Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Pavek, Diane S. 1993. Chamaedaphne calyculata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
Cassandra calyculata (L.) D. Don.
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name of leatherleaf is Chamaedaphne
calyculata (L.) Moench. It is in the heather family (Ericaceae)
[25,36,44]. Recognized varieties are :
C. c. var. calyculata
C. c. var. angustifolia (Ait.) Rehd.
C. c. var. latifolia (Ait.) Fern.
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
Leatherleaf was listed as threatened in Illinois in 1989 by the Illinois
Endangered Species Protection Board .
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Leatherleaf is circumboreal and is found throughout Alaska and Canada
. Its distribution extends southward through the Lake States and
the northeastern United States [25,70].
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES19 Aspen - birch
AK CT IL IN IA ME MA MI MN NH
NJ NY NC ND OH RI VT WI AB BC
MB NB NF NT NS ON PE PQ SK YT
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K094 Conifer bog
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
13 Black spruce - tamarack
19 Gray birch - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
37 Northern white-cedar
45 Pitch pine
97 Atlantic white-cedar
107 White spruce
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Leatherleaf is a dominant shrub in seral dwarf-shrub wetland communities
[15,16,48]. Leatherleaf occurs in pure stands on floating mats and in
mixed stands that are grounded . Leatherleaf associations are the
most extensive communities in the bogs of the Lake States. Several
subtypes of leatherleaf associations have been described for New England
peatlands . Sphagnum-leatherleaf community types have been
described for this region and Canada . Leatherleaf is usually
present in the tall-shrub community types of bogs or heathlands [20,76].
In central and northern Canada, leatherleaf has been included in various
open black spruce (Picea mariana) vegetation types [17,43,49,73].
Leatherleaf is named as a dominant or indicator species in the following
(1) Ecology of peat bogs of the glaciated northeastern United States:
A community profile 
(2) Community classification of the vascular vegetation of a New
Hampshire peatland 
(3) Plant communities of Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, U.S.A. .
Species associated with leatherleaf that are not mentioned above are
codominant shrubs such as bog kalmia (Kalmia polifolia), sheep laurel
(K. angustifolia), bog labrador tea (Ledum groenlandica), blueleaf
bog-rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), bog cranberry (Vaccinium
oxycoccos), and sweet gale (Myrica gale) [20,48,55,73,76]. Other
species occurring with leatherleaf are roundleaf sundew (Drosera
rotundifolia), pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea), and sedges (Carex
SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Leatherleaf is browsed and used for nesting by wildlife. It was a minor
part of white-tailed deer winter browse in New Jersey . Leatherleaf
was consumed in small amounts by caribou in Michigan and northern Canada
[14,61,67,69]. Sharp-tailed grouse browsed leatherleaf twigs during the
winter in Wisconsin . Moose occasionally browsed leatherleaf from
June to November on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska . Mallards nest in
leatherleaf in North Dakota . Leatherleaf occurred in cover types
used year-round by ruffed grouse .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Current year's growth of leatherleaf that was collected in July and
August in southeastern Manitoba had 7.5 percent crude protein, 48.1
percent acid detergent fiber, and 49.3 percent dry matter digestibility.
One-year-old leaves had slightly more crude protein (8.0 percent) and
less acid detergent fiber (33.4 percent) and dry matter digestibility
(44.3 percent) .
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Leatherleaf reclaimed large areas in raised bogs in the eastern United
States that had been denuded by commercial peat removal over the past 4
to 92 years . Seven years after powerline construction in a treed
bog in northern Manitoba, leatherleaf had two times more biomass than
other shrubs present. It had a frequency of 78 percent in disturbed
areas and 94 percent in the control . In the Pinhook Bog of
Indiana, sphagnum mats containing leatherleaf were successfully
transplanted to other bog areas that had been killed by runoff from
stockpiled road salt .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Leatherleaf greatly increases following clearcutting; leatherleaf and
other shrubs can suppress black spruce on medium to poor sites . In
Minnesota, leatherleaf and other shrubs rapidly increased after tree
harvest; however, restocking was not affected by shrub density 4 to 6
years after harvest . Despite dense leatherleaf in a black spruce
swamp in Ontario, relative regeneration rates of black spruce were high
. There was no difference in stocking rates on nine burned and
unburned cutover black spruce sites in northern Minnesota; seedbed cover
by leatherleaf and bog labrador tea was at acceptable levels .
Control of leatherleaf by herbicides has been discussed .
Aboveground biomass of leatherleaf was estimated at 136.7 pounds per
acre (122 kg/ha) for wildlife browse and ground fuels in open black
spruce bogs in Nova Scotia .
Transplanting leatherleaf in summer or autumn stimulated shoot
production more than spring transplanting .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Leatherleaf is a native evergreen shrub that grows up to 4.9 feet (1.5
m) tall [25,43]. Its woody rhizome extends down an average of 12.6
inches (32 cm) into organic matter . Leatherleaf has many branches
and forms dense thickets of up to 18.6 stems per square foot (200
stems/sq m) [10,33]. Average basal diameter of leatherleaf stems is
0.27 inch (0.68 cm) . The one-sided racemes have 1 to 15 or more
flowers that form persistent, many-seeded capsules [10,43,65].
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Moist sphagnum surrounding leatherleaf shoots, roots, and rhizomes
causes vigorous vegetative growth [5,26]. Sphagnum grows on leatherleaf
stems and branches but does not inhibit growth [12,18]. Ice will break
up leatherleaf shrubs, resulting in rapid expansion of colonies .
Leatherleaf establishes in windfall areas .
Leatherleaf seed set is usually high (50 to 95 percent). Seed set
decreased when insects such as bombus bees were excluded from flowers.
When self-fertilized, leatherleaf has low seed set (1 to 15 percent)
. Leatherleaf seeds germinate on sphagnum or sedge mats .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Leatherleaf is a true bog species and is found in practically all boreal
bogs . It occurs in lowland sites, treed or treeless bogs,
peatlands, sedge fens and meadows, black spruce muskegs, and kettle pond
edges [2,19,55,59]. It is found at elevations up to 5,300 feet (1,615
Sites are often poorly drained or have standing water [48,63].
Leatherleaf is acid tolerant and usually occurs where the pH is less
than 5; it needs acidic conditions to become dominant [11,38,66]. It
commonly occurs in drier areas on sedge mats that may be floating or in
wet peat that is up to 43 feet (13 m) thick [12,16,38,55,83].
Leatherleaf is found on very moist ombrotrophic or minerotrophic sites
with low nutrients [3,4,7]. It occurs on substrates such as thin till
overlain with sandy loam or fine loamy clays with varying depths of
humus, or on entirely organic substrates [7,30,43]. Permafrost is often
discontinuous and can be shallow where leatherleaf grows [6,8,58].
Leatherleaf is found in maritime to continental climates with extreme
seasonal variations in temperature [8,34]. Leatherleaf grows poorly on
exposed sites with severe winters [16,33].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Although leatherleaf is not a pioneer mat former, it is a primary
species in extending the bog mat [11,16,22,62]. It is the first shrub
to enter a bog community after sphagnum is established [11,53].
Leatherleaf is characteristic of the mature and late stages of moss-low
ericaceous shrub communities as open water in a bog sere disappears. It
may dominate for 50 years in some communities [11,18,31].
Leatherleaf is shade intolerant [53,77]. Leatherleaf stands begin to thin
as tall shrubs or bog forest species such as tamarack (Larix laricina)
and/or black spruce establish [11,33,35,63,73].
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Leatherleaf flowers from March to July from buds formed the previous
growing season [10,25,47,75]. Fruits develop in late summer and fall
SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Leatherleaf's persistence in communities over long periods of time has
been attributed to its regeneration following fire . Its rhizomes
are buried deep in the mineral soil and survive all but the most severe
fires . Depth of rhizomes and season of fire affect leatherleaf
shoot growth and recovery. Leatherleaf rhizomes were collected in
spring, summer, and autumn and subjected to wet heat treatments from 113
to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (45-60 deg C). All autumn-collected rhizomes
died after treatment. Summer-collected rhizomes produced fewer shoots
than spring-collected; both had significantly (p<0.05) fewer shoots than
the controls .
Bogs are usually too wet to burn except during drought . Fire is a
primary factor disrupting boreal treed bog succession; leatherleaf
invades after fires remove the tree associations [9,22,28,33].
Recurrent fires at approximately 50-year intervals in New England
leatherleaf bogs or on peat surfaces controls tree invasion . Fire
recurrence in a New Brunswick bog was 370 years .
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 :
Rhizomatous low woody plant, rhizome in organic mantle
Surface rhizome/chamaephytic root crown
Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Fire top-kills leatherleaf. Leatherleaf probably survives severe fires
because rhizomes are deep in water-saturated substrates and its stems
are matted in debris [28,33]. Surviving root crowns and rhizomes
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Leatherleaf was only slightly injured by summer or autumn fires in New
Brunswick. Following spring burning, leatherleaf showed a strong
increase in stem density; apparently, it had not yet depleted its
reserves and was able to support new growth. Preburn and postburn
percent relative abundance (stem density) after spring, summer, and
autumn fires was as follows [26,29]:
Season of Postburn
burn Preburn 1 month 3 months 5 months
Spring 28 42 13 --
Summer 30 29 29 17
Autumn 36 32 -- --
Ten years after a lightning fire in Alaska, leatherleaf was present in
low amounts on disturbed firelines and in one burned site . It was
present at 0.7 percent frequency in burned and at 2 percent frequency in
unburned areas 20 to 24 years following fire in the Northwest
Territories . In northern Quebec, leatherleaf occurred 30 years
after fire at 21 to 31 percent frequency in lowland boreal black spruce
forest and at 1 to 20 percent in forest-tundra sites . Leatherleaf
had about 40 percent frequency 94 years following a high-severity fire
in central New York .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Leatherleaf is a flammable shrub; crowning or foliage scorch is common
with leatherleaf in the understory in the pine swamps or lowlands of New
Jersey . Fuel loading that was predominantly leatherleaf and bog
labrador tea in cutover areas of black spruce was estimated at 15 to 25
tons per acre (33-56 t/ha) in the Blackduck Burns, Minnesota .
SPECIES: Chamaedaphne calyculata
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