Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Adenostoma sparsifolium
SPECIES: Adenostoma sparsifolium
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Howard, Janet L. 1993. Adenostoma sparsifolium. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
Images were added on 13 July 2018.
NRCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The scientific name of redshank is Adenostoma sparsifolium Torr.
(Rosaceae) . Redshank and chamise (A. fasciculatum) are
the only two species in the genus. These congeners do not naturally
hybridize because their flowering periods do not overlap . There
are no recognized infrataxa.
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Adenostoma sparsifolium
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Redshank occurs in discrete, disjunct populations in southern
California and Baja California Norte. It is distributed along the South
Coast and Transverse ranges from south-central San Louis Obispo County
to Los Angeles County, where distribution shifts inland to interior
regions of the Peninsular Ranges and the Sierra San Pedro Matir
[7,17,26,30,32,36]. The southern edge of redshank's distribution is
about 150 miles (240 km) beyond the Alta-Baja California border. The
total range of the species is approximately 300 miles (480 km) in extent
(latitude 30 deg 30 min N. to latitude 35 deg 30 min N; longitude 115
deg 40 min W. to longitude 120 deg 30 min W.) . The largest red
shank populations are in the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains and
in interior valleys of Riverside and San Diego counties .
|Distribution of redshank in California. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database.
National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, July 13] .
FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon - juniper
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
3 Southern Pacific Border
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K035 Coastal sagebrush
SAF COVER TYPES :
239 Pinyon - juniper
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
205 Coastal sage shrub
206 Chamise chaparral
207 Scrub oak mixed chaparral
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Redshank is a dominant species in chamise, mixed, redshank, and desert
chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and singleleaf pinyon-Utah juniper (Pinus
monophylla-Juniperus osteosperma) woodland . Redshank chaparral
primarily occurs in the San Jacinto and Santa Monica mountains, where it
often forms open, nearly pure stands [3,16,19]. Because it grows as
tall as 18 feet (5.5 m), it dominates chaparral overstories [15,36]. It
is a common associate in chamise chaparral , and redshank and
chamise codominate on some sites . Redshank-populated chaparral
merges with desert vegetation on its eastern edges and with coastal sage
scrub and annual grassland on other margins .
|Redshank chaparral in Riverside County. Public domain image by Anthony Baniaga.
Associated overstory species of redshank include Eastwood manzanita
(Arctostaphylos glandulosa), desert ceanothus (Ceanothus greggii),
bigpod ceanothus (C. megacarpus), spiny ceanothus (C. spinosus),
hoaryleaf ceanothus (C. crassifolius), hairy ceanothus (C. oliganthus),
birchleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), California
buckwheat (Erigonum fasciculatum), California scrub oak (Quercus
dumosa), laurel sumac (Malosma laurina), and chaparral yucca (Yucca
whipplei) [3,15,46]. Herbaceous associates include slender oat (Avena
barbata), foxtail brome (Bromus rubens), twining brodiaea (Brodiaea
pulchella), showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis), and phacelia
(Phacelia brachyloba) .
Publications describing redshank-dominated communities are as follows:
California chaparral 
Terrestrial natural communities of California 
A vegetation classification system applied to southern California 
The vascular plant communities of California .
SPECIES: Adenostoma sparsifolium
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Small mammals browse redshank sprouts. Twenty-seven percent of sprouts
tagged following prescribed fire at the University of San Diego's Sky
Oaks Research Station were browsed by chaparral rodents and lagomorphs
during postfire year 1. The animals browsed 42 percent of tagged
sprouts in postfire year 2 . Brush rabbit have been observed
browsing redshank sprouts .
Bullock and Sosa  reported that range cattle in the Sierra de Juarez
of Baja California were the primary consumers of redshank sprouts after
a wildfire there.
Following fire, Coast Range western fence lizard use charred redshank
branches as basking sites .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Redshank aids in stabilizing watersheds. It is recommended on shallow,
well-drained soils . A large quantity of fresh seed must be
collected directly from parent plants and germinated immediately,
because seed viability is low and of short duration. Plants are
established by direct seeding or by planting bareroot shrubs 1 to 3
years of age. Transplants in the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden,
California, showed over 47 percent survival after 11 years. Nine years
after transplanting, they were 13 feet (4 m) tall and had a 10-foot
(3-m) canopy spread . Seedlings planted in the San Dimas
Experimental Forest in the Santa Monica Mountains showed 100 percent
survival after 4 years, and were 4 to 6 feet (1.2-1.8 m) tall at that
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Native Americans used an infusion of redshank bark and leaves to treat
syphilis. The plant oils were used to relieve skin infections .
Spanish Californians used redshank as a remedy for colds, snakebite,
and tetanus .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Only 2.5 percent of California's chaparral formation is dominated by red
shank. Total area occupied by redshank communities is 291,700 acres
(116,680 ha) .
The oak (Quercus spp.)-infesting mistletoe Phoradendron villosum ssp.
villosum also parasitizes redshank . Pinto and Velten  provide
a list of plant bugs (Miridae in the order Hemiptera) associated with
Control: Spring aerosol application of glyphosate top-kills redshank
. Follow-up spraying is indicated for long-term control of sprouts.
A study of redshank and chamise response to glyphosate showed that a
single application killed chamise's lignotubers but not redshank's
. Spraying redshank with 2,4-D or 2,4,5-T is ineffective .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Adenostoma sparsifolium
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Redshank is a native arborescent shrub growing from 6 to 18 feet (2-6
m) tall [7,16,33]. It has a rounded growth form with thick multiple
branches that ascend several feet without foliage before multiple
smaller branches display leaves [15,22]. Redshank is classified as a
broad-leaved sclerophyll . Its leaves are covered with a sticky
resin that may serve to reflect excess radiation . The bark
exfoliates freely, peeling off in long strips [8,15,33]. Redshank has
a large lignotuber; the lignotuber of one individual in the Santa Monica
Mountains measured 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. The root system has
not been well studied but appears to be predominantly lateral with masses
of small roots. Two plants excavated in the Santa Monica Mountains had
thick, woody, multiple roots rapidly branching into succulent fibrous
roots at 1 to 4 feet (0.3-1.2 m) below the soil surface. A few roots
were found below 6 feet (1.8 m) . The inflorescence is an open
panicle; the fruit is an achene [7,33]. Redshank may live over 100
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Redshank primarily reproduces vegetatively. The roots and lignotuber
store carbohydrates and other nutrients necessary for sprout development
from adventitious buds of the lignotuber . Sprouting continues
throughout the life of the plant until senescence, but die-off of young
stems appears to be great. Growth-ring analysis of redshank in the
Palomar Mountains of San Diego County revealed that most stems were
either less than 5 years of age or greater than 30 years of age, with
few in between . Sprout viability may be enhanced in the first few
years following top-kill by fire or other means because of lack of
competition from older stems.
Seedling recruitment is rare. Limited research suggests that this is
due to three factors: low seed set, low seed viability, and rapid loss
of viability in seed that is sound when fresh. Microscopic examination
of redshank seed collected over the range of redshank's distribution
showed that much of the seed was unfilled. Heat treatment and
subsequent sowing of the seed resulted in 0 percent germination .
Redshank's congener chamise produces two physiologically distinct types
of seed. One type has a hard seedcoat that requires heat scarification
prior to germination. This seed can remain viable in the seedbank for
decades before fire breaks dormancy. The other type is nondormant and
loses viability rapidly . Although redshank has been reported as
producing hardcoated, dormant seed , it probably does not. One
investigation indicated that redshank produces only one of the two
chamise seed types: nondormant, short-lived seed. Seed crops are
usually scant. Hanes  searched for redshank seedlings in or near
mature redshank stands from San Luis Obispo County to Baja California.
He found only one site, in the Santa Monica Mountains, that supported
seedlings. This site was not a burn but had been bulldozed the year
prior to seedling recruitment. The year following establishment, 50
percent of seedlings died during summer drought. Hanes suggested that
lack of seedling recruitment accounts for redshank's limited
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Redshank grows on dry, well-drained slopes and mesas at elevations from
1,000 to 7,000 feet (305-2,134 m), with most populations found from
1,500 to 5,000 feet (457-1,524 m) elevation [7,15]. It may occur on any
aspect , but shows definite slope association in some locations. In
the Santa Monica Mountains, redshank occurs primarily on north-facing
slopes , while in San Diego County, redshank is found on southern
aspects . All redshank populations except one in the Santa Monica
Mountains occur more than 50 miles (80 km) inland .
Soils supporting redshank are typically shallow. They may be coarse in
texture , but redshank's shallow, succulent roots are best adapted
to fine-textured soils because of the superior water-retaining capacity
of such soils . Redshank grows in soils derived from granite or
loosely-cemented Miocene sandstone . A soil pH of 6.6 was reported
beneath redshank stands in the Los Padres National Forest, Santa
Barbara County , and of 6.3 beneath stands in the Palomar Mountains,
San Diego County. Where coexisting with chamise, redshank occupies the
more mesic and fertile sites . Soil moisture, organic matter,
sulfate, and ammonium levels are significantly higher (p<0.01, 0.01,
0.05, and 0.05, respectively) on redshank-occupied soil than on
chamise-occupied soil. Magnesium levels, percent coarse fraction, and
soil pH are significantly lower (p<0.05 in all cases) on red
shank-occupied soil .
The climate in which redshank grows is Mediterranean, characterized by
wet, mild winters and hot, dry summers . Santa Ana foehn winds may
occur at any time of year, but are most common in fall .
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Redshank is a survivor in disturbed communities, establishing from
sprouts following top-kill. It is usually not replaced by other species
at any stage of chaparral succession. Redshank is shade intolerant
Development of new redshank communities during secondary succession is
rare. When this does occur, seedlings establish during the first few
postdisturbance years, competing with the herbaceous species which also
establish at this time. Herbs diminish in number as the community
matures, occupying spaces between redshank [15,16]. Redshank stands
attain maximum canopy coverage at about postdisturbance year 25 .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Redshank growth begins in February. The period of most active growth
is from June to mid-August . Flowering occurs in late August and
continues through September [8,33,46]. Stem die-off and abscission
occurs during summer and fall drought. Plants on the Murphy Ranch in
the Santa Monica Mountains dropped 32.5 percent of randomly tagged stems
during the dry season of a year of normal precipitation .
SPECIES: Adenostoma sparsifolium
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Plant Adaptations: Redshank sprouts from the lignotuber following
burning of aboveground portions of the plant [7,9,16,25,26,31].
Fire Ecology: Redshank communities generally have less total
aboveground biomass than chamise communities because they are more open,
but have more standing dead fuel per plant and deeper litter. A
comparison of the two species on the Los Padres National Forest showed
that redshank averaged 44 percent dead biomass versus 38 percent for
chamise . Redshank litter accumulates rapidly because of continuous
shedding of bark and abscission of stems during summer drought, and
because rate of litter decay is slow in southern California chaparral
. Redshank litter in mature stands varies from 0.5 to 2.0 inches
(1.3-5.1 cm) in depth . Litter accumulation on the Los Padres
National Forest is 1.2 tons per acre per year (1.2 t/ha/yr). Average
aboveground biomass in the 25-year-old redshank community was 12 tons
per acre (30 t/ha) .
Redshank leaves are covered by a sticky resin comprising 10 to 15
percent of their dry weight. Flammable compounds found in redshank
leaves and exuded resin include flavonoids and phenolic acids. Some of
the compounds within these chemical families have been extracted from
leaves and resin and identified .
Historical documents show that prior to fire suppression, southern
California chaparral usually burned in summer. Fires typically crept
down slopes by means of falling brands and coals, and only occasionally
formed the hot runs on steep slopes that are typical of today's fires.
Large fuels often smoldered for months. This fire behavior resulted in
a mosaic of numerous small burns throughout the landscape. This pattern
is still evident in northern Baja California, where fire suppression is
not practiced. In contrast, most fires in southern California now occur
in fall during Santa Ana winds and consume large patches of chaparral.
The size of individual burns increases abruptly north of the
international border. Fire suppression has reduced the number of fires,
but because of the increase in burn size, total acreage burned is
approximately the same on either side of the border .
Southern California chaparral fires typically crown out, burning all or
most of the aboveground portions of shrubs . Fire frequency varies
from a few years to as long as 60, although shrubs cannot survive many
short-interval fires . Chaparral stands become extremely flammable
within 30 to 60 years after fire, depending on topography and stand
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
SPECIES: Adenostoma sparsifolium
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Fire top-kills redshank [15,17,31].
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Redshank sprouts vigorously following fire . Nearly 100 percent of
redshank on the Sky Oaks Field Station, San Diego County, sprouted
following prescribed winter fire . Redshank does not establish well
from seed after fire [3,15].
A prescribed December fire in Chihuahua Valley, San Diego County,
top-killed redshank, but did little damage to redshank lignotubers and
fine root hairs. Mean surface soil temperature was 662 degrees
Fahrenheit (350 deg C). Redshank fine root hair density in the burn
site was higher at postfire year 1 than on an adjacent unburned area.
Sprouts grew an average length of 4.8 inches (12 cm) per month in the
first postfire growing season. Die-back of fine root hairs occurred
with the onset of summer drought, but sprouts continued to grow through
A study on redshank community structure in the long-term absence of
fire, conducted in Chihuahua Valley, San Diego County, showed that basal
coverage of redshank was 29.22 square feet per acre (6.79 sq m/ha) and
density was 368 plants per acre (920/ha) at postfire year 66 [24,25] .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Soil under redshank plants in redshank-chamise chaparral showed a
significant decrease in soil organic matter following prescribed
February fire. Postfire changes in nutrient levels of soil under red
shank were detailed .
The caloric content of redshank leaves and stems is high, but not as
high as chamise. Caloric content of redshank foliage by fuel diameter
class size is available .
Elements of consideration when developing a fire prescription for
southern California chaparral are available in the literature [13,14].
SPECIES: Adenostoma sparsifolium
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