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SPECIES: Artemisia tripartita
|Creative Commons photo ©2013 Dean Wm. Taylor, Ph.D.|
Tirmenstein, D. 1999. Artemisia tripartita. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/arttrp/all.html .
Correction: On 12 July, 2017, all mentions of Wyoming big sagebrush sprouting were removed from this review. Wyoming big sagebrush does not sprout.
tall threetip sagebrush
Wyoming threetip sagebrush
The fully documented scientific name of threetip sagebrush is Artemisia tripartita Rydb. (Asteraceae) [3,21,33]. Two subspecies of threetip sagebrush are currently recognized: tall threetip sagebrush (Artemisia tripartita subsp. tripartita) and Wyoming threetip sagebrush (Artemisia tripartita subsp. rupicola Beetle) [3,33].
Threetip sagebrush occasionally hybridizes with silver sagebrush (A. cana subsp. viscidula) . Hybridization with Wyoming big sagebrush (A. tridentata subsp. wyomingensis) may also occur in parts of south-central and southeastern Idaho . In some areas, threetip sagebrush may intergrade with low sagebrush (A. arbuscula subsp. arbuscula) .
No special status
Tall threetip sagebrush ranges from central British Columbia south through central Washington and western Oregon to northern Nevada, and from western Montana south through eastern Idaho to northern Utah. It also occurs in the Snake River Valley in western Wyoming .
Wyoming threetip sagebrush occurs in central and southeastern Wyoming and southern Oregon [3,14]. In Wyoming, the subspecies are separated by the Continental Divide, with Wyoming threetip sagebrush occurring only east of the Divide .
Threetip sagebrush grows on approximately 8.4 million acres (3.4 million hectares) throughout the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Basin . Occurrence is spotty throughout much of the Intermountain region because most of the area has been plowed for farmland .
FRES38 Plains grasslands
ID MT NV OR UT WA WY
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
322 Curlleaf mountain mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass
324 Threetip sagebrush-Idaho fescue
404 Threetip sagebrush
416 True mountain mahogany
Tall threetip sagebrush is commonly associated with bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda), and Thurber's needlegrass (Achnatherum thurberianum). Common shrub associates of threetip sagebrush include big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), broom snakeweed (Guterrezia sarothrae), green rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus), gray horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens), and curlleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) . Stands of tall threetip sagebrush often occur adjacent to mountain big sagebrush (A. t. spp. vaseyana) stands , but usually on moister soils at higher elevations . Threetip sagebrush typically occurs at elevations above Wyoming big sagebrush but below mountain big sagebrush . Threetip sagebrush stands are often more uniform with plants more closely spaced than in big sagebrush stands .
|Creative Commons photo ©2013 Dean Wm. Taylor, Ph.D.|
Publications listing tall threetip sagebrush as a
dominant, codominant, or indicator species include the following:
Habitat types of the Curlew National Grassland, Idaho 
Steppe vegetation of Washington 
Wildlife habitat on managed rangelands--the Great Basin of southeastern Oregon: plant communities
and their importance to wildlife 
Sagebrush-grass habitat types of southern Idaho 
An ecological study of sagebrush in interior British Columbia 
Plant communities of the Similkameen Valley, British Columbia 
Grassland and shrubland habitat types of western Montana 
An area of pristine vegetation in Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho 
Wyoming threetip sagebrush: This taxon commonly occurs with slimstem muhly (Muhlenberia filiculmis) . The following publication lists Wyoming threetip sagebrush as a dominant species:
Grassland and shrubland habitat types of the Shoshone National Forest 
Threetip sagebrush is not a preferred browse for most wild ungulates. Threetip sagebrush is used to some extent by mule deer in both summer and winter in north-central Washington . In Wyoming, elk do not generally feed on threetip sagebrush . In parts of Wyoming, Wyoming threetip sagebrush may be used by large ungulates as emergency winter forage .
Threetip sagebrush may provide some browse for domestic sheep but its value to cattle appears limited. It is "never used" by cattle in Nevada [14,52]. In British Columbia, threetip sagebrush may be browsed by domestic sheep, but is not used by cattle . Threetip sagebrush, along with other species of Artemisia, is eaten throughout the year by the pygmy rabbit in southeastern Idaho . In southern Idaho, sage grouse may include small amounts of threetip sagebrush leaves in their diet. The genus is, in general, used to some degree by sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse, jackrabbits, chipmunks, ground squirrels, pocket mice, and kangaroo rats .
Threetip sagebrush is one of the least palatable species within the genus to both livestock and wildlife . However, palatability of tall threetip sagebrush is quite variable. Some plants may be heavily browsed, while others are barely touched . Palatability may vary by form and/or population [38,51]. A hybrid between threetip sagebrush and Wyoming big sagebrush is important and palatable forage in some parts of south-central and southeastern Idaho . Subspecies: Wyoming threetip sagebrush is rated poor in palatability to cattle, domestic sheep, and horses in Wyoming. Palatability of tall threetip sagebrush is rated as follows :
UT WY Cattle poor fair Sheep fair good Horses poor fair Pronghorn fair ---- Elk fair ---- Mule deer fair ---- Small mammals fair ---- Small nongame birds fair ---- Upland game birds good ---- Waterfowl poor ----
Date Crude Crude Crude Ash CaO Mg protein fat fiber Tall threetip sagebrush 6/12/57 13.00 10.12 21.58 6.85 0.770 0.185 7/15/58 4.17 1.45 51.88 4.49 0.45 --- 7/17/58 11.54 12.56 14.94 5.92 0.66 --- 7/19/57 11.00 12.10 20.53 6.90 0.98 0.207 11/10/57 8.63 8.22 28.67 4.75 0.755 0.142 Wyoming threetip sagebrush 5/29/57 10.19 5.72 28.03 12.03 1.205 0.176 11/10/57 7.44 9.46 31.17 4.58 0.839 0.170
Threetip sagebrush provides nesting cover for sage grouse in south-central Washington and in southern Idaho [29,34,60]. In Washington, threetip sagebrush/fescue (Festuca spp.) communities provide habitat for sharp-tailed grouse. Loess mounds in stands of tall threetip sagebrush provide a stone-free substrate for rodents and badgers .
The degree to which tall threetip sagebrush provides cover for wildlife species in Utah is as follows :
Pronghorn fair Elk poor Mule deer fair Small mammals good Small nongame birds good Upland game birds good Waterfowl poor
Threetip sagebrush can be successfully planted onto disturbed sites. Plants may be propagated through seed or by layering. Details on specific planting techniques are available .
According to McArthur , artificial hybrids of the drought-tolerant silver sagebrush (A. cana) and fire-tolerant threetip sagebrush may "hold some promise of rebuilding a badly damaged ecosystem."
Tall threetip sagebrush can sprout after burning, clipping, or chemical treatment; periodic treatment, with proper grazing management during treatment intervals, may be necessary if sagebrush reduction is desired . Often, mechanical control measures, such as cutting or beating, are only partially successful due to the low spreading branches and a proclivity to sprout. Root cutters can be effective in reducing numbers but work best on level rock-free ground . Threetip sagebrush is described as "moderately susceptible" to defoliation during the fall and winter .
Various herbicides can be used to reduce threetip sagebrush, with reductions of up to 50 to 70% reported during the 2nd growing season . However, herbicide treatments often are expensive and can produce only temporary reductions in threetip sagebrush. Even after large reductions are obtained with herbicides, threetip sagebrush often seeds back within 5 to 10 years . In some cases, plants may sprout after herbicide applications [10,52]. Often the stands that develop are denser than prior to herbicide application . Details on herbicide applications are available .
Individual longevity of threetip sagebrush is reduced by grazing in sagebrush-grass communities of south-central Utah . In eastern Idaho, tall threetip sagebrush increases in response to heavy spring domestic sheep use . Fall sheep use can, by contrast, result in decreases of tall threetip sagebrush [26,43,67]. Heavy fall sheep grazing with light grazing in spring under a rotational system can increase grass and forb production [26,61].
Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda) and Kentucky bluegrass (P. pratensis) are common increasers in tall threetip sagebrush stands . As badgers dig rodents from loess mounds in tall threetip sagebrush stands, the soil is churned and invasion of basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) may also be favored .
Wyoming threetip sagebrush is a dwarf shrub with decumbent branches. It can grow up to 59 inches (15 cm) tall, with a crown spread of 12 to 20 inches (30-50 cm) .
Threetip sagebrush may sprout; sprouting ability varies by geographic location which suggests ecotypic variation . Both subspecies of threetip sagebrush "occasionally sprout"  from shallow, lateral roots or the root crown [22,38].
The light seed of threetip sagebrush is wind-dispersed . Both tall threetip sagebrush and Wyoming threetip sagebrush are vigorous seeders . Threetip sagebrush can seed back onto disturbed sites within 5 to 10 years; density increases after treatment by herbicides .
Germination of threetip sagebrush is described as "moderate to rapid" . In germination experiments, germination of tall threetip sagebrush increased progressively with increased stratification. Germination is greatest at approximately 60o Fahrenheit (16oC). Details on germination techniques for threetip sagebrush are available . Threetip sagebrush seed can remain viable for 4 to 6 years in storage .
Threetip sagebrush commonly grows on steep slopes, rocky knolls, and windswept ridges with shallow soils [6,18]. It occurs in semi-arid areas which are characterized by cold winters and warm summers . Tall threetip sagebrush is especially common along river drainages . Wyoming threetip sagebrush occurs on shallow, rocky soils on barren knolls surrounded by well-developed grasslands .
Tall threetip sagebrush grows on moderate to deep, well-drained, loamy to sandy loam soils . In western Montana and Idaho, it is associated with coarse-textured sandy to stony soils . In Idaho tall threetip sagebrush is often associated with fertile volcanic soils . Threetip sagebrush is tolerant of dry soils .
The elevational range of tall threetip sagebrush in several states is as
3,388 to 7,084 feet (1100-2300 m) in the Intermountain Region
6,500 to 7,000 feet (1980-2130 m) in Montana
4,697 to 5,636 feet (1525-1830 m) in Utah
6,000 to 7,000 feet (1830-2130 m) in Wyoming
The elevational range of Wyoming threetip sagebrush in Wyoming is from 7,000 to 9,000 feet (2,130-2,740 m) .
Threetip sagebrush occurs in a number of undisturbed communities. It occurs with Idaho fescue in climax steppe communities of eastern Washington . In southeastern Idaho, tall threetip sagebrush is common in late successional communities . Wyoming threetip sagebrush is described as an indicator of climax in some Wyoming big sagebrush communities . Although tall threetip sagebrush grows in undisturbed communities, it has established on disturbed sites within 5 to 10 years. Tall threetip sagebrush increases in the absence of disturbance such as fire .
Tall threetip sagebrush, along with fringed sagebrush (Artemisia frigida), often replaces big sagebrush following fire in grassland communities of British Columbia . Under heavy disturbance, tall threetip sagebrush stands may become dense brush fields, with tall threetip sagebrush crowding out herbaceous understory species .
Threetip sagebrush begins new growth in May, young flowerheads develop in July, and flowering occurs during August and October. In Wyoming, tall threetip sagebrush flowers from June to September, with August as the most common flowering period . Seed ripens in October .
Dates for various stages in 1965 Average dates for 1941-1947 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- leaf growth started Apr 25 April twig growth started May 25 mid-June flowerbuds evident Jun 20 ------ flowerstalk growth Jul 20 ------ stopped first bloom Sept 1 ------ full bloom ------ mid-Sept blooming over Sept 20 ------ seed ripe Oct 12 mid-Oct seed disseminated Nov 05 ------ previous year's leaves begin to drop Aug 05 ------ previous year's leaves Sep 02 ------ offAverage phenology for tall threetip sagebrush from the upper Snake River Plain in southern Idaho was as follows :
leaf growth twig growth flower buds 1st full starts starts visible bloom bloom 4/20 6/25 6/17 9/15 9/18 bloom seed leaves over ripe drying 9/30 10/14 7/30
Wyoming threetip sagebrush blooms in late August and September; the seeds ripen in October .
Threetip sagebrush exhibits variable sprouting abilities following fire. The specific response may depend on ecotypic differences or on fire severity [1,16]. In some instances sprouting is described as "weak," but in other cases, researchers have observed "prolific" or "vigorous" sprouting [1,3].Nearly pure stands of threetip sagebrush can develop after stands are burned . In southeastern Idaho, Barrington and others  report that without periodic fire, threetip sagebrush gradually increases in density and cover. In southern Idaho, threetip sagebrush reaches preburn levels within 25 to 40 years after fire . Neuenschwander  reports recovery time of approximately 30 years.
Some species that dominate communities where threetip sagebrush occurs are listed
below. To learn more about the fire regimes in those communities, refer to the FEIS summary for
these species, under “Fire Ecology or Adaptations.”
blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
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".
Unlike many low-stature sagebrush communities, threetip sagebrush communities can support fire spread . Fires often kill aerial plant parts. Threetip sagebrush is described as "severely damaged" by fire in parts of the Intermountain Region . In Wyoming, threetip sagebrush is "moderately damaged" by fire  and in Idaho, plants are generally "harmed" by fire . A fairly high percentage of threetip sagebrush is commonly killed by fire in southern Idaho; a small percentage may sprout [47,48].
Threetip sagebrush may sprout from the root crown and/or roots after fire [19,38,48]. Beetle  observed that tall threetip sagebrush sometimes sprouts "vigorously" from the root crown following fire, and sprouting from lateral roots has been reported [15,68].
Sprouting ability varies considerably with geographic location which suggests that several ecotypes may exist [3,14,16]. For threetip sagebrushes with the ability to sprout, sprouting is most likely if postfire soils are moist .
In a southeastern Idaho study, Akinsoji  observed no sprouting 1 year after fire. Lack of sprouting could have been due to the "intensity of the burn." Similarly, Pechanic and others  reported that only approximately 6% of threetip sagebrush sprouted in the 1st year or 2 after fire in a southeastern Idaho study. At Craters of the Moon National Monument in southeastern Idaho, only "moderate resprouting potential" was observed, and reductions in cover and density usually occur after fire . Only a "small percentage of plants" sprouted after fire in a northern Great Basin study .
Because threetip sagebrush can sometimes sprout prolifically after fire, special management considerations may be required if reductions in sagebrush are desired management goals .
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