Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Vaccinium myrtillus

Introductory

SPECIES: Vaccinium myrtillus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tirmenstein, D. 1990. Vaccinium myrtillus. 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/ []. ABBREVIATION : VACMYR SYNONYMS : Vaccinium oreophilum SCS PLANT CODE : VAMY2 VAMYM VAMYO COMMON NAMES : dwarf bilberry whortleberry TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of dwarf bilberry is Vaccinium myrtillus L. [48]. It is placed within the section Myrtillus [69,92]. The following subspecies have been delineated on the basis of morphological differences [92]: Vaccinium myrtillus ssp. myrtillus Vaccinium myrtillus ssp. oreophilum (Rydb.) Love, Love and Kapoor The Vaccinium genus is taxonomically complex [14]. Hybridization and polyploidy make delineation of species difficult [14,15]. Dwarf bilberry may have received genetic material from globe huckleberry (V. globulare), dwarf huckleberry (V. caespitosum), and/or blue huckleberry (V. membranaceum) [13]. Some taxonomists believe that the blue huckleberry may be a derivative of globe huckleberry and dwarf bilberry [20]. Naturally occurring dwarf bilberry-mountain cranberry (V. vitis-idaea) hybrids have been reported in parts of northern Europe [1,37,60,79]. Numerous intermediate forms have been observed, although fruit set is apparently rare in these populations [44]. V. X intermedium Ruthe is a natural hybrid resulting from a dwarf bilberry-mountain cranberry cross [44,79,81]. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Vaccinium myrtillus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Dwarf bilberry grows from British Columbia southward east of the Cascades to central Oregon [42,92].  It occurs throughout the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia and Alberta to northern New Mexico and southern Arizona [92,98].  Dwarf bilberry reaches greatest abundance in the southern Rockies, whereas the closely related and morphologically similar grouse whortleberry is most abundant in the Northwest [13,20] Disjunct populations of dwarf bilberry have been reported in the interior Rocky Mountains [92].  This circumboreal species extends across Europe and Asia [42,92].  Populations in southwestern Greenland are believed to have originated from European plants [92]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES20  Douglas-fir    FRES21  Ponderosa pine    FRES23  Fir - spruce    FRES24  Hemlock - Sitka spruce    FRES26  Lodgepole pine    FRES28  Western hardwoods STATES :      AZ  CA  CO  ID  MT  NM  OR  UT  WA  WY      AB  BC BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     5  Columbia Plateau     6  Upper Basin and Range     8  Northern Rocky Mountains     9  Middle Rocky Mountains    10  Wyoming Basin    11  Southern Rocky Mountains    12  Colorado Plateau KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K002  Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest    K004  Fir - hemlock    K011  Western ponderosa pine    K012  Douglas-fir forest    K013  Cedar - hemlock - pine forest    K015  Western spruce - fir forest    K018  Pine - Douglas-fir forest    K019  Arizona pine forest    K020  Spruce - fir - Douglas-fir forest    K021  Southwestern spruce - fir forest SAF COVER TYPES :    205  Mountain hemlock    206  Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir    210  Interior Douglas-fir    211  White fir    217  Aspen    218  Lodgepole pine    219  Limber pine    227  Western redcedar - western hemlock    237  Interior ponderosa pine SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Dwarf bilberry is a common understory dominant or codominant in a variety of coniferous forests of the Rocky Mountains.  It occurs in abundance in stands made up of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), and white fir (Abies concolor).  Dwarf bilberry is also an understory dominant in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), ponderosa pine (P> ponderosa), western hemlock-western redcedar (Tsuga heterophylla-Thuja plicata, and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) communities.  Common understory codominants include grouse whortleberry, skunkleaf polemonium (Polemonium pulcherrimum), northern twinflower (Linnaea borealis), and thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) [6,4,78,98]. Published classifications listing dwarf bilberry as an indicator or dominant in habitat types, community types, or plant associations are presented below. Classification of the forest vegetation of Wyoming [3] Classification of the forest vegetation of Colorado by habitat type and   community type [4] Classification of the forest vegetation on the National Forests of   Arizona and New Mexico [5] A preliminary classification of the natural vegetation of Colorado [8] Climax forest series of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado [23] Forest habitat types south of the Mongolian Rim, Arizona and New Mexico [24] Forest habitat types in the Apache, Gila, and part of the Cibola   National Forests, Arizona and New Mexico [32] Plant association of Region Two: Potential plant communities of   Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas [47] Forest vegetation of the Gunnison and parts of the Uncompahgre National   Forests: a preliminary habitat type classification [52] Forest and woodland habitat types (plant associations) of northern New   Mexico and northern Arizona [59] The lodgepole pine zone in Colorado [66] A forest habitat type classification of southern Arizona and its   relationship to forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico [68] Forested plant associations of the Okanogan National Forest [99] Plant associates:  Common associates of dwarf bilberry include thimbleberry, northern twinflower, kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), common juniper (Juniperus communis), black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata), Rocky mountain maple (Acer glabrum), serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), and grouse whortleberry [8,25,47,52,68].  Where dwarf bilberry and grouse whortleberry occur together, dwarf bilberry typically occupies somewhat lower, more mesic sites [106].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Vaccinium myrtillus
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Browse:  A variety of small mammals consume the twigs, leaves, and bark of dwarf bilberry [57,71].  Throughout most of Scandinavia, dwarf bilberry is the primary winter food of the gray-sided vole (Clethrionomys rufocanus) [57].  Browse appears to be of negligible value to large ungulates. Fruit:  Berries of dwarf bilberry are eaten by many birds and mammals [56] including the ring-necked pheasant, hares, grouse, partridges, ptarmigans, and bears [35,74,81].  In Finland, these berries make up a high percentage of brown bear diets during August.  Coniferous forests with a dwarf bilberry understory provide essential brown bear habitat during late summer in parts of Scandinavia [74].  Dwarf bilberry was presumably of similar importance to grizzly bears in North America prior to their extirpation from the central and southern Rocky Mountains. Vaccinium berries are readily eaten by the band-tailed pigeon, wild turkey, gray catbird, ruffed, spruce, blue, and sharp-tailed grouse, tanagers, bluebirds, thrushes, quails, and towhees [63,92,94].  The white-footed mouse, gray fox, red fox, raccoon, pika, deer mouse, and numerous species of chipmunks, ground squirrels, tree squirrels, and skunks also feed on Vaccinium fruit [54,63,94]. PALATABILITY : Dwarf bilberry browse is described as "worthless" for cattle but on occasion is of fair palatability to domestic sheep [22].  Palatability to big game species appears slight.  Fruit of dwarf bilberry is highly palatable to a wide variety of birds and mammals.  Overall palatability of dwarf bilberry has been rated as follows [26]:                       CO     UT     WY Cattle               poor   poor   ---- Sheep                fair   fair   ---- Horses               poor   poor   ---- Pronghorn            ----   poor   poor Elk                  ----   good   fair Mule deer            ----   good   good White-tailed deer    ----   ----   good Small mammals        good   good   good Small nongame birds  good   good   good Upland game birds    ----   good   good Waterfowl            ----   poor   poor NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Browse:  Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) foliage is relatively high in carotene, manganese, and energy content [20,39,93].  Nutrient value of dwarf bilberry browse varies according to weather conditions, site characteristics such as soil type and elevation, plant part, and timber treatment [18,57,86,100].  Nitrogen content depends in large part on available soil nutrients, with total leaf nitrogen typically increasing with elevation [57,100].  Selected nutrient value of dwarf bilberry browse by timber treatment is as follows [18,86]:                        subalpine forest - central Colorado -                                   (percent)                                          3 yrs                 5 yrs                        uncut    clearcut         uncut       clearcut crude protein          9.3        11.2            11.0         12.6 moisture              57.3        60.3            60.2         60.4 in vitro digest.      28.0        29.2            31.1         38.3                         northwestern Montana -                          (micrograms per g)                   Ca    Cu   Fe    K    Mg    Mn    N    Na    P    Zn clearcut - burn          stem    6105   7.4   66  3895  1259 1059  6718  134  1232  53          leaves  8950   9.7  113  9480  3061 1410 19040  160  2296  25 control - unburned          stem    5100    --   92  2880   752 1200  9100  119   943  39          leaves  8540  12.1  153  7460  1808 2770 25470 1721  1937  21 Fruit:  Vaccinium berries are sweet and contain high concentrations of both mono- and disaccharides [88].  Berries are rich in vitamin C and energy content but low in fats [45,77]. COVER VALUE : Dwarf bilberry provides some cover for small birds and mammals.  The diverse canopy layers associated with subalpine fir/dwarf bilberry forests of the Southwest reportedly serve as good habitat for deer, elk, and many species of birds [32].  Cover value of dwarf bilberry has been rated as follows [26]:                           UT     WY Pronghorn                poor   poor Elk                      poor   poor Mule deer                poor   poor Small mammals            good   good   Small nongame birds      fair   good Upland game birds        fair   fair VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : The extensive rhizome network of dwarf bilberry can aid in preventing soil erosion once plants become established [93].  Species within the genus Vaccinium can be propagated from hardwood stem cuttings or from seed [17].  Root cuttings of dwarf bilberry can be successfully transplanted onto disturbed sites and mature plants can be transplanted during the spring [9,33].  Vegetative propagation of dwarf bilberry has been examined in detail [92].  Vaccinium seedlings grown in the greenhouse can be transplanted onto favorable sites 6 to 7 weeks after emergence.  Seed collection and storage techniques have been well documented [17]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Fruit of dwarf bilberry is juicy, edible, and has a "nutlike flavor" [50].  Berries are eaten fresh or gathered for use in jams and jellies [31,92].  Fruit may be used in pie filling [92]; however, collecting enough of the small berries can be difficult [50].  Leaves of dwarf bilberry have been used to make tea [50].  Both fruit and leaves are reported to have some medicinal value [56].  Vaccinium berries were traditionally an important food source for many native peoples.  Fruit of the dwarf bilberry was traditionally used by the Kootenai, Carriers, and Shuswap in North America, and by many indigenous peoples throughout northern Europe and Siberia [92]. Dwarf bilberry may have potential value for breeding commercial fruit-producing strains [60], particularly those suited to upland mineral soil [53].  Dwarf bilberry may also be useful in developing cold-hardy cultivars for northern plantings [21].  It is tolerant of cold winter temperatures, and some strains may be hardy to -70 degrees F (-57 degrees C) [21]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Berry production:  Berry production in dwarf bilberry fluctuates annually with weather conditions [31,56].  Spring frosts and summer droughts can greatly decrease yields [31].  Production is typically good in favorable, moist years, but during bad years no fruit is produced over extensive areas [50].  Generally, fruit production is poor when winter snow cover is less than 8 inches (20 cm) deep.  Buds are vulnerable to damage by cold winter temperatures.  In some areas, flower bud development may be greatly reduced when January temperatures have reached -26 to -29 degrees F (-32 to -34 degrees C) [75]. The age of plant, canopy cover, stand age, and other site characteristics can also influence berry production [56].  In some areas, berry production may peak at stand ages of 20 to 70 years [20]. However, Kuchko [56] reports that in Finland, dwarf bilberry can bear fruit for "some time after clearcutting," suggesting optimal fruit production occurs during somewhat earlier seral stages.  Very young shoots often allocate more resources to vegetative growth than to fruit production [71].  As branches age, growth often declines [71]. Livestock:  Livestock trampling can compact the soil and reduce rhizome sprouting and vegetative expansion of dwarf bilberry clones [7].  Stems tend to be shorter where livestock numbers are high [95]. Chemical control:  Bilberries (Vaccinium spp.) exhibit variable susceptibility to herbicides such as 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, glyphosate, karbutilate, and picloram [12,104]. Timber harvest:  Most species of Vaccinium are susceptible to postlogging treatments which include heavy scarification [64].  This appears to be true of dwarf bilberry as well.  However, other types of timber treatments may produce increases in cover.  In central Colorado, dwarf bilberry increased at all levels of tree thinning but declined immediately after clearcutting [19].  Combined cover of dwarf bilberry and grouse whortleberry was as follows after various types of timber harvest [18,19]:                                     percent cover                  before logging     years after logging                                     1     2     3     4     5 control          32.4             34.0  36.4  31.0  30.7  35.7 clearcutting     17.2             12.6  18.3  18.8  14.7  22.4                                     percent cover basal area      before thinning     years after thinning (ft sq/acre)                        1     2     3     4      5 control         15.9              15.5  16.9   17.9  16.5   17.0 120             18.8              11.5  17.5   21.4  23.1   26.2  80             12.6               5.3   7.4   10.6  10.5   16.7  40             14.4               3.3   5.9    7.9   9.6   10.5 Damage:  Large clones may be broken up by frost, fire, or burrowing mammals [38].  In the absence of a protective layer of snow, plants are vulnerable to cold winter temperatures and may be killed by exposure to temperatures of 3 degrees F (-19.5 degrees C) [38]. Silviculture:  Dwarf bilberry frequently serves as a nurse crop for Douglas-fir seedlings [78]. Wildlife considerations:  Vaccinium berries are an extremely important food source for bears.  In many areas, bear-human conflicts are most likely to occur during years of berry (Vaccinium spp.) crop failure [64,83].  Both black and grizzly bears typically exploit areas with dense concentrations of berries.  The value of Vaccinium shrubfields as grizzly bear habitat can be increased by permanent or at least seasonal road closures, by coordinating timber harvest dates to have minimal impact on habitat use patterns, and by considering the cumulative effects of habitat modification across a broad area.  In general, site preparation should include minimizing soil compaction, using cooler broadcast burns rather than hot burns, or by eliminating site preparation entirely wherever possible.  Grizzly use is favored where hiding cover is retained by treating small, irregular patches instead of large contiguous areas, and by leaving stringers of timber within larger cuts [102].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Vaccinium myrtillus
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Dwarf bilberry is a slender-branched, somewhat spreading, dwarf deciduous shrub which reaches 4 to 18 inches (10-18 cm) in height [57,87,92,97,105].  Plants are typically shorter at higher elevations [100].  This rhizomatous shrub generally forms open colonies [92]. Roots are fibrous and much branched, with maximum diameters of 0.06 to 0.08 inch (1.5-2.0 mm) [41].  Numerous fine adventitious roots form an interconnected mat in the top 2 inches (5 cm) of peat [41]. Twigs are green or less commonly yellowish, glabrous or puberulent, and sharply angled [43,50,92,97].  Stems often become reddish or orange-tinged when exposed to full sunlight [87].  Branches tend to be thicker and less numerous than the morphologically similar grouse whortleberry [43], and dwarf bilberry lacks the unique broomlike branching typical of grouse whortleberry [87].  Dwarf bilberry also has larger leaves and flowers and often puberulent stems [98].  Stem morphology has been examined in detail [69].  The maximum age of aerial shoots is generally estimated at 15 years [92].  However, in parts of Sweden, stem ages average 18 years [20]. Small, simple, alternate leaves are ovate to lanceolate or broadly elliptic with serrate margins [50,92,98].  Leaves are acute to obtuse at the apex and rounded to broadly cuneate at the base [97,98].  Leaves are light green and 0.4 to 1.2 inches (1-3 cm) in length [43].  Dwarf bilberry leaves turn red, yellow, or brown in autumn [95]. The pink, cream, or greenish-white flowers are borne singly in the axils of new stems [73,92,98].  Flowers are small, waxy, and urceolate to campanulate [43,50].  Fruit of dwarf bilberry is a spherical berry 0.2 to 0.3 inch (5-8 mm) in diameter [43,65].  Fruit color ranges from dark red to bluish or purplish black [43].  Dwarf bilberry is single-fruited [65].  Berries are generally not glaucous, although a glaucous bloom is occasionally observed [73,92].  Berries contain many nutlets which average approximately 0.04 inch (1 mm) in length [92,97]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :    Phanerophyte    Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Dwarf bilberry can reproduce from seed or by vegetative means. Vegetative regeneration:  Forms of vegetative regeneration appear to be of primary importance after fire [81] or other disturbance.  However, colonies increase laterally through rhizome expansion even in the absence of disturbance.  Annual radial increases average 2.8 inches (7 cm) [(2 to 4 inches) (5-10 cm)] per year [81,92]. Dwarf bilberry possesses an extensive, frequently branched network of rhizomes averaging 0.12 to 0.24 inch (3-6 mm) in diameter [41].  The total length of rhizomes occasionally exceeds 3.3 feet (1 m), but the amount producing sprouts typically measures only 28 to 35 inches (70-90 cm) in length [7].  Rhizome depth ranges from 0.24 to 1.2 inches (6-30 mm) below the soil surface [41,90].  Sprouting ability declines with age [7].  Although rhizomes of 23 to 28 years of age have been reported [92], few rhizomes older than 15 years produce aerial shoots with new growth [7].  The extensive rhizome network allows for rapid regeneration after disturbance [81].  Where portions of the stem base survive, regeneration through surviving aboveground axillary buds also occurs [62]. Seed:  Dwarf bilberry fruit contains an average of 18 to 20 viable seeds per berry with an average of 18 imperfectly-formed seeds [81,91].  Seeds weigh an average of 25 mg per 100 seeds [91].  Seed production generally begins at age three [71] and is subject to considerable annual variation.  [see Management Considerations - Berry Production].  Bees are the primary pollinators [79]. Germination:  Germination averages 35 to 46 percent following various types of pretreatment.  Germination of seed exposed to low temperatures (32 degrees F [0 degrees C]) for 3 weeks averaged 41 to 64 percent [81]. Good germination has been reported after seeds were exposed to 14 hours of light at 82 degrees F (28 degrees C) followed by 10 hours of darkness at 55 degrees F (13 degrees C) [91].  Fresh seed germinated well under a similar regime, or when exposed to alternating periods at 71 degrees F (22 degrees C) and 41 degrees F (5 degrees C) [91].  Heat treatments were found to produce some germination although the amount was irregular [62].  The effect of temperature on germination was as follows [62]:                effect of heat treatment on seed germination                total germination after 24 weeks - percent -               50 C            75 C             100 C control        0               -                 - 30 sec        14               8                20 1 min          0               2                 6 2 min         16               0                 2                 effect of pretreatment on imbibed seeds after                 21 weeks at 0 degrees C -  treatment                      percent germination control                                64 cold only                               6 cold + 50 C for 1 minute               10 cold + 50 C for 2 minutes              14 cold + 50 C for 3 minutes              16 cold + 100 C for 1 minute               8 cold + 100 C for 2 minutes              4 cold + 100 C for 3 minutes              2 Seed banking:  Evidence for seed banking in dwarf bilberry appears contradictory.  Some researchers have observed very few seeds in the soil despite high coverage at the site and doubt if seed banking is an important regenerative strategy in this species [89].  Most Vacciniums are characterized by seed of relatively short viability which is readily damaged by heat [64].  However, others emphasize the importance of seed banking in dwarf bilberry [29,35,92].  Soil samples in Wales, for example, have yielded 28 buried viable seeds per square foot (300 per/sq m) [92].  In a Swedish forest, seeds were found in the lower humus layer of 120-year-old stands as well as in the moss-litter layer of 50- and 169-year-old stands, suggesting a "continuous input of seeds" [35]. Seedlings were produced as follows from 25 buried soil cores, each of which was 4 inches (100 mm) in diameter [35]:    stand age     cover     frequency      seedlings produced    (years)        (%)         (%)                (#)        16          5           80                 22        29         35          100                 10        50         58          100                 93       120         56          100                 49       169         60          100                 95 In Sweden, single buried berries occasionally produced clusters of up to 20 seedlings [35].  Longevity of dwarf bilberry seed has not been documented, although Granstrom [35] reports that many buried seeds may be "quite old." Seed dispersal:  Seeds of dwarf bilberry are widely dispersed by many birds and mammals [35,81].  In laboratory tests, seedlings have germinated from pellets of various lagomorphs [35]. Seedling establishment:  In many locations, including parts of northern Europe, seedlings are rarely observed [81,90].  Seedlings of Vacciniums are also rare in North America [92, (P. Stickney, pers. comm. 1990)]. However, seedling establishment of dwarf bilberry appears variable. Establishment is reportedly poor on burned sites, on scarified clearcuts, and in mature closed canopy forests [35].  However, Vander Kloet [92] reports that on favorable sites in Sweden, seedlings may number 25 per square foot (270 per square meter).  Initial development of seedlings is very slow [81]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Dwarf bilberry grows in open woods, on hillsides, high ridges, hummocky seepage slopes, and moraines [4,49,92].  In mountains of the Southwest, it occurs on all slopes and aspects at higher elevations [32].  Climate:  Upland spruce-fir sites occupied by dwarf bilberry are often cold and steep [47].  On many sites, snow commonly persists until late spring [32]. Soils:  Most Vacciniums require acidic soils and can grow on infertile sites which have relatively small amounts of many essential elements [53].  Dwarf bilberry requires little potassium and can grow well where ammonium is the only source of nitrogen [46].  In Scandinavia, dwarf bilberry appears to be most abundant on sites of intermediate fertility [20].  It is commonly associated with raw humus in parts of northeastern Scotland and Scandinavia [107,108].  It commonly grows on shallow, rocky soils in the southwestern United States [101].  Growth is generally marginal on poorly aerated soil [53]. Elevation:  Dwarf bilberry typically grows at middle to high elevations. Elevational range by geographic location is as follows [26,49,100,85,92,98]:       from 7,000 to 12,000 feet (2,134-3,660 m ) in the Southwest            8,000 to 11,000 feet (2,438-3,355 m) in AZ            7,500 to 13,000 feet (2,286-3,965 m) in CO            4,300 to 8,000 feet (1,311-2,438 m) in MT            9,500 to 11,000 feet (2,896-3,965 m) in UT            8,500 to 8,500 feet (2,591-2,591 m) in WY            656 to 3,800 feet (200-1,150 m) in Britain            > 5,250 feet (1,600 m) in the Cascades and Rocky Mtns.                   3,000 to 5,000 feet (914-1,524 m) east of the Cascades SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Dwarf bilberry occurs as a climax dominant in many high elevation spruce-fir forests of western North America [5,25,84].  In high elevation Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir and lodgepole pine forests of Colorado, it assumes prominence after the first postfire century, following the decline of rose (Rosa spp.), grouse whortleberry, and kinnikinnick.  During later stages, it commonly assumes dominance with cliffbush (Jamesia americana) and common juniper (Juniperus communis). Occurrence of dwarf bilberry by stand age has been documented as follows in Colorado [16]:                          spruce - fir                          stand age (years)                    1   2   8    8   18   74   200    280   290   300   400 density (avg. #     stems/plot)   -    -  66.6  45.0 -  171.0 151.5  79.2  96.3 132.8  136.8 frequency (%)     -    -  80    40      100   100    60    70   100     80                           lodgepole pine                           stand age (years)                   8     18   18    85  108   115  190  248   251  257 density (avg. #      stems/plot) 68.4  66.6  10.8 43.2 100.5  -   66.6 21.6  38.8 97.8 frequency (%)    40    80    20   80   100    -   80   21.6  60   100 In southern Finland, dwarf bilberry becomes abundant during secondary succession after species such as fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) have flourished and declined [96]. In some locations, this shrub may become important in early seral communities.  In parts of Britain, dwarf bilberry and mountain cranberry commonly codominate heather communities soon after fire but then decline in later successional stages [81].  Natural dieback of 12-year-old bilberry stands has been reported [7]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Phenological development of dwarf bilberry varies with climate, latitude, and longitude [95].  New leafy shoots generally develop in March or April [81].  In a Finnish study, annual vegetative growth began as buds began to swell on May 13 [95].  By June 1, leaf buds had completely opened and vegetative growth continued until early to mid-June.  Leaves were colored or shed by October 19 [95].  The active growth period lasted approximately 5 months.  Development tends to be delayed at higher elevations [81]. Seed set and berry formation begins two to four weeks after pollination [81].  Berry ripening is completed about 50 days after flowering [95]. Phenological development was documented as follows in a Finnish study [95]:                                average # of days (since Jan. 1)   beginning of veg. dev.                   136.3   leaf buds begin to open                  147.6   leaf buds completely open                152.3   start of budding                         150.6   opening of flowers                       153.4   cessation of growth                      176.3   beginning of green berry phase           170.8   berries ripening                         202.1   autumn color begins                      222.6   autumn color ends                        292.2 Generalized seasonal development by geographic location is as follows [49,73,95,97]:      location         flowering         fruiting        n ID             May-August           --      AZ               June-July            --      Southwest        May                 July      s Finland        mid-May              --      n Finland        early June           --

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Vaccinium myrtillus
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Dwarf bilberry appears well adapted to a regime of fairly frequent fires.  In parts of Britain and presumably elsewhere, it commonly persists on sites burned at "periodic" intervals [7,62].  However, this shrub also thrives under longer fire intervals.  In parts of the central and southern Rocky Mountains, it assumes dominance later than the first century after fire [16].  Relatively long fire intervals have also been reported in dwarf bilberry forests of Sweden, where mean fire frequencies are estimated at approximately 91 years [35]. Dwarf bilberry is generally capable of sprouting from an extended network of underground rhizomes after aboveground vegetation is destroyed by fire.  Regeneration through seed is reportedly poor on burned, previously forested sites [35].  Although some researchers consider dwarf bilberry to be a seed banker [29,35], seedlings are apparently rare [81].  Some seed may be carried to burned sites by birds and mammals [35,81]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown    Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil    Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Vaccinium myrtillus
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Portions of stem bases occasionally survive light fires.  Underground regenerative structures of dwarf bilberry generally survive all but extremely hot fires [90].  Rhizomes, which occur at depths of 0.24 to 1.2 inches (6-30 mm) [41,90], can survive fires in which soil surface temperatures reach 820 degrees F (438 degrees C) [90].  However, rhizomes are sometimes destroyed on severely burned sites [90]. Seeds of most Vacciniums are of short viability and are readily killed by heat [64]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Vegetative response:  Dwarf bilberry commonly sprouts from underground rhizomes or, when damage is less severe, from axillary buds located at the stem base [62,90].  Sprouting ability appears closely related to fire intensity and severity [62].  Dwarf bilberry generally sprouts following all but hot fires [90].  A Colorado study suggests that although postfire canopy cover is typically high on lightly burned sites, this shrub may be virtually eliminated on severely burned areas [109].  Postfire response is generally best in protected microsites or on lightly burned areas [78,90]. Clonal vigor is often enhanced by fire.  Old, large, decadent clones are often broken up by fire [38].  Surviving portions serve as isolated centers of regeneration which give rise to the development of vigorous daughter clones [81].  Seed:  Seedlings are rarely observed on burned sites [90].  Although some researchers consider dwarf bilberry to be a seed banker, adequate documentation is lacking [See Regeneration].  Birds and mammals may carry some seed to burned sites. Postfire response:  Vegetative expansion of dwarf bilberry may be rapid after fire, particularly where competition is light [81].  Sprouting may be evident within a few months after fires in which surface soil temperatures reached as high as 820 degrees F (438 degrees C).  In forests of northern Sweden, preburn cover can be reached within a few years.  However, where underground rhizomes are destroyed by fire, recovery may take a "very long time" [90].  On burned and clearcut old growth forests of west-central Montana, dwarf bilberry had not attained preburned biomass within 10 to 14 years after disturbance [78]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Fire temperature:  The effect of temperature on the sprouting ability of dwarf bilberry in Scotland was documented as follows after 17 months of regrowth [62]:                         aboveground temperatures                         (degrees C for 2 minutes)                                                400          600           800 mean # sprouts/plant    180           51            22 mean % cover            133           68            16 mean height (cm)         22           17            14 mean biomass (g)         85           30             3 FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Wildlife:  Evidence suggests that fire suppression may be having an adverse impact on bear habitat in some areas [102,110].  Once-productive berry fields are being invaded by conifers.  Since plants beneath a forest canopy generally produce few berries, fruit production has been steadily declining in many areas [65].  Berry fields can be treated with fire if maintenance or enhancement of berry crops is a prime management objective.  Logging treatments which include severe soil scarification or slash burns may also reduce berry production.  Even where timber harvest favors berry production, lack of cover in early years can limit bear use.  Wildfires often create diverse habitat mosaics which incorporate elements of hiding cover and favor bear use [102]. Prescribed fire:  Flower buds tend to be more numerous on new shoots, and periodic removal of old shoots can increase flower production in Vacciniums.  Prescribed fire has long been used to rejuvenate commercial low sweet blueberry (V. angustifolium) fields and to increase overall fruit production [64].  Prescribed fires, particularly those conducted during the spring when soil moisture is high, may increase berry production for wildlife species.  Little research has been conducted on dwarf bilberry, although the use of prescribed fire has been evaluated with respect to blue and globe huckleberries [64,65].   Fuels:  A dwarf bilberry understory partially supports fine fuels such as needle litter and small twigs and produces a more optimally aerated fuel bed.  Estimated fuel loading of dwarf bilberry has been established for lodgepole pine forests of the southern Rocky Mountains [2]. Timber harvest:  In spruce-fir forests of the southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, forest regeneration after fire may be most rapid in cover types dominated by Vacciniums such as dwarf bilberry [27].

FIRE CASE STUDIES

SPECIES: Vaccinium myrtillus
FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION : Tirmenstein, D., compiler. 1990. Effects of a prescribed crown fire on dwarf bilberry on Table Mountain, Washington. In: Vaccinium myrtillus. 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/ []. REFERENCE : Woodard, Paul Michael. 1977. Effects of prescribed burning on two different-aged high-elevation plant communities in eastern Washington. Seattle, WA: University of Washington. 228 p. Dissertation. [111]. SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION : September 30, 1975  - severity not reported. STUDY LOCATION : The study site is located in Kittitas County, Washington on the east side of the Cascades, approximately midway between Ellensburg and Wenatchee. PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY : Two areas, both of which occur in the subalpine fir zone, were included in the study.  Both sites were representative of the Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii)-subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa)-elk sedge (Carex geyerii) habitat type as delineated by Wirsing (1973).  The lodgepole pine thicket site was described as a "well-developed, well-differentiated" stand.  All layers of the overstory were well stocked with lodgepole pine, the dominant overstory species.  Subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce codominated the intermediate crown class. Common understory dominants included elk sedge (Carex geyerii), heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), broadleaf arnica (Arnica latifolia), Hood sedge (Carex hoodii), bigleaf lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), and dwarf bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). The snag site consisted of decadent lodgepole.  Many snags were present in the overstory with living lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, and Engelmann spruce.  Subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce occurred as overstory codominants although only subalpine fir was regenerating beneath the closed canopy.  Subalpine fir, elk sedge, broadleaf arnica (Arnica latifolia), pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens), and the mosses Rhacomitrium canescens var. ericoides and Polytrichum commune were common understory dominants. Subplots at both sites were thinned to 20 percent of the original crown cover prior to the burn. TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE : not reported SITE DESCRIPTION :         elevation - 5,600 to 5,800 feet (1,706-1,761 m)         slope - 0 to 20 percent         aspect - south to west, primarily southwest         topography - much relief         soils -                 parent material - basalt residuum                 bedrock composition - basalt, andesite, rhyolite                 soil fertility -                         lodgepole pine thicket - low                 snag - moderate         climate -                 winters - cold and wet                 summers - cool and dry                 annual precipitation - 31.5 to 63 inches (80-160 cm)                 70 percent of annual precipitation occurs as snow                 between October and March FIRE DESCRIPTION :         time of fire - 1400 to 1600 hours         ambient air temperature - 61 to 63 degrees F (16-17 degrees C)         relative humidity - 19 to 21 percent         wind direction - south to southwest, erratic         wind speed - calm, gusts to 16 miles per hour (26 km/hour)         days since rain - 15         fuel moisture (fine) - 13.1 percent         estimated flame heights - 125 to 140 feet (38-42 m)         fire description - A back fire was ignited on the north side                 with 9 foot (3 m) strips, then a strip head fire was                 applied to the remainder of area at 49 foot intervals.                 Hand-held drip torches containing a 50/50                 diesel oil-gasoline mixture were used to ignite the                 fire.         mean duff reductions -                         lodgepole pine thicket - from 60 tonnes/ha to                                 4 tonnes/ha                         snag - from 74 tonnes/ha to 49 tonnes/ha   FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES : Comparative frequency and cover of dwarf bilberry were documented as follows: Lodgepole pine thicket -                 rel. frequency                    rel. cover         before tmt.   1 yr. after         before tmt.     1 yr. after burned      .46           .38                 .013            .012 control     .75          1.00                 .078            .070 thinned     .20           .20                 .019            .002 Snag -                 rel. frequency                    rel. cover         before tmt.   1 yr. after         before tmt.     1 yr. after burned       .12          .06                  .001           .000 control      .25          .50                  .009           .004 thinned      .20          .20                  .001           .013 Dwarf bilberry regenerated from rhizomes after fire, but in general, postfire response was poor. FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS : Crown fires can kill or drastically reduce sprouters such as dwarf bilberry.

REFERENCES

SPECIES: Vaccinium myrtillus
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