rockies)||Replacement||4%||300||100||>1,000|
|Surface or low||77%||15||3||30|
|Ponderosa pine (Black Hills, low elevation)||Replacement||7%||300||200||400|
|Surface or low||71%||30||5||50|
|Ponderosa pine (Black Hills, high elevation)||Replacement||12%||300|
|Surface or low||71%||50|
|Surface or low||39%||65||15|
|Douglas-fir (xeric interior)||Replacement||12%||165||100||300|
|Surface or low||69%||28||15||40|
|Douglas-fir (warm mesic interior)||Replacement||28%||170||80||400|
|Northern Great Plains|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|Northern mixed-grass prairie||Replacement||67%||15||8||25|
|Northern Plains Woodland|
|Northern Great Plains wooded draws and ravines||Replacement||38%||45||30||100|
|Surface or low||43%||40||10|
|Great Plains floodplain||Replacement||100%||500|
Replacement=Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed=Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low=Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [64,91].
Annual early spring burning significantly (P<0.005) reduced western snowberry cover and density in east-central Alberta [3,4]. Prescribed burning took place for at least 24 years in an aspen parkland composed of a mosaic of quaking aspen groves and grasslands dominated by rough fescue and shortbristle needle-and-thread. Before and after burning, western snowberry had the greatest stem density and cover of any shrub on the site. Burns were conducted in April when soil moisture was normally high. Frequency and cover measurements were obtained in July and August of the same year. Frequency and canopy cover of western snowberry were analyzed on sites which had been burned annually and on sites where burning had not occurred during the study period. Western snowberry frequency and canopy cover were 56% and 31%, respectively, on unburned sites and 52% and 2%, respectively, on burned sites. Western snowberry density was 25.0 stems/m² on unburned sites and 17.8 stems/m² on burned sites [3,4].
Five years of annual, low-severity spring burning of western snowberry caused fluctuation in percent cover and reduction in shrub height at Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota . Burning took place from mid- to late April, except for 1987 when burning was conducted in early May. At the time of burning in 1987, western snowberry had considerably more foliage than at the time of burning in other years, which may account for the reduced cover during the summer of 1987. The researchers note that average western snowberry height was reduced from 3 feet (1 m) to 1.5 feet (0.5 m) due to burning. While not clear, height measurements were likely taken in summer 1987. Thus, the reduction in height of western snowberry is probably a short-term effect of annual burning .
|Pre- and postburn western snowberry cover during 5 years of annual spring burning |
|Season of measurement||1983||1984||1985||1987|
On the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, western snowberry height and canopy cover was reduced by late growing season, alternate year prescribed burning. Burning was conducted either during full western snowberry leaf maturity when root reserves are lowest, or late in the growing season when it is too late for regrowth to replenish root reserves, thus producing winterkill. Following 3 burns over 6 years, average height of live woody stems had been reduced by about 60% and maximum height and canopy cover reduced by 55%. However, postfire sprouting had increased the number of live woody stems by 30% .
Prior to 1975, Willa Cather Prairie, a mixed-grass prairie in Nebraska, had been moderately grazed for an unknown number of years. Between 1975 and 1992, The Nature Conservancy greatly reduced grazing on the prairie and conducted 9 burns. Western snowberry cover increased from an average of 0.27% in 1975 to 3.42% in 1992 on all sites (lowland, limy upland, and silty upland) combined .
Single burns: Abundance of western snowberry typically increases in the short-term (3 months to 2 years) after a single fire. Effects of a single fire on canopy cover and height are more variable, as illustrated by the following studies.
A single, high-intensity burn in a plains cottonwood forest community in Dinosaur Provincial Park, British Columbia, significantly (P<0.05) reduced western snowberry cover. The fire occurred on 15 August 1989 and postfire measurements were taken in August 1990. Western snowberry cover on unburned sites was 46.33% and 8.8% on burned sites .
Following a single burn near Minneapolis in mid-April, all western snowberry plants on the site were top-killed. By fall of the same year, new shoots averaged just half the height and diameter of stems on unburned sites, but stems density was 2.5 times greater on burned versus unburned sites. During the second year, stems on the burned area had reached 75% the height of stems on unburned sites. Stem density on burned sites was lower than in postfire year 1 but was still appreciably higher than on the unburned site .
A single spring fire caused little change in western snowberry cover and frequency either 3 months or 2 years after fire, but caused a significant (P<0.01 and P<0.05) increase in stem density . Burn plots were established in a western snowberry community located at the University of Alberta Ranch. The western snowberry community is part of a larger rough fescue grassland. Two prescription fires were conducted on separate plots; one in May 1970 and the other in May 1971. Western snowberry cover, frequency, and stem density were measured 1 and 2 years following the 1970 burn, and 3 months following the 1971 burn. Measurements on burned and unburned sites for both the 1970 and 1971 fires were taken during August. Western snowberry began sprouting 2 weeks after the prescribed fire was conducted. The increase in stem density on both the 1970 and 1971 burned sites is attributable the destruction of western snowberry apical buds by fire. The removal of apical dominance likely accounted for the increased number of woody stems following burning .
Cover, frequency, and density of western snowberry on unburned and burned sites following a single burn 
|Burn date||May 1971||May 1970|
|Sample date||August 1971
(3 months after fire)
(3 months after fire)
(1 year after fire)
(2 years after fire)
Fall and spring low-severity prescribed fires caused little overall change in western snowberry cover and height, but an increase in number of individuals and crown width in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota . Fires were conducted at two separate sites on 17 October 1979 and 14 April 1980. Due to the similarity in results of fire effects on vegetation, data from both fires were combined. Data collection occurred in June of 1979 (preburn), 1980, and 1981 .
|Fire effects on western snowberry following 2 fires |
|Measurement||Treatment||June 1979 (preburn)||June 1980||June 1981|
|# of individuals||Burn||1,226||1,305||1,120|
|Mean height (cm±SD)||Burn||24.9±11.8*||17.3±9.0||18.4±8.0|
|Mean maximum crown width (cm±SD)||Burn||16.5±9.3||10.5±6.3||13.7±9.1|
Western snowberry cover decreased the first year after a fire in central Alberta (26 May 1968). In the months preceding the fire, temperatures were 10 °F (6 °C) above average in February and March and precipitation was 56% of normal in April and May. The summer before the fire, western snowberry cover was 3.9%; 15 months after fire, it was 1.7% .
Western snowberry density changed little during the 1st and 2nd growing seasons following a single, spring (17 April) prescribed fire in four bur oak woodlands in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Western snowberry density on burned versus unburned plots, respectively, was 13.0±2.3 and 11.8±0.4 shrubs/m² (±SE) the first postfire season; and 13.3±1.7 and 12.7±1.7 shrubs/m² (±SE) the second postfire growing season .
Season of burning: Increases in density of western snowberry tend to be greatest after summer fires, and more variable on fall- and spring-burned sites. Western snowberry biomass growth tends to be greater on unburned sites than either spring- or fall-burned sites for several years following fire as illustrated in the research below.
Western snowberry density was highest on sites burned in summer, lowest on spring-burned sites and intermediate on fall-burned and control sites on the Kernan Prairie near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Prescribed fires were conducted during the spring (1998 May 6), summer (1998 June 26), and fall (1998 October 8). The area had been previously burned in 1991. At the end of the second growing season following burning, western snowberry stem density/m² was measured on an unburned control site and the spring, summer, and fall burn sites. Western snowberry stem densities were 37.3, 28.7, 42.3, and 35.7, respectively . For a detailed summary of this study, see the Research Project Summary Seasonal fires in Saskatchewan rough fescue prairie.
Another study on Kernan Prairie showed similar results on fall-burned plots, while spring-burned plots had higher stem densities than control plots . Burns were conducted in mid-October after western snowberry leaves had abscised, and in late April to early May before growth had begun. While stem density was greater on burned than unburned sites, the only significant (P<0.05) difference occurred between unburned and spring burned sites in postfire years 2 and 3.
|Western snowberry stem density (live stems/m²) on unburned and fall and spring burned sites |
|Postfire year 1||39||72||122|
|Postfire year 2||43||67||111|
|Postfire year 3||46||62||95|
|Postfire year 4||46||57||51|
Western snowberry biomass characteristics (total leaf area, new growth, old growth, and total biomass) during the first 3 growing seasons following the burns were generally greater on unburned than burned sites, except for new growth during the first postfire growing season. Total leaf area was significantly (P<0.05) greater on unburned sites than on spring burned sites in the second postfire growing season. New growth was significantly greater on unburned sites than on spring and fall burned sites in the second growing season. Old growth and total biomass were significantly greater on unburned than spring and fall burned sites during all 3 postfire growing seasons .
|Western snowberry individual stem biomass characteristics on unburned and fall and spring burned sites during 3 postfire growing seasons |
1st postfire growing season
|Total leaf area (cm²)||183||156||128|
|New growth (g)||0.7||1.4||1.2|
|Old growth (g)||6.1*||0.0||0.0|
|Total biomass (g)||8.8||3.1||2.5|
|2nd postfire growing season|
|Total leaf area (cm²)||223*||133||102|
|New growth (g)||1.1*||0.6||0.5|
|Old growth (g)||6.2*||1.3||1.3|
|Total biomass (g)||10.1||3.4||3.0|
|3rd postfire growing season|
|Total leaf area (cm²)||275||139||108|
|New growth (g)||1.7||0.4||0.4|
|Old growth (g)||7.7*||2.1||2.2|
|Total biomass (g)||13.2||4.0||3.9|
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Fire behavior and fuel characteristics: To assess the maximum fire temperatures reached in western snowberry communities above and below ground, prescribed fires were conducted in late April and early May near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan . At the time of the fires, air temperature ranged from 59 to 64 °F (15-18 °C), relative humidity from 30% to 40%, and wind speeds less than 3 meters/second. The fuel load was 1,029±228 g/m² dry weight (± SD) and fuel moisture content was 25±8 % (± SD) prior to the fires. At 3 measurement points above ground (4 inches (10 cm), 9.8 inches (25 cm), and 20 inches (50 cm)), fire temperatures exceeded 1,000 °F (800 °C). At all measurement points, maximum fire temperatures occurred within 2 to 3 minutes following ignition.
|Average maximum fire temperatures and average duration of fire temperatures above 100 °F (60 °C) (±SD) at selected heights in the western snowberry community |
|Measurement height (cm)||-5||0||10||25||50||100||150|
|Avg. maximum fire temperature (°C)||40±21||692±118||843±36||824±43||835±54||735±11||697±22|
|Avg. duration of fire temperatures above 60 °C (minutes)||0.1±0||8.1±6.0||4.7±1.1||3.5±0.5||3.1±0.5||2.3±0.5||2.2±0.6|
Bailey and Anderson  collected fuel and fire temperature data during April in a western snowberry community located within an aspen parkland in central Alberta. Fuels and temperatures at ground level during the fire at 3 locations within the western snowberry stand are presented in the table below. The inner third of the western snowberry community had significantly (P<0.05) greater western snowberry fuels and standing woody fuel and thereby a significantly higher surface temperature .
|Fuel loading and fire temperature data in a western snowberry community in central Alberta |
Type of vegetation/fuel
|Position in stand|
|Inner third||Middle third||Outer third|
|Western snowberry shrubland (kg/ha)||25,173*||16,857||14,732|
|Standing woody fuel (kg/ha)||14,906*||9,349||8,798|
|Ground surface fuel (kg/ha)||8,270||7,508||6,270|
|Fire temperature (°C)||445*||368||381|
The researchers also took aboveground temperature readings during the western snowberry fire. Recorded headfire temperatures were higher than backfire temperatures. Fire temperatures for both head- and backfires were greatest at approximately 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) above ground. The mean and range of temperatures of the fires are presented in the table below. Both head- and backfires burned 100% of the area .
Temperature mean and range of head- and backfires in a western snowberry community 
Mean temperature (°C±SE)
Temperature range (°C)
Prescribed burning: Prescribed burning of western snowberry may be implemented to increase production, rehabilitate disturbed sites, and/or improve wildlife habitat.
In the northern Great Plains, spring burning (May-June) generally causes western snowberry to sprout, while frequent fires may reduce western snowberry cover. Prescribed burning guidelines for the northern Great Plains are available .
Successful spring burning of western snowberry shrub communities in the aspen parklands of Alberta requires the following: 1) A minimum temperature of 55 °F (13 °C), 2) winds of 2 to 12/mph, 3) 50% maximum relative humidity, and 4) at least 4 days following a precipitation event .
To increase production and caloric content of western snowberry, a prescribed burn was conducted on the Oakvile Prairie, near Grand Forks, North Dakota. On an unburned upland site, western snowberry production was 26.3 g/m² and caloric content was 4,822 kcal/g (ash-free) and 126,915 kcal/m². At postfire month 3 on burned sites, western snowberry production was 39.4 g/m² and caloric content was 4,855 kcal/g (ash-free) and 191,190 kcal/m² .
Site rehabilitation: The narrowleaf cottonwood/western snowberry streamside community type in eastern Idaho is "extremely" important in reducing sedimentation, stabilizing streambanks, and slowing flood waters. Overgrazing can lead to the complete removal of western snowberry and Wood's rose. Prescribed fire, if managed carefully, is a possible tool in maintaining or restoring this community type. If fire is used, livestock grazing should be excluded from the site for at least 5 postfire years and wildlife browsing should be closely monitored .
Wildlife: The effect of cool-season burns on wildlife was investigated in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. The fires, occurring on separate sites, were conducted on 17 October 1979 and 14 April 1980. Both fires were classified as low-severity. During the first postfire year, deer mice and songbird populations increased "dramatically". By the second postfire year, the effect disappeared or in some cases was reversed. Likely the deer mice and songbirds were attracted to the burn during postfire year 1 by an increase in food supply, which decreased by the second postfire year .
Following a prescribed fire in a rough fescue community at Kernen Prairie, Saskatchewan, the
density of breeding pairs of birds was reduced for 3 postfire years. Western snowberry is a common
shrub at the site. The fire was conducted in October 1986 and bird population counts were taken during
the summers of 1987, 1988, and 1989. Averaging all 12 bird species counted on the burned and unburned
sites, the density of breeding pairs on burned sites in the 3 years was 2.39, 2.47, and 2.95 breeding
pairs/ha. On unburned sites, breeding pair density was 5.18, 5.22, and 4.24 breeding pairs/ha .
|Domestic goats grazing western snowberry in research plots at South Dakota State University. Photo courtesy of Alexander Smart.|
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Livestock: In the eastern part of its range, western snowberry is rarely eaten by livestock, even when other forage is scarce . Yet in the western part of its range, western snowberry is considered an important livestock browse species [117,122,145,158,159], particularly during winter [117,145]. Western snowberry is often more heavily utilized by livestock and wildlife in the first few years following fire . Western snowberry may also be browsed by domestic goats . Stands of western snowberry can become so thick that they exclude livestock and wildlife .
Small mammals/birds/insects: The fruits of western snowberry are an important source of food for some small mammals and birds . Upland game birds heavily utilize western snowberry fruits since they persist on the plant through the winter [63,82,117,147]. In Minnesota, western snowberry fruits are eaten by waterfowl . Western snowberry flowers are also a valued bee food [145,159].
Ungulates: Western snowberry
is an important forage species for elk, mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep,
and moose [22,36,38,39,44,47,89,99,108,113]. In
the Bridger Mountains of Montana, antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) and
western snowberry are the 2 most important fall browse species for mule deer .
Western snowberry was the most important browse plant for white-tailed deer on the Charles
M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, in north central Montana, during a yearlong study from June 1964
to June 1965. Western snowberry was found in 100% of summer, fall, and winter rumen samples
and 85% of spring samples. Utilization of western snowberry is greatest in fall (55% total
rumen sample volume), followed by winter (25%), summer (19%), and spring (10%) .
Western snowberry is a principal food source for white-tailed and mule deer in the Black
Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. An analysis of stomach contents showed that the frequency
of occurrence of western snowberry ranged from a high of 62% for the period May through
September to a low of 45% for the period October to December [76,77,117].
Palatability/nutritional value: The palatability of western snowberry for cattle and domestic sheep is generally rated as "fair" [22,40,63,151] and "poor" for horses [22,40]. Western snowberry palatability for deer and elk is rated as "good" [40,63,76].
In northwestern Montana, western snowberry provides "fair" energy and protein value for livestock and wildlife . The nutritional value for ungulates, small mammals, and birds in 5 western states is rated as follows :
|Western snowberry nutritional value rating |
|Upland game birds||Good||N.D.||Good||Fair||Fair|
|Small nongame birds||Fair||N.D.||Good||Fair||N.D.|
At the Ministik Wildlife Research Station near Edmonton, Alberta, seasonal changes in percent digestibility and crude protein of western snowberry leaves were measured in an aspen-dominated boreal forest .
|Seasonal digestibility and crude protein of western snowberry leaves |
|Crude protein (%)||15.0||17.5||12.3|
The cellulose and protein content of western snowberry at 3 stages of growth were evaluated in a rough fescue community in southwestern Alberta .
|Nutritional content of western snowberry during 3 stages of growth |
|Growth stage||Cellulose (%)||Digestible protein (%)|
Western snowberry fruit is an important fall and early winter food for sharp-tailed grouse. As the fruits dry, however, their nutritional value decreases substantially. Western snowberry fruit taken from the plant in South Dakota during fall, at a time when it is fed upon by sharp-tailed grouse, provided 4.916 kcal/g and 5.5% crude protein .
|Composition of western snowberry on 4 dates in 1945 on the Black Hills, South Dakota |
|Date||Moisture (%)||Carotene (µg/g)||Ash (%)||Crude fat (%)||Crude protein (%)||Crude fiber (%)||N-Free extract (%)||Ca (%)||P (%)||Fe (ppm)||Mn (ppm)|
Cover value: Western snowberry communities provide cover for a variety of animal species, particularly small mammals and birds [10,22,73,117,122,132,147]. The narrowleaf cottonwood/western snowberry and black cottonwood/western snowberry grazing disclimax communities along streams provides cover for fish and other aquatic species . Given the shrub's height, western snowberry only provides "poor" to "fair" cover for large ungulates [22,40].
Western snowberry stands are common nesting sites for waterfowl, wild turkeys, and sharp-tailed grouse [97,120,133]. In south-central North Dakota, western snowberry was found to occur at 62.8% of all sharp-tailed grouse nesting sites . In northeastern South Dakota, western snowberry is an important cover species for nesting female Rio Grande and eastern wild turkeys. While shrub vegetation (primarily western snowberry) was the least available vegetation type (10%) at the study site, 54% of females chose this vegetation type for nesting cover .VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
A western snowberry cultivar ('common') is available .
Western snowberry was used by Native Americans for food, arrow shafts, brooms, and treatment of certain eye diseases [117,139,152].
Western snowberry is used as an ornamental [81,159].
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Browsing: Western snowberry is generally considered a browsing "increaser" [25,95,117,152].
The effect of heavy cattle browsing on western snowberry in early and late summer following burning was investigated on rough fescue grasslands at the University of Alberta Ranch [11,50,51]. Following a controlled burn on 15 May 1979, plots were either grazed heavily (5 AUM/ha leading to total removal of all edible vegetation) from 5 to 17 July 1979 and 31 May to 13 June 1980 (early treatment) or grazed heavily from 22 August to 1 September 1979 and 15 to 23 August 1980 (late treatment) [11,50,51]. Western snowberry production and density were generally greater on late grazing sites.
|Western snowberry production and density under early and late grazing treatments [11,50,51]|
|Measurement date||Grazing treatment||Production (kg/ha±SE)*||Density (plants/m²)|
At the Central Grasslands Research Station in south-central North Dakota, western snowberry communities were subjected to 3 different grazing treatments (short duration, season-long, and twice-over rotation) between 1982 and 1986. The 3 treatments did not significantly alter western snowberry density, but western snowberry cover was significantly (P<0.05) reduced with the exception of the short duration treatment from 1982 to 1986. Further, western snowberry standing crop significantly increased on the short duration treatment. With little overall change between 1982 and 1986, the researchers suggest that western snowberry communities on the study site were relatively stable under the environmental and biological conditions present at the time of the study .
Herbicides: Western snowberry can be controlled by 2,4-D and metsulfuron methyl [24,25,25,45].
Insects: On a mixed-grass prairie at the Central Grasslands Research Center in south-central North Dakota, western snowberry was associated with white grub infestations. The infestation decreased grass standing crop 92% and facilitated a significant (P<0.05) increase in density of western snowberry for at least 1 year .
Invasive species: Western snowberry is an effective competitor for water against lens-podded hoary cress (Cardaria chalapensis) and globe-podded hoary cress (C. pubescens). On dry farming land in Saskatchewan, the extensive rhizome/root system of western snowberry was able to utilize subsoil moisture, thus reducing cover of both invasive species [137,138].
Mowing: Mowing western snowberry can partially
control its spread. Near Lincoln, Nebraska, western snowberry was mowed annually in May while plants
were in full leaf and new sprouts were 4 to 10 inches (10-30 cm) tall. In May of 1954, the
fourth consecutive year of mowing, western snowberry cover was reduced by 30% to 52% .
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