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Artemisia pedatifida


Taylor, Jane E. 2006. Artemisia pedatifida. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].


Oligosporus pedatifidus (Nutt.) Poljakov [45]


birdfoot sagebrush
birdsfoot sagebrush
birdsfoot sage
birdfoot sagewort
green sagewort

The scientific name of birdfoot sagebrush is Artemisia pedatifida Nutt. (Asteraceae) [10,14,15,24].


No special status



SPECIES: Artemisia pedatifida
Birdfoot sagebrush occurs from the high plains of southern Idaho and Montana through Wyoming to northwestern Colorado. It extends eastward, barely reaching the western edge of the Great Plains [10,18,19,24,46]. Plants Database provides a distributional map of birdfoot sagebrush.

FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)


5 Columbia Plateau
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont

K039 Blackbrush
K040 Saltbush-greasewood
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass


212 Blackbush
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass 
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
414 Salt desert shrub
501 Saltbush-greasewood
606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass
609 Wheatgrass-grama
612 Sagebrush-grass
615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama

Birdfoot sagebrush is most common on mountain and plains grasslands. A birdfoot sagebrush/Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) habitat type occurs in southwestern Montana on dry, alkaline, alluvial soils. Bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) is a common associate in this habitat type [33]. In the Cheyenne River Basin, Wyoming, a birdfoot sagebrush/western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) habitat type occurs on saline-alkali uplands with impeded drainage. Also in the Cheyenne River Basin, a birdfoot sagebrush dwarf-shrub vegetation type occurs where the occasional associates are buckwheat (Eriogonum pauciflorum) and Gardner's saltbush (Atriplex gardneri) and winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) [45]. This is usually a single-layered plant community where the herbaceous layer is minimal. A birdfoot sagebrush-Gardner saltbush/Hood's phlox (Phlox hoodii) habitat type occurs throughout Wyoming in low spots in areas that have been heavily grazed [8].

Publications that discuss plant communities in which birdfoot sagebrush occurs are listed below. The list is neither restrictive nor all inclusive.

CO: big sagebrush (A. tridentata) vegetation type
        black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus) vegetation type [9]
MT: saline sites in southwestern and south-central Montana grasslands as an associate with squirreltail (Elymus elymoides), bluebunch wheatgrass,
             and winterfat [31]
        Pryor Mountain salt desert/barren zone - associates with shadscale saltbush (Atriplex confertifolia), fourwing saltbush (A. canescens),
             Nuttall's saltbush (A. nuttalli), spiny hopsage (Grayia spinosa), and black greasewood [28]
        birdfoot sagebrush/Idaho fescue habitat type [33]
WY: big sagebrush vegetation type [9,12]
        black greasewood vegetation type [9]
        saltbush-black greasewood type [40]
        birdfoot sagebrush-Gardner's saltbush/Hood's phlox plant community [8]
        shortgrass prairie with big sagebrush and western wheatgrass [16]
        saltbush desert shrubland vegetation type dominated by Gardner's saltbush [25]
        birdfoot sagebrush/western wheatgrass habitat type
        birdfoot sagebrush dwarf-shrub vegetation type [45]


SPECIES: Artemisia pedatifida
This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Several florae provide keys for identifying birdfoot sagebrush (e.g., [10,18,22]).

Birdfoot sagebrush is a native, dwarf, somewhat mat-forming perennial subshrub that grows from 2.0 to 5.9 inches (5.0-15.0 cm) in height [6,18,46]. Numerous erect stems arise from a branching woody base [11,32]. The root is described as tough and woody [20,27]. Leaves are mainly basal, tufted, and 0.4 to 0.8 inches (1-2 cm) long [6,10]. The inflorescence is raceme- or spikelike, growing from 0.4 to 2.7 inches (1-7 cm) long [20]. Four to seven marginal pistillate ray flowers are produced as well as 5 to 10 perfect but sterile staminate disc flowers [22]. The fruit is a one-seeded achene [29].


Birdfoot sagebrush regenerates by seeds [44].

Pollination: Birdfoot sagebrush is pollinated by wind [29].

Breeding system: Birdfoot sagebrush is monoecious [20,21].

Seed production: No information is available on this topic.

Seed dispersal: Seeds of Artemisia species lack any special appendages to aid in seed dispersal. Seeds fall or are shaken from the plant by wind [29].

Seed banking: Artemisia species generally lack a long-lived seed bank [29].

Germination: Germination information specific to seeds of birdfoot sagebrush is lacking; however, it is reported that seeds of Artemisia species in general require light and moist chilling for germination to occur [29].

Seedling establishment/growth: Although the literature reports that birdfoot sagebrush regenerates by seeds [29], information is lacking on the specifics of seedling establishment and growth.

Asexual regeneration: Birdfoot sagebrush lacks any form of asexual regeneration [44].

Birdfoot sagebrush grows in small, isolated stands on dry hills, mesas, ridges, high plains and foothills [10,21]. Annual precipitation averages from 8 to 14 inches (203-356 mm) at most locations [44]. Soils are commonly shale, clay or bentonite material with saline or alkaline substrates. These sites often have impeded drainage due to a tightly packed, fine-textured subsurface soil horizon [28,33,45]. Birdfoot sagebrush is found at elevations ranging from 4,100 to 7,000 feet (1,250-2,134 m) [9,21,28].

The successional status of birdfoot sagebrush is not well documented. The designations of a birdfoot sagebrush/Idaho fescue habitat type in Beaverhead County, Montana, and a birdfoot sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat type in the Cheyenne River Basin, Wyoming, indicate that the shrub does achieve long-term successional stability in some areas [33,45].

Birdfoot sagebrush flowers from May to June [18,27]. Further information on seasonal development is lacking.


SPECIES: Artemisia pedatifida
Fire adaptations: Reestablishment of birdfoot sagebrush occurs from seeds [44].

Fire regime: Birdfoot sagebrush occurs in plant communities with a wide range of fire frequencies, from the short return interval for many prairie and grassland communities, to the moderate-return intervals for the various sagebrush communities, and the 100+ years possible for some salt desert communities. As of this writing (2006), fire ecology studies are lacking for birdfoot sagebrush. The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where birdfoot sagebrush occurs. Find further 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".

Community or ecosystem Dominant species Fire return interval range (years)
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [36]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [41]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (x=40) [48,53]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [4,7,30]
saltbush-greasewood Atriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus <35 to >100 [36,53]
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii <35 [37,39,52]
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii <5-47+ [36,37,52]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 ( x=10) [2,3]

Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)


SPECIES: Artemisia pedatifida
The effect of fire on birdfoot sagebrush is not well documented. Presumably the plant is killed when aboveground vegetation is killed by fire.

Because birdfoot sagebrush lacks any form of vegetative reproduction [44], sprouting after fire or other disturbance does not occur. Reestablishment of this "weakly spreading" subshrub [19] occurs through seedling establishment. Recovery time has not been documented.

Information is lacking on the response of birdfoot sagebrush to fire. Further research is needed.

No additional information is available on this topic.

Information on birdfoot sagebrush and fire management is lacking. Further research is needed.


SPECIES: Artemisia pedatifida
Birdfoot sagebrush is an important component of the diet of pronghorn antelope in Wyoming [1,12,44]. In one study in the Wyoming Red Desert, the shrub constituted 5% of the total annual pronghorn diet: 0.9% in winter and 10.2% in summer [44].

Palatability/nutritional value: The palatability of birdfoot sagebrush in Wyoming is rated as follows [13]:

Cattle Fair
Domestic sheep Good
Horses Good
Pronghorn Fair
Elk Fair
Mule deer Poor
Small mammals Poor
Small nongame birds Fair
Upland game birds Fair
Waterfowl Poor

Birdfoot sagebrush is rated as poor in nutritional value for elk, mule deer and whitetail deer and fair for pronghorn, upland birds and small mammals [13]. The nutritional value of fresh birdfoot sagebrush for livestock is as follows [34]:

Percent composition Percent digestible protein
ash 27.8 cattle 3.8
crude fiber 23.7 horses 3.5
protein 7.0 domestic sheep 3.5
    domestic goats 3.1
    domestic rabbits 4.1

Cover value: Mountain plover in Wyoming preferentially nests in birdfoot sagebrush communities [35]. Because of its short stature, birdfoot sagebrush provides little cover for larger wildlife species [13].

Birdfoot sagebrush is reported to be valuable as a soil stabilizer [23]. The shrub is potentially useful for rehabilitation of alkaline spoils [27].

No further information is available on this topic.

Birdfoot sagebrush increases in response to grazing [47]. In Wyoming, plant communities dominated by birdfoot sagebrush are more commonly found in grassland sites that have experienced heavy grazing pressure than on sites where heavy grazing has not occurred [8].

Artemisia pedatifida: REFERENCES

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