Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Prunus emarginata


Introductory

SPECIES: Prunus emarginata
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Esser, Lora L. 1995. Prunus emarginata. 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 : PRUEMA SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : PREM PREME PREMM COMMON NAMES : bitter cherry TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of bitter cherry is Prunus emarginata (Dougl.) Walp. (Rosaceae) [44,61,133]. There are two recognized varieties [44,49]: Prunus emarginata var. emarginata Prunus emarginata var. mollis (Dougl.) Brewer Bitter cherry hybridizes with pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) [120]. LIFE FORM : Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY

DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Prunus emarginata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Bitter cherry occurs from British Columbia and Vancouver Island south to southern California and east to Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico [50,61,120]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES22 Western white pine FRES23 Fir-spruce FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce FRES25 Larch FRES26 Lodgepole pine FRES27 Redwood FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub FRES35 Pinyon-juniper STATES : AZ CA ID MT NV NM OR UT WA WY BC BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 3 Southern Pacific Border 4 Sierra Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 11 Southern Rocky Mountains 12 Colorado Plateau KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K001 Spruce-cedar-hemlock forest K002 Cedar-hemlock-Douglas-fir forest K003 Silver fir-Douglas-fir forest K004 Fir-hemlock forest K005 Mixed conifer forest K006 Redwood forest K007 Red fir forest K008 Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest K010 Ponderosa shrub forest K012 Douglas-fir forest K013 Cedar-hemlock-pine forest K014 Grand fir-Douglas-fir forest K015 Western spruce-fir forest K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest K022 Great Basin pine forest K024 Juniper steppe woodland K025 Alder-ash forest K026 Oregon oakwoods K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026 K029 California mixed evergreen forest K033 Chaparral K034 Montane chaparral SAF COVER TYPES : 205 Mountain hemlock 206 Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir 207 Red fir 208 Whitebark pine 210 Interior Douglas-fir 211 White fir 212 Western larch 213 Grand fir 215 Western white pine 217 Aspen 218 Lodgepole pine 219 Limber pine 220 Rocky Mountain juniper 221 Red alder 222 Black cottonwood-willow 223 Sitka spruce 224 Western hemlock 225 Western hemlock-Sitka spruce 226 Coastal true fir-hemlock 227 Western redcedar-western hemlock 228 Western redcedar 229 Pacific Douglas-fir 230 Douglas-fir-western hemlock 231 Port-Orford-cedar 232 Redwood 233 Oregon white oak 234 Douglas-fir-tanoak-Pacific madrone 235 Cottonwood-willow 237 Interior ponderosa pine 238 Western juniper 243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer 244 Pacific ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir 245 Pacific ponderosa pine 246 California black oak 247 Jeffrey pine 256 California mixed subalpine SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : 107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass 109 Ponderosa pine shrubland 203 Riparian woodland 204 North coastal shrub 208 Ceanothus mixed chaparral 209 Montane shrubland 210 Bitterbrush 409 Tall forb 411 Aspen woodland 418 Bigtooth maple 419 Bittercherry 420 Snowbrush 421 Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose 422 Riparian HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Bitter cherry occurs in a variety of habitats including mountain brush, woodland, and riparian [11,17,40,77,83]. Bitter cherry occurs in seral brushfield communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and western Idaho. Common associates include Rocky mountain maple (Acer glabrum), Scouler willow (Salix scouleriana), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), redstem ceanothus (Ceanothus sanguineus), deerbrush (C. integerrimus), Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), pachistima (Pachistima myrsinites), and oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) [35,40,68,99]. In California bitter cherry occurs in yellow pine (Pinus spp.) woodlands and giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) communities. Common associates include incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia), Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), California hazel (Corylus cornuta var. californica), greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula), Parry manzanita (A. manzanita), pinemat manzanita (A. nevadensis), and bush chinquapin (Chrysolepsis sempervirens) [19,41,129,130]. In northern Idaho and eastern Washington bitter cherry occurs in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) communities with Sitka alder (Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata), Douglas maple (Acer glabrum var. douglasii), blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea), russet buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis), and red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) [23,127]. In Arizona bitter cherry is a member of interior deciduous riparian forests dominated by sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii), narrowleaf cottonwood (P. angustifolia), boxelder (Acer negundo), and Arizona walnut (Juglans major) [11,83].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Prunus emarginata
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Bitter cherry is a valuable forage species for mule deer, elk, and black bear [19,54,99,110,111]. In the Pacific Northwest and California bitter cherry is highly preferred winter forage for Columbian black-tailed deer [12,21,66]. In the Southwest bitter cherry is browsed by deer and elk [62]. Throughout its range, bitter cherry fruits are eaten by birds, rodents, and small mammals [19,86,99,111]. In Washington bitter cherry is eaten by slugs [15]. In the Sierra Nevada bitter cherry is utilized by mountain beaver [7]. Bitter cherry is highly palatable to sheep [36]. It is a preferred sheep food in Oregon [74]. Bitter cherry is also eaten by cattle [91]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : In California crude protein content of bitter cherry browse was 13.3 percent in July and 9.7 percent in September [9]. COVER VALUE : Dense thickets of bitter cherry provide important cover for wildlife [11,111]. In Idaho bitter cherry provides important escape cover and roosting sites for Columbian sharp-tailed grouse [77,78]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Bitter cherry adapts well to disturbed or degraded sites [26,28,102,120]. It is used for land reclamation and erosion control [26,102,120]. Nursery-grown stock readily establishes on disturbed sites and once established, bitter cherry is a good soil stabilizer [102]. In California and Nevada bitter cherry is used for rehabilitating acid mine spoils [26,28]. At the Leviathan Mine in California, planted bitter cherry had a 90 percent survival rate on sites not seeded with grasses after 1 year. By the second year, grasses had established and bitter cherry survival dropped to 60 percent of the original planting [26]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Indians of British Columbia and Washington used bitter cherry medicinally and for making tools. Fruits were used as laxatives, and the roots and inner bark were boiled and ingested to prevent heart trouble. The bark of bitter cherry peels off in long fibrous strips which were used to make baskets and other implements [120,123]. Bitter cherry is planted as an ornamental. Cultivated plants are usually Prunus emarginata var. mollis [120]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Overbrowsing by deer decreases bitter cherry cover [128,129]. When used to enhance wildlife habitat, bitter cherry benefits from protection from foraging animals for at least 3 years after planting [28]. In the Pacific Northwest and California, brushfield communities are sometimes eliminated for the benefit of conifer establishment. Many herbicide and mechanical treatments will control or kill bitter cherry [13,63,81,94,114]. Bitter cherry should be propagated from seed for best results but will also establish if propagated from softwood stem or root cuttings. Bitter cherry should be planted in the fall or late winter to early spring as bare root, balled, or burlapped specimens [120]. Numerous insect pests and diseases are associated with cherry (Prunus spp.). Insect pests include aphids, borers, and tent caterpillars. Bitter cherry is susceptible to trunk and root rot fungi [120].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Prunus emarginata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Bitter cherry is a native, deciduous, small tree or shrub with spreading to ascending branches [19,37,43,120]. It often forms dense thickets [20,46,111]. It generally persists as a medium to tall shrub, 3.3 to 20 feet (1-6 m) in height [120]. With abundant moisture and deep fertile soil, bitter cherry may reach tree height: up to 50 feet (15 m) in some areas [19,91,101,120]. The leaves are 0.8 to 2 inches (2-5 cm) long and 0.4 to 1.4 inches (1-3.5 cm) wide [19,120]. The drupelike, ovoid fruit is 0.24 to 0.56 inch (6-14 mm) in diameter [43,120] and is one-seeded [120]. Roots may spread up to 50 feet (15 m) from the parent plant, sending up adventitious shoots along their length. Bitter cherry has no taproot [120]. Longevity of bitter cherry has not been fully determined. According to Kramer [57] and Mueggler [92,93] it is relatively short-lived (30-40 years). Taylor and Taylor [120] described one plant 42 years old. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Bitter cherry reproduces by seed [28,111,120]. It is pollinated by insects and dispersed by birds and mammals [37,57,111,116]. Seed can remain viable in soil and duff for many years [39,57,88] and can be stored under dry conditions for up to 1 year [120]. It is surrounded by a stony endocarp which may offer some resistance to germination but is permeable to moisture. Bitter cherry has embryo dormancy; an afterripening period in the presence of oxygen and moisture is necessary for adequate germination [37,120]. Cold stratification at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 deg C) for 90 to 160 days increases germination [37,120]. Kramer [57] studied seedbank composition in closed-canopy forested sites in central Idaho. Bitter cherry seed was found in soil samples taken at depths of up to 4 inches (10 cm); overall seed viability was 27 percent. Bitter cherry reproduces vegetatively by root crown and root sprouts [19,28,64,79,97,134]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Bitter cherry is most often found in cool, moist foothill, montane, or canyon habitats throughout its range [17,19,61,91,120]. It grows best on moist soils with good drainage [19,99,120], but also grows in semishaded areas and on dry, exposed hillsides [1,120]. Bitter cherry grows best on loam and sandy loam soils but occurs on gravelly substrates as well [42,99,120]. Elevations for bitter cherry are as follows: feet meters Arizona 5,000-9,000 1,500-2,700 [50] California 2,000-9,000 600-2,700 [17,19] Idaho 3,530-8,150 1,070-2,470 [127] Montana 2,800-5,000 840-1,650 [24,54] Utah 5,030 1,525 [133] British Columbia 4,025 1,220 [120] SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Bitter cherry is a generally shade intolerant species of sparse woods, riparian sites, and open areas where there is often evidence of past disturbance [2,85,88,89,120]. Bitter cherry is seral following clearcutting, broadcast burning, and cattle grazing [2,59,85,88]; plants decline in vigor and numbers as the forest canopy closes [57,59,89,92,113]. In northwest Washington bitter cherry occurs in second-growth forests that are 50 to 80 years old [100]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Bitter cherry flowering dates are as follows: Arizona April-June [50] California April-May [19] Idaho early May [99] British Columbia April-June [120] Bitter cherry fruit ripening occurs from July to September and seed dispersal is from August through September [37].

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Prunus emarginata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Bitter cherry sprouts vigorously following fire [19,64,79,97,134]. Approximately 15 to 50 sprouts per plant were produced after a prescribed fire in northern Idaho [66,67]. Postfire regeneration also includes germination from on-site seed [57,88,116], and probably also from off-site seed dispersed by birds and mammals. Prefire canopy coverage is attained about 30 to 40 years following fire [97]. In ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests of eastern Washington and the northern Rocky Mountains, where bitter cherry occurs, fire return intervals of 6 to 22 years [131] and 6 to 11 years (range of 2-20 years) [4] have been described. In western Montana at the Burdette Creek winter range, Losensky [75] describes mean fire-free intervals of 37 years. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community) Secondary colonizer - off-site seed

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Prunus emarginata
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Bitter cherry is top-killed or killed by severe fires [70,79,89]. High-severity fires favor bitter cherry [89]. Young [135] stated that bitter cherry is "unharmed to enhanced" by fire. However, bitter cherry mortality can be high when burning occurs while plants are actively growing. Approximately 14 percent of 36 mature bitter cherry died after a single spring (late March/early April) prescribed fire on a seral brushfield in northern Idaho [73]. Repeated spring burning of similar sites at 5-year intervals resulted in heavy bitter cherry mortality [70]. Seven plants sprouted following a fire in late March 1965. Of these, four sprouted after a second fire in May 1970, and two remained alive after a third fire in May 1975. Total mortality by 1976 was 86 percent. Leege [70] suggested that the tendency toward fire-induced mortality in bitter cherry was probably accentuated by the advanced phenologies of plants during the second and third fires. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Bitter cherry sprouts from the root crown following fire [47,105]. Since root sprouting has been documented in bitter cherry [28] it probably also sprouts from roots after fire. It establishes from buried seed or seed dispersed onto burned sites [114]. Several studies have reported rapid recovery and substantial postfire increases in bitter cherry densities [16,33,112]. In an Oregon coastal brushfield, bitter cherry sprouted from roots 4 months after fire [138]. In an Oregon red alder (Alnus rubra)-dominated brushfield burned on August 9, 1974, bitter cherry started sprouting within 2 to 3 weeks. By November, bitter cherry was sprouting vigorously and stems were 3.3 feet (1 m) tall [106]. In Montana a prescribed fire occurred on April 13, 1988. Plots were observed from mid-July to mid-September. Bitter cherry sprout twig weights on burned plots exceeded twig weights on unburned plots by a factor of 4 on southwest-facing forested types and by a factor of 9 on a southeast-facing forested type [76]. In northern Idaho more bitter cherry sprouts are produced per surviving plant after spring fires than fall fires; however, sprout height is usually greater after fall fires. Bitter cherry recovery trends 1 year after a prescribed fire in seral brushfields in northern Idaho are presented below [73]: time of fire spring fall average # of basal sprouts per plant prefire 0.4 0.5 postfire 18.3 15.2 average height basal sprouts (ft) postfire 2.0 2.6 average crown diameter (ft) prefire 5.0 4.7 postfire 1.9 2.3 average crown height (ft) prefire 15.1 13.9 postfire 3.4 4.1 A seral brushfield in northern Idaho was prescribed burned in 1965, 1970, and 1975. Bitter cherry sprouted from the root crown and a few seedlings were observed. The average prefire crown height and diameter were 8.4 feet and 1.6 feet, respectively. Bitter cherry recovery trends 2 years after the prescribed fires are presented below [70]: year 1966 1971 1976 maximum crown height (ft) 5.2 5.5 4.1 maximum crown diameter (ft) 2.2 2.5 2.0 Idaho studies investigating postfire successional patterns in a western redcedar (Thuja plicata)/queencup beadlily (Clintonia uniflora) habitat type found that bitter cherry regenerated predominantly from seedbanks. Seedling establishment was affected by fire severity. Bitter cherry seedlings had greatest percent cover on low-severity burns in postfire years 1 to 3; in postfire years 4 and 5, bitter cherry seedling percent cover was greatest on high-severity burns [87,89]. A seral brushfield in northern Idaho was prescribed burned on May 2, 1966; all aboveground vegetation was "totally consumed". In May 1967, 257 bitter cherry seedlings were observed. By May 1968, 14 bitter cherry seedlings remained [69]. In northeastern Idaho, on a May 14, 1975 prescribed burn, seven bitter cherry seedlings were observed in postfire year 2. By postfire year 4, four seedlings remained [71]. In Oregon a Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) clearcut was prescribed burned in late fall. Bitter cherry seedlings were present postfire year 1 on the burned site but were not present in adjacent virgin forest [33]. In Oregon 240 acres (96 ha) of a Douglas-fir watershed was harvested over a 4-year period from the fall of 1962 to the summer of 1966. It was broadcast burned in October 1966. Bitter cherry reached peak abundance about 10 years after fire [39]. In north-central Idaho in a grand fir (Abies grandis)/pachistima habitat type, 36 stands representing 1, 3, 8, 12, and 23 year age classes and 7 near-climax stands were clearcut and broadcast burned. Canopy cover and height of bitter cherry for each age class were as follows [136]: canopy cover height (%) inches centimeters age class 1 0.1 9 22 3 0.1 17 44 8 0.4 25 63 12 0.9 49 122 23 0.3 38 95 near-climax 0.0 -- -- In the western Cascades bitter cherry was absent from undisturbed old-growth Douglas-fir stands, but was abundant on Douglas-fir plantations that were clearcut and broadcast burned 2 to 40 years ago. Shrub dominance decreases at 20 to 30 years with canopy closure [108]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The Research Project Summary Understory recovery after low- and high-intensity fires in northern Idaho ponderosa pine forests provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species including bitter cherry. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Bitter cherry is a member of the seral brush community in northern Idaho. These brushfields provide excellent habitat for elk. Bitter cherry is one of the dominant shrubs after fire, but grows out of reach of browsing animals within several years. If brushfields are not maintained by fire, coniferous forest may eventually establish and large ungulate habitat will be lost [42,45,92,124]. Bitter cherry was found to have greater frequency and crown cover on single broadcast burned sites than on unburned and piled-and-burned sites [92].

References for species: Prunus emarginata


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