Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Arbutus xalapensis


SPECIES: Arbutus xalapensis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tirmenstein, D. A. 1990. Arbutus xalapensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. ABBREVIATION : ARBXAL SYNONYMS : Arbutus texana Buckl. [26] SCS PLANT CODE : ARXA80 COMMON NAMES : Texas madrone TAXONOMY : The current scientific name of Texas madrone is Arbutus xalapensis Kunth (Ericaceae) [14,17,32,33]. LIFE FORM : Tree-shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : See OTHER STATUS OTHER STATUS : Texas madrone is listed as an endangered species by the Texas Organization for Endangered Species [27].


SPECIES: Arbutus xalapensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Texas madrone grows from the Edwards Plateau of south-central Texas to Trans-Pecos Texas and southeastern New Mexico [12].  It occurs southward through Mexico into Guatemala [12]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES21  Ponderosa pine    FRES28  Western hardwoods    FRES32  Texas savanna    FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub    FRES35  Pinyon - juniper STATES :      NM  TX  MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :    13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont    14  Great Plains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K018  Pine - Douglas-fir forest    K023  Juniper - pinyon woodlands    K031  Oak - juniper woodlands    K060  Mesquite savanna    K061  Mesquite - acacia savanna    K062  Mesquite - live oak savanna SAF COVER TYPES :     66  Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper     68  Mesquite    235  Cottonwood - willow    239  Pinyon - juniper    240  Arizona cypress    241  Western live oak    242  Mesquite SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Texas madrone is listed as a dominant or indicator in the following community type (cts) classification: Area                    Classification          Authority TX: Brewster Co.        general veg. cts        Denyes 1956


SPECIES: Arbutus xalapensis
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Wood of Texas madrone is reddish-brown, hard, heavy, and close grained [26].  Sapwood is light in color.  The wood is easily worked and colorful [16] and reportedly has some commercial value [25].  It has been used to make tool handles, rollers, fuel, and charcoal for gun powder [26]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Texas madrone is utilized by both livestock and wildlife [23].  Small plants with accessible foliage are lightly browsed by cattle [12,26]. Use by domestic goats may be heavy in some areas [19,26].  The sweet fruit of Texas madrone is eaten by many species of birds [19,26]. PALATABILITY : Browse of Texas madrone is at least somewhat palatable to cattle and highly palatable to domestic goats [26].  Berries are palatable to many species of birds [19]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Texas madrone presumably provides shade and cover for a variety of wildlife species. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Texas madrone can be propagated by cutting, layering, or budding [26,31].  Plants can also be grown from seed, although light and soil moisture requirements are exacting [12,27,28,31].  After more than 10 years of experimentation, only 2 of 10,000 seeds planted in carefully controlled greenhouse conditions actually germinated and became established [12,31].  Fortunately, newly developed laboratory techniques have greatly improved seedling survival rates [27,28,31] [see Regeneration].  Researchers recommend selecting seeds carefully, using sterilized soil and distilled or deionized water, supplementing natural sunlight with artificial light to extend daylength, and carefully controlling fungus [12].  Seedlings should never be exposed to direct sunlight until well conditioned.  Details on seed handling and planting techniques are available [12,27,28,31].  Texas madrone is difficult to transplant [12]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Texas madrone can be grown as an ornamental and is occasionally used in landscaping [19].  The attractive leaves and flowers make it well suited for individual or mixed plantings [23].  The leaves and bark are astringent and are used medicinally in parts of Mexico [26]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Grazing:  Texas madrone is becoming increasingly rare.  Older, larger trees are dying, and few seedlings and young trees exist [23]. Seedlings are particularly rare wherever livestock are present [12], presumably because of the combined effects of browsing and trampling. Managers interested in preserving this unique species may wish to protect the few locations in which seedlings have been found. Damage/disease: Many insects, including the European bark beetle, attack Texas madrone [9].  This plant is also susceptible to a condition in which large limbs turn black and the foliage soon dies [12].  The causal agent has not been identified. Fertilizer:  Heavy applications of fertilizer can kill Texas madrone by drawing water from the roots [31].


SPECIES: Arbutus xalapensis
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Texas madrone grows as an evergreen tree or, less commonly, as a large shrub which reaches 20 or 30 feet (0.6-1.1 m) in height [12].  Plants may reach 40 feet (12 m) in height, 9.3 feet (2.8 m) in girth, and 42 feet (13 m) in crown spread on favorable sites [12,19].  Branches are usually crooked, stout, and spreading [26].  Bark of Texas madrone is both unique and attractive.  Older bark is dark brown, gray, or black and exfoliates annually in papery layers to expose colorful new "skinlike" bark [2,12,26].  New bark may be white, orange, pink, apricot, tan, or dark red [22,26]. The simple, alternate leaves of Texas madrone are thick and leathery [12,22,26].  Leaves are oblong to elliptic ovate to oval, dark green above and paler beneath [22,26].  The upper surface is glabrous, whereas the lower surface is glabrous or somewhat pubescent [26]. Small, urn-shaped white or pinkish-white blossoms occur in clusters or panicles approximately 3 inches (8 cm) in length [12,22].  Fruits are nearly round, warty "berries" 0.25 to 0.3 inch (6-8 mm) in diameter [19,26].  Berries are bright red, yellow-orange, or yellow [22,26] and are borne in 2- to 3-inch (5-8 cm) clusters [26].  Each fruit contains 1 to 10 small white seeds [26,31]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :    Undisturbed State:  Phanerophyte (microphanerophyte)    Undisturbed State:  Phanerophyte (mesophanerophyte) REGENERATION PROCESSES : Seed:  Little is known about reproduction of Texas madrone [12]. However, this species is characterized by a low reproductive rate [23]. Seed is produced in abundance [26] and widely dispersed [19], but seedlings are extremely rare.  Small numbers of seedlings have been observed in Gardner State Park, the Guadalupe Mountains, and near Devil's Backbone in Hays County, Texas [12].  A unique population of several hundred seedlings reportedly exists near Vanderpool, Texas. Germination:  If seed remains moist, germination can begin within 7 to 14 days [12].  Seedlings exhibit best early growth under a 12-hour photoperiod at daytime temperatures of 81 degrees F (27 degrees C) and nighttime temperatures of 64 degrees F (18 degrees C) [27,28].  Good growth occurs at 60 to 70 percent relative humidity at a light intensity of 6,500 to 10,000 lux [28].  At higher light intensities, growth may be reduced by photo-bleaching of chlorophyll [27].  The effects of higher light intensities may be somewhat mitigated under natural conditions if soil moisture remains high [27].  Under ideal laboratory conditions, germination can range from 20 to 90 percent [31]. Nurse trees:  On the Edwards Plateau, seedlings are most often found at the base of junipers where juniper mulch is fairly thick [27].  Other species can also serve as "nurse trees", but seedlings are rarely if ever found beneath older madrones [12].  The partial shade of the nurse trees reduces water stress and allows seedlings to survive despite dry conditions [28].  The heavy mulch also promotes survival by holding water. Vegetative regeneration:  Under laboratory conditions, plants may be propagated by cutting, layering, and budding [26].  Stump-sprouts have been reported under natural conditions [31]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Texas madrone grows in wooded canyons, on slopes of desert mountains, along dry creekbeds, and in foothill drainages with water present [12,19].  It grows well in full sun on xeric sites [22,26].  Texas madrone is a common component of closed-canopy canyon forests and densely wooded stands which occur at the head of canyons [11]. Scattered individuals occur in oak-pinyon-juniper and Madrean evergreen woodlands, interior chaparral, and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) communities [3,4,12,19,29,30]. Plant associates:  Common associates include the live oaks (Quercus spp.), Graves oak (Q. gravesii), alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana), Ashe juniper (J. ashei), Mexican pinyon (Pinus cembroides), ponderosa pine, and cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) [8,12].  Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), coyote willow (Salix exigua), gray oak (Quercus grisea), bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum), and ash (Fraxinus spp.) frequently occur with Texas madrone in riparian woodland communities [4]. Soils:  Texas madrone grows on well-drained slightly acidic to alkaline soils [22].  Soil pH commonly ranges from 7.5 to 7.8 [22].  Soils are often derived from limestone or igneous parent materials [26]. Climate:  Average precipitation ranges from 16 to 30 inches (41-72 cm) annually [31]. Elevation:  In Trans-Pecos Texas, Texas madrone grows from 4,000 to 7,500 feet (1,219-2,286 m) in elevation [19]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Texas madrone is characterized by a low reproductive rate and slow growth [23].  It occurs in relatively undisturbed climax riparian woodland communities.  However, little is known about its successional role in other communities in which it occurs. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Texas madrone flowers in early spring and berries ripen during the fall [22].  Generalized flowering and fruiting dates by geographic location are as follows: location             flowering            fruiting          authority Trans-Pecos TX       Feb. - April         ----              Powell 1988 SW                   Feb. - March         ----              Vines 1960 TX                   late Feb. -          Oct. - Dec.       Hardesty and                      early March                            Whitenberg                                                             1976


SPECIES: Arbutus xalapensis
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Texas madrone occurs in a variety of riparian woodland communities which burn infrequently.  In many areas, the narrow canyon forest contrast strikingly with adjacent desert grassland or shrubland communities [5]. Evidence suggests that recurrent fires in the much drier desert grassland types may have eliminated invading shrubs and trees [13]. Texas madrone also grows in moist forest communities of the Chisos Mountains of Texas in which fire-scarred trees are commonly observed [8].  The presence of both seedlings and mature (2 to 6 inch d.b.h. [5-15 cm]) individuals in these stands suggest that this species may possess attributes which permit survival in fire-prone environments. Limited establishment may occur on favorable sites from bird-dispersed seed originating on adjacent unburned sites.  Postfire sprouting has not been documented, although stump-sprouting has been reported after mechanical removal [31]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2


SPECIES: Arbutus xalapensis
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Little is known about the effects of fire on Texas madrone.  Mature individuals were reported in forest communities of the Chisos Mountains of Texas which had burned at periodic intervals during the last 50 years [8].  This may indicate the presence of morphological adaptations which permit survival.  Alternately, fuels may have been discontinuous or light and the burns patchy or of low severity. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : The response of Texas madrone to fire has not been documented.  Vigorous stump-sprouting has been reported after mechanical removal [31], but postfire sprouting has not been reported.  Since Texas madrone is relatively rare and fire uncommon in many communities in which it occurs, lack of published accounts may not necessarily rule out the possibility of postfire sprouting.  Seed is produced in abundance [26] and is widely dispersed by birds [19].  Very limited seedling establishment may occur on favorable sites. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Bock and Bock [2] report that prescribed fire is "difficult to manage and potentially very destructive" in established riparian woodlands of the Southwest.  These relatively rare and fragile areas provide important food and cover for desert wildlife [21].  Because browse and cover are often limited in these areas, burning is not generally recommended [21].


SPECIES: Arbutus xalapensis
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Checklist of United States trees (native        and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p.  [2952] 18.  Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession        following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall        Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council        fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No.        14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373.  [1496] 19.  Powell, A. Michael. 1988. Trees & shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas including        Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park,        TX: Big Bend Natural History Association. 536 p.  [6130] 20.  Severson, Kieth E.; Rinne, John N. 1990. Increasing habitat diversity in        Southwestern forests and woodlands via prescribed fire. In: Krammes, J.        S., technical coordinator. Effects of fire management of Southwestern        natural resources: Proceedings of the symposium; 1988 November 15-17;        Tucson, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-191. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment        Station: 94-104.  [11277] 22.  Simpson, Benny J. 1988. A field guide to Texas trees. Austin, TX: Texas        Monthly Press. 372 p.  [11708] 23.  Steger, Robert E.; Beck, Reldon F. 1973. Range plants as ornamentals.        Journal of Range Management. 26: 72-74.  [12038] 24.  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982.        National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names.        SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p.  [11573] 25.  Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States,        their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S.        Department of Agriculture. 362 p.  [4240] 26.  Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest.        Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p.  [7707] 27.  Whitenberg, D.C.; Hardesty, W. D. 1978. Environmental factors affecting        growth and development of the Texas madrone, I. Effect of light        intensity on seedling growth. Texas Journal of Science. 30(2): 175-178.        [11872] 28.  Whitenberg, D. C.; Hardesty, W. D. 1978. Environmental factors affecting        growth and development of the Texas madrone. II. Interaction of light        intensity and water stress. Texas Journal of Science. 30(4): 347-350.        [11873] 29.  Kennedy, Kathryn L. 1983. A habitat type classification of the        pinyon-juniper woodlands of the Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico. In:        Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop        on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM.        Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Southwestern Region: 54-61.  [1332] 30.  Pase, Charles P.; Brown, David E. 1982. Interior chaparral. In: Brown,        David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United        States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 95-99.  [1826] 31.  Wiedenfeld,  C. C. 1975. The Texas madrone. Texas Horticulturist. 2(1):        14-16.  [12439] 32.  Diggs, George M., Jr.; Lipscomb, Barney L.; O'Kennon, Robert J. 1999. Illustrated        flora of north-central Texas. Sida Botanical Miscellany No. 16. Fort Worth, TX:        Botanical Research Institute of Texas.  1626 p.  [35698] 33.  Jones, Stanley D.; Wipff, Joseph K.; Montgomery, Paul M. 1997. Vascular        plants of Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 404 p.  [28762]

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