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SPECIES:  Chamaebatia foliolosa
Mountain misery sprouting on the Stanislaus National Forest, 
15 months after the 2013 Rim Fire. Photo by Becky Howard.


SPECIES: Chamaebatia foliolosa
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Howard, Janet L. 1992. Chamaebatia foliolosa. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: Photos and Rim Fire information were added on 2 June 2015. The nest photos were added on 2 August 2019. ABBREVIATION : CHAFOL SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY NRCS PLANT CODE : CAFO COMMON NAMES : mountain misery bear-clover bearmat kit-kee-dizze ket-ket-dizze tarweed Sierra mountain misery TAXONOMY : The currently accepted name of mountain misery is Chamaebatia foliolosa Benth., in the Rosaceae, or rose, family. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms. Chamaebatia australis (southern mountain misery), once described as C. foliolosa var. australis, is now considered a distinct species [24,33]. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : None


SPECIES: Chamaebatia foliolosa
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Mountain misery is distributed along western slopes of the Cascade Range and the Sierra Nevada from Shasta County south to Kern County, California [24,29]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES21  Ponderosa pine    FRES23  Fir - spruce    FRES28  Western hardwoods STATES :           CA BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     4  Sierra Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K005  Mixed conifer forest    K007  Red fir forest    K010  Ponderosa shrub forest    K011  Western ponderosa forest    K030  California oakwoods SAF COVER TYPES :    207  Red fir    211  White fir    243  Sierra Nevada mixed conifer    244  Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir    245  Pacific ponderosa pine    246  California black oak    247  Jeffrey pine    249  Canyon live oak    250  Blue oak - foothills pine HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Mountain misery clones form a low-growing layer in open ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and mixed coniferous forests [29].  Stands occur in patches, providing from 20 to 90 percent cover [30].  In the Challenge Experimental Forest of the Plumas National Forest, density in the mixed coniferous forest is as high as 17,068 stems per acre (42,175 stems/ha) [15]. In California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) forests, mountain misery frequently codominates the understory with whiteleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida) and greenleaf manzanita (A. patula) [25]. Publications listing mountain misery as a dominant understory species are as follows: Profiles of California vegetation [7] Montane and subalpine vegetation of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges [28]  


SPECIES: Chamaebatia foliolosa
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Mountain misery is usually considered unpalatable browse of low nutritional quality [8,32].  The resinous oils of the foliage have a penetrating odor throughout the growing season that repels most animals. In winter, when rains have washed the glutinous leaves, wildlife utilize the plant in varying degrees.  Black-tailed deer consume more of the foliage than other wildlife.  Deer eat it while migrating, and in some localities it comprises a great portion of their winter diet.  On the Jawbone Ridge winter deer range of Tuolumne County, where mountain misery has a frequency occurrence of 75 percent, stomach analysis shows that mountain misery provides 37 percent by volume of the deer's winter feed.  This degree of ingestion is more striking when compared to the volume percentage consumed of better known browse species.  Wedgeleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus) makes up only 12 percent by volume of winter diets of deer on Jawbone Ridge. Livestock find mountain misery unpalatable even after winter rains [29]. PALATABILITY : The value of mountain misery as browse is good to fair for black-tailed deer, fair to poor for domestic goats, poor to useless for sheep, and useless for cattle and horses [29]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Nutritive value is reported to lessen in winter months [29], but quantitative nutritional studies of mountain misery were not found in the literature. COVER VALUE : Mountain misery provides cover for small birds and mammals.
A mountain quail nest hidden in mountain misery. U.S. Forest Service images by Christopher Scott Brush.
Mountain misery has high value for watershed protection because
it checks runoff, prevents erosion, and maintains the moisture
absorption capacity of soils [32].

Timber:  Mountain misery greatly reduces survival and growth of
conifer seedlings [20,22,23,32].  The deep roots are strong competitors
for limited water resources.  Tappeiner and Radosevich [30] examined its
effect on ponderosa pine seedlings on a good site at the Blodgett
Research Station of El Dorado County.  Treatments were: (1) untreated
mountain misery, (2) mountain misery sprayed with a
mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T prior to tree planting, and (3) mountain 
misery eliminated by a combination of herbicides, clipping, and
grubbing to stop root and rhizome invasion.  After 3 years, ponderosa
pine seedling survival was only 13 percent on untreated plots.  Spraying
prior to planting resulted in 71 percent survival, and complete control
resulted in 97 percent survival of trees.  After 19 years, tree heights
averaged 5.2 feet (1.6 m) with no treatment, 6.2 feet (1.9 m) with the
herbicide mixture, and 18.7 feet (5.7 m) with the combination of
treatments.  When this loss is extended to 50 years, net wood production
would have been reduced an estimated 75 percent as a result of mountain
 misery competition.

Control:  Mountain misery is sensitive to intermediate in
response to foliar spraying of phenoxy herbicides and is susceptible to
such applications of dicamba and triclopyr [5,18].  Aerosol application
of triclopyr temporarily reduced mountain misery canopy volume by
94 to 96 percent on the Tahoe National Forest [18].  Mountain
misery may sprout vigorously following herbicide treatment, and one
application probably will not provide adequate control.  Plants may
actually be rejuvenated by a single treatment.  Thorough site
preparation, which controls mountain misery before planting and
permits good establishment of conifer seedlings, followed by spraying of
mountain misery sprouts is recommended.  Growth of conifer
seedlings and competing mountain misery should be evaluated for
at least 10 years after planting [30].  Best results are obtained when
herbicides are applied in spring or early summer during the period of
new leaf initiation [18]. Mountain misery can also be controlled
by grubbing.

Plywood, used as an unusual mulch for Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga
menziesii) seedlings on a plantation in the central Sierra Nevada,
killed mountain misery beneath it and increased soil moisture
available to seedlings in midsummer [22].

Control of mountain misery is problematic for forest managers.
Although it greatly inhibits growth of young conifers, it is of
considerable value as a slope stabilizer of watersheds and because it is
a host species for nitrogen-fixing bacteria [32,35].  Additionally,
Sampson and Jesperson [29] thought that heavy black-tailed deer use on
some winter ranges should be taken into consideration when managing this


SPECIES: Chamaebatia foliolosa
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Mountain misery is a low, erect, native evergreen shrub from 0.5 to 2 feet (0.2-0.6 m) in height [29].  The multibranched stems arise at intervals of a few inches from a complicated and sometimes matlike system of roots and rhizomes [32].  Individual rhizomes have been measured at over 82 feet (25 m) in length (Munn, in [31]) and extend from 4 to 16 inches (10-40 cm) beneath the soil surface.  Roots are found as deep as 4.9 feet (1.5 m) belowground [30].  Masses of multilobed nitrogen-fixing nodules have been found on roots of plants near Pollock Pines.  Examination of roots in areas where soils have thick surface horizons (Ao), however, revealed no root nodulation in that horizon.  Roots in lower horizons were not examined [35].  The fernlike, viscid, aromatic leaves are pinnately dissected into tiny crowded segments.  Each segment is tipped with a resin gland.  Flowers are glutinous.  The fruit is an achene about 0.5 inch (5 mm) long, containing a single seed [20,21,24,29]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :    Phanerophyte    Chamaephyte    Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : The primary method of reproduction is vegetative.  Mountain misery produces clones from its rhizomes, roots, and root crown [15,21]. Sexual reproduction is less frequent.  Methods of seed dissemination were not reported in the literature.  Seeds require from 1 to 3 months of cold stratification (35 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit [1.7-5.0 deg C]) prior to germination [20]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Mountain misery grows in a Mediterranean climate, characterized by mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.  At one representative site in the central Sierra Nevada, annual precipitation averages 68 inches (173 cm), with about 98 percent falling between October and May.  The top 12 inches (30.5 cm) of soil is dry from June to September. The most common soil series supporting mountain misery has a loamy texture in surface horizons, grading to a clayey loam with depth. Soil pH is acid to moderately acid [21].  Plants occur at elevations between 2,000 and 7,000 feet (610-2,134 m) [20]. Associated overstory species not listed under Distribution and Occurrence include sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), and sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum).  Understory associates include bush chinquapin (Chrysolepsis sempervirens), mountain whitethorn (Ceanothus cordulatus), deerbrush (C. integerrimus), wedgeleaf ceanothus, Mariposa manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita), greenleaf manzanita, whiteleaf manzanita, and gooseberry (Ribes spp.) [1,34]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Mountain misery is moderately shade tolerant, growing under open tree stands but not under closed canopies [1,14].  When fire or other disturbance occurs at regular intervals, it attains subcanopy dominance within 3 to 4 years and remains dominant until the next disturbance [6,13].  Mountain misery is a climax understory species in ponderosa pine forests, which are fire-climax in California [2]. Without fire or other disturbance, it will decline as the overhead canopy closes [1,14]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : New leaf initiation begins in spring, with flowers opening from May through July [12,20,24].  Growth usually stops in midsummer, probably limited by inadequate soil moisture [12].  Seed is disseminated in fall [32].  Leaves are retained for 12 to 19 months before abscission [27].


SPECIES: Chamaebatia foliolosa
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : The resinous, finely divided leaves of mountain misery are highly flammable, especially when draped with fallen pine needles and other forest debris.  Mountain misery will carry surface fire, and the species is an important element of fuel loads in California's mixed coniferous and ponderosa pine forests.  Expert opinions on natural fire frequencies in these forests vary.  Fire scar studies show average frequencies of 8 years [4].  Some authorities, however, feel this method gives results that are too conservative.  Biswell [4] estimated a natural fire occurrence of about every 4 years in mixed coniferous forests.  Biswell [4] thought ponderosa pine forests of California burned approximately every 2 to 3 years.  Prior to fire suppression, fires in mixed coniferous and ponderosa pine forests were almost always surface fires, carried in large part by highly concentrated fine fuels composed of mountain misery and coniferous needles, cones, and twigs caught in its foliage and tangled woody stems [4,32]. Mountain misery survives fire by sprouting from the root crown, roots, and rhizomes following top-kill [15].  It reestablishes on burns almost exclusively from sprouting [16]. 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 :    Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown    Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil    Geophyte, growing points deep in soil


SPECIES: Chamaebatia foliolosa
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire top-kills mountain misery [15]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Recovery from fire is rapid.  Three years following top-kill by a wildfire of unreported severity on the Tahoe National Forest, mountain misery sprouts were 1.6 to 16 inches (24-40 cm) tall, and occupied 1,612 square feet per acre (370 sq m/ha) [18].
Mountain misery sprouts flowering, 15 months after the 2013 Rim 
Fire on the Stanislaus National Forest. Photo by Becky Howard.
The following Research Project Summaries provide information on prescribed fire
and postfire responses of many plant community species including 
mountain misery:
Mountain misery will carry prescribed ground fire when present in
the understory [11].  It is difficult and time-consuming to construct
fire breaks within its growth, however, because the numerous, tangled
woody stems, rhizomes, and shallow roots must be removed in order to
expose mineral soil [32].

If managers wish to decrease mountain misery cover through the
use of prescribed fire, late spring/high consumption prescriptions
appear to be most effective.  Early spring/moderate consumption fires
reduce densities the least [15].  Prescribed burning, however, is only a
temporary method of controlling this vigorous sprouter.

Mountain misery regrowth affords good soil protection in burn
areas [32].


SPECIES: Chamaebatia foliolosa
REFERENCES : 1.  Adams, Lowell; Dunaway, David J. 1960. The effect of timber overstory on              deer habitat in mixed conifer type. Res. Note No. 158. Berkeley, CA:              U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest              and Range Experiment Station. 2 p.  [16894] 2.  Bancroft, Larry. 1979. Fire management plan: Sequoia and Kings Canyon              National Parks. San Francisco, CA: U.S. Department of the Interior,              National Park Service, Western Region. 190 p.  [11887] 3.  Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals,              reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's              associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO:              U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p.              [434] 4.  Biswell, Harold H. 1973. Fire ecology in ponderosa pine-grassland. In:              Komarek, Edwin V., Sr., technical coordinator. Proceedings, annual Tall              Timbers fire ecology conference; 1972 June 8-9; Lubbock, TX. Number 12.              Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 69-96.  [8462] 5.  Bovey, Rodney W. 1977. Response of selected woody plants in the United              States to herbicides. Agric. Handb. 493. Washington, DC: U.S. Department              of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 101 p.  [8899] 6.  Burcham, L. T. 1957. California range land: An historico-ecological              study of the range resource of California. Sacramento, CA: State of              California, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry. 247              p.  [186] 7.  Critchfield, William B. 1971. Profiles of California vegetation. Res.              Pap. PSW-76. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest              Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 54 p.              [712] 8.  Dayton, William A. 1931. Important western browse plants. Misc. Publ.              101. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 214 p.  [768] 9.  Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and              Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p.  [905] 10.  Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others].              1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range              ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of              Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p.  [998] 11.  Green, Lisle R. 1982. Prescribed burning in the California Mediterranean              ecosystem. In: Conrad, C. Eugene; Oechel, Walter C., technical              coordinators. Proceedings of the symposium on dynamics and management of              Mediterranean-type ecosystems; 1981 June 22-26; San Diego, CA. Gen.              Tech. Rep. PSW-58. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest              Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station: 464-471.              [6052] 12.  Holland, Robert F. 1986. Preliminary descriptions of the terrestrial              natural communities of California. Sacramento, CA: California Department              of Fish and Game. 156 p.  [12756] 13.  Horn, E. E. 1938. Some wildlife-forest relationships. Transactions, 3rd              North American Wildlife Conference. 3: 376-380.  [15135] 14.  Horton, Jerome S. 1949. Trees and shrubs for erosion control of southern              California mountains. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture,              Forest Service, California [Pacific Southwest] Forest and Range              Experiment Station; California Department of Natural Resources, Division              of Forestry. 72 p.  [10689] 15.  Kauffman, J. Boone; Martin, R. E. 1985. A preliminary investigation on              the feasibility of preharvest prescribed burning for shrub control. In:              Proceedings, 6th annual forestry vegetation management conference; [Date              of conference unknown]; Redding, CA. [Place of publication unknown].              [Publisher unknown]. 89-114.  [7526] 16.  Kauffman, J. B.; Martin, R. E. 1990. Sprouting shrub response to              different seasons and fuel consumption levels of prescribed fire in              Sierra Nevada mixed conifer ecosystems. Forest Science. 36(3): 748-764.              [13063] 17.  Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation              of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York:              American Geographical Society. 77 p.  [1384] 18.  Lanini, W. Thomas; Radosevich, Steven R. 1982. Herbicide effectiveness              in response to season of application and shrub physiology. Weed Science.              30: 467-475.  [3389] 19.  Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession              following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall              Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council              fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No.              14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373.  [1496] 20.  Magill, Arthur W. 1974. Chamaebatia foliolosa Benth.   bearmat. In:              Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the              United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of              Agriculture, Forest Service: 315.  [7585] 21.  McDonald, Philip M.; Fiddler, Gary O. 1989. Competing vegetation in              ponderosa pine plantations: ecology and control. Gen. Tech. Rep.              PSW-113. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,              Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 26 p.  [15923] 22.  McDonald, Philip M.; Helgerson, Ole T. 1990. Mulches aid in regenerating              California and Oregon forests: past, present, and future. Gen. Tech.              Rep. PSW-123. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest              Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 19 p.  [15105] 23.  Miller, Daniel L. 1988. The influence of competing vegetation in              ponderosa pine forests. In: Baumgartner, David M.; Lotan, James E.,              compilers. Ponderosa pine: The species and its management: Symposium              proceedings; 1987 September 29 - October 1; Spokane, WA. Pullman, WA:              Washington State University, Cooperative Extension: 115-120.  [9407] 24.  Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA:              University of California Press. 1905 p.  [6155] 25.  Parsons, David J. 1981. The historical role of fire in the foothill              communities of Sequoia National Park. Madrono. 28(3): 111-120.  [13586] 26.  Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant              geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p.  [2843] 27.  Rundel, Philip W. 1986. Structure and function in California chaparral.              Fremontia. 14(3): 3-10.  [18650] 28.  Rundel, Philip W.; Parsons, David J.; Gordon, Donald T. 1977. Montane              and subalpine vegetation of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges. In:              Barbour, Michael G.; Major, Jack, eds. Terrestrial vegetation of              California. New York: John Wiley & Sons: 559-599.  [4235] 29.  Sampson, Arthur W.; Jespersen, Beryl S. 1963. California range              brushlands and browse plants. Berkeley, CA: University of California,              Division of Agricultural Sciences, California Agricultural Experiment              Station, Extension Service. 162 p.  [3240] 30.  Tappeiner, John C., II; Radosevich, Steven R. 1982. Effect of bearmat              (Chamaebatia foliolosa) on soil moisture and ponderosa pine (Pinus              ponderosa ) growth. Weed Science. 30: 98-101.  [19201] 31.  Tappeiner, John; Zasada, John; Ryan, Peter. 1988. Structure of              salmonberry clones and understories in western coastal Oregon forests:              the basis for stable shrub communities. Unpublished paper on file at:              College of Forestry, Oregon State University, U.S. Department of              Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station,              Corvallis, OR: 27 p.  [7061] 32.  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1937. Range plant              handbook. Washington, DC. 532 p.  [2387] 33.  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982.              National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names.              SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p.  [11573] 34.  Aleksiuk, Michael. 1970. The seasonal food regime of arctic beavers.              Ecology. 51(2): 264-270.  [18436] 35.  Heisey, Rod M.; Delwiche, C. C.; Virginia, Ross A.; [and others]. 1980.              A new nitrogen-fixing non-legume: Chamaebatia foliolosa (Rosaceae).              American Journal of Botany. 67(3): 429-431.  [19803]

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