Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Elaeagnus commutata


SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Esser, Lora L. 1994. Elaeagnus commutata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : ELACOM SYNONYMS : Elaeagnus argentea Pursh. [34,51,54,60] SCS PLANT CODE : ELCO COMMON NAMES : silverberry wolf-willow American silverberry TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of silverberry is Elaeagnus commutata Bernh. [19,60]. It is a member of the Elaeagnaceae family. There are no recognized infrataxa. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : Silverberry is listed as a sensitive species in Idaho; it is very rare and local throughout its range [41,49].


SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Silverberry occurs from Alaska and the Yukon Territory, east to the Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, and south through Canada from British Columbia to Quebec to Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, and Utah [50,53,59,60]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES19 Aspen - birch FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES36 Mountain grasslands FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie STATES : AK CO ID MN MT NE ND SD UT WY AB BC MB NT ON PQ SK YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 10 Wyoming Basin 11 Southern Rocky Mountains 12 Colorado Plateau 14 Great Plains 15 Black Hills Uplift 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K063 Foothills prairie K064 Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass K066 Wheatgrass - needlegrass K067 Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass K074 Bluestem prairie K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest K095 Great Lakes pine forest K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 5 Balsam fir 12 Black spruce 13 Black spruce - tamarack 16 Aspen 18 Paper birch 38 Tamarack 107 White spruce 201 White spruce 202 White spruce - paper birch 203 Balsam poplar 204 Black spruce 217 Aspen 235 Cottonwood - willow 251 White spruce - aspen 252 Paper birch 253 Black spruce - white spruce 254 Black spruce - paper birch SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Silverberry occurs in a variety of habitats including boreal forest, spruce-fir (Picea-Abies), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), cottonwood (Populus spp.), willow (Salix spp.), mixed-grass prairie, tallgrass prairie, shrubland, grassland, and riparian [1,3,14,49,60]. It is an indicator of the quaking aspen parkland community type in the Canadian prairie provinces [1,8]. Silverberry occurs in seral communities throughout the Intermountain region. It is a riverine floodplain shrub in narrowleaf cottonwood (P. angustifolia) and black cottonwood (P. trichocarpa) communities of Idaho [49]. It is an incidental riparian type along the Big Hole and Ruby rivers of Montana [11], and may occur as a riparian dominance type in Montana [20]. It is found in riparian communities dominated by willow and poplar (Populus spp.) in Utah [60], and is a member of riparian shrub communities in Idaho and Wyoming [53]. Silverberry is an important species in native mixed-grass prairie of the northern United States and southern Canada. In North Dakota, silverberry is commonly found in shrub-grassland communities dominated by western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), needlegrass (Stipa spp.), and rough fescue (Festuca scabrella) [3,36,40]. Silverberry is also found in tallgrass prairies of the Great Plains [33,62]. It is found in the rough fescue-Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis)-bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) habitat type of Montana [32]. Silverberry is prevalent in rough fescue-porcupine grass (Stipa spartea) communities of the aspen parkland in central Alberta [4,6], and native fescue grasslands of Saskatchewan [43]. It is a member of the western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) community in central Alberta [2]. Silverberry is found in boreal forests of northern Alberta, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska [14,18,56]. In the Yukon Territory, silverberry is a member of a mature white spruce (Picea glauca) forest [18]. In northeastern Alberta, silverberry is an important understory species in white spruce-aspen forests and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) woodlands in upland areas and in black spruce (Picea mariana)-tamarack (Larix laricina) bogs in poorly drained areas [14]. Species not previously mentioned but commonly associated with silverberry in mixed-grass prairies and mountain grasslands include plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), fringed sagebrush (Artemisia frigida), creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), Wood's rose (Rosa woodsii), Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), smooth brome (Bromus inermis), quackgrass (Elytrigia repens), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), needle-and-thread grass (Stipa comata), green needlegrass (S. viridula), witchgrass panic (Panicum capillare), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), Sandberg bluegrass (P. secunda), plains muhly (Muhlenbergia cuspidata), prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), silver-leaf scurf pea (Psoralea argophylla), northern bedstraw (Galium boreale), Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), and silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus) [3,32,36,39,40].


SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Silverberry is an important food for wildlife, particularly moose. Moose in Wyoming and Montana browse it; it constitutes 26.6 percent of moose winter diets in the Gravelly Mountains of Montana [22,35]. Silverberry is eaten by mule deer and bighorn sheep in Alberta, Canada [59]. Silverberry provides nesting cover for mallards and many species of passerine birds in mixed-grass prairie of North Dakota [3,13]. In mature white spruce forests of the Yukon Territory, silverberry provides important habitat for snowshoe hares [18]. PALATABILITY : Silverberry is highly palatable to moose in Wyoming and Montana [22,35]. It is not so palatable to livestock; in Montana its palatability is rated poor for cattle and horses and fair for sheep [11]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : In Montana, silverberry food value is rated good for elk, poor for mule deer and white-tailed deer, and fair for pronghorn, upland game birds, small nongame birds, small mammals, and waterfowl. Energy value and protein content are rated fair [11]. COVER VALUE : Silverberry provides fair environmental protection for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, small mammals, small nongame birds, upland game birds, and waterfowl in Montana [11]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Silverberry adapts well to disturbed sites. It is used for rehabilitating mine spoils in British Columbia and Alberta [23,57,59]. Its rhizomes help prevent soil erosion. At Fort McMurray, Alberta, silverberry spread rapidly on amended tailings sand. Survival remained high after 7 years, and rhizomatous reproduction was vigorous [59]. Preinoculation of silverberry with mycorrhizal and nitrogen-fixing symbionts may result in more rapid revegetation of oil sands tailings [14]. In British Columbia, inoculated silverberry seedlings outplanted on oil sands tailings had a lower survival rate than uninoculated plants; however, inoculated survivors were larger and had more nodules. Inoculated silverberry seedlings in northeast British Columbia had a 60 percent survival rate when transplanted to sandy soil on a steep, unstable slope [59]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : In the Fort Yukon region of Alaska, native Gwich'in Athabaskan and Caucasian residents use the pits of silverberry fruits as beads for necklaces [29,51]. The fruit is cooked in moose fat and eaten by some natives of Alaska [31]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Silverberry is an increaser species on overgrazed cattle rangelands, but frequent sheep browsing or mowing reduce silverberry cover [3]. Silverberry spreads rapidly and maintains cover by means of rhizomes [4,33,59]. In rough fescue grasslands of Alberta and Saskatchewan, silverberry was a minor component 20 years ago, but is now widely distributed [4]. In rough fescue grasslands, silverberry at 1,000 stems per acre increases forage production. Silverberry interferes with utilization of forage by cattle; thus, more herbage is found under shrubs than between them on grazed lands. Rough fescue and porcupine grass yielded twice as much herbage under silverberry shrubs than between them, and their leaves were twice as long [4]. Silverberry fixes nitrogen [59]; this nitrogen may be available to other species of plants growing nearby. According to Bailey [5] and Watson [59], nonmycorrhizal plants grown with nodulated plants such as silverberry are more likely to be taller, show higher amounts of nitrogen in leaves and litter, and have a greater quantity of nitrogen in aboveground parts than plants grown away from silverberry. Land management practices which modify shrub cover can alter the composition of passerine bird communities in mixed-grass prairie of North Dakota. Many bird species are not attracted to mixed-grass prairie with reduced cover of silverberry [3]. Silverberry was sensitive to foliar injury after a sulfur fire in a sanitary landfill in Alberta [28]. Silverberry is susceptible to leaf spot, leaf rust, dieback, and root rot [59].


SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Silverberry is a native, deciduous, long-lived perennial shrub that grows from 3.3 to 13 feet (1-4 m) tall [23,27,38]. It is erect, strongly rhizomatous, and stoloniferous [27,38,50,51], sometimes forming thickets or loose colonies [50,51]. The leaves are 0.8 to 3.2 inches (2-8 cm) long [19,38,51]. The flowers are tubular and sweet-scented, 0.48 to 0.60 inch (12-15 mm) long [51]. The fruit is ovate to ellipsoid, drupelike and 0.32 to 0.40 inch (8-10 mm) long [19,51]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Hemicryptophyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Silverberry reproduces mainly by rhizomes [23,59]. It spreads by underground stems from which single aerial stems arise [50,51]. Silverberry can also reproduce by seed. It is pollinated by insects and its seed is dispersed by birds [42]. Seeds remain viable for 1 to 2 years on cold, dry sites. Good seed crops are produced every 1 to 2 years. The yield is between 2,700 to 4,600 seeds per pound [42,59]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Silverberry grows on a variety of sites from warm, open, sunny grasslands to cooler, forested areas and woodland thickets. In southwestern Montana, silverberry occurs in moist areas along streams and near springs and seeps [35,38]. Silverberry grows on diverse sites with a variety of slope, elevation, aspect, and soil conditions [23,51,59]. Silverberry grows best in loamy soils, but is commonly found in dry, sandy or gravelly soils on exposed hillsides [21,50,51,59]. Silverberry is adapted to soils with high susceptibility to erosion. It can tolerate moderately alkaline soils and is somewhat drought resistant [59]. Elevational ranges are listed for some western states and Canadian provinces: feet meters Alaska 300 to 3,000 91-1,200 [29,31] Montana 4,125 to 7,000 1,250-2,100 [32,35] North Dakota 800 to 1,800 240-540 [59] Utah 6,040 to 8,050 1,830-2,440 [60] Alberta 2,010 to 6,270 610-1,900 [1,47] SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Silverberry is a shade intolerant species of sparse woods and open areas where there is often evidence of past soil disturbance [9,46]. It is dominant in Alberta aspen parklands that are 6 to 19 years old [61]. Silverberry is a facultative wetland species in Alaska [45]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Silverberry flowering dates for several states are as follows: North Dakota mid-June [50] South Dakota June-July [42] Ontario July-Aug [51] Saskatchewan May-June [12] Fruit ripening occurs from August to October in the Great Plains and from August to September in Colorado and South Dakota [19,42,58]. Seed dispersal occurs from September to November in South Dakota [42].


SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Silverberry sprouts from rhizomes following fire [6]. In grasslands on level to rolling topography, in which silverberry is a common shrub, presettlement fires probably occurred every 5 to 10 years [64]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Silverberry is top-killed by most fires. Silverberry is probably killed by severe fires. A prescribed spring fire in aspen parklands of Alberta dominated by western snowberry consumed most aboveground portions of all shrubs except silverberry [2]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Silverberry sprouts from rhizomes after fire [7], and probably establishes from seed if dispersed onto burned sites. However, it does not recover quickly after fire [43]. Numbers of silverberry may increase after fire, but cover usually decreases and recovers slowly. In the Canada Great Plains, silverberry is listed as a species "seriously harmed by spring and fall burns" [62,63]. Frequency and canopy cover of silverberry 3 months after a May 11, 1971, prescribed fire were negligible [2]. A prescribed fire in the fescue grassland of central Alberta was conducted on May 3, 1970. Silverberry cover on burned plots increased slightly during the three postfire seasons but was consistently less than that on unburned plots [7]: unburned burned 1970 1971 1972 1970 1971 1972 silverberry cover (%) 20 29 29 5 6 8 Annual spring burning in a rough fescue-porcupine grassland in central Alberta for 25 to 30 years increased percent frequency of silverberry but decreased percent cover [6]: frequency (%) cover (%) unburned burned unburned burned silverberry 20 34 4 2 In the aspen parkland of east-central Alberta, density of silverberry increased significantly (P< 0.005) after fire from 1.2 per square meter to 6.4 per square meter. Cover of silverberry was reduced after fire [1]. In mixed-grass prairies of North Dakota, silverberry cover is "slightly" reduced after spring burning [63]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : In native grasslands, silverberry is often controlled with herbicides or fire. Prairie management that involves repeated prescribed burning reduces silverberry cover, but patches of shrubs can be maintained by employing partial burns [3]. In quaking aspen parklands in Alberta, silverberry does not burn well in spring prescribed fires [8]. In Saskatchewan, 87.5 acres (35 ha) of native fescue grassland was prescribed burned on October 17, 1986. Silverberry is an important shrub in this community, and provides nesting cover for the clay-colored sparrow. Three years after burning, the breeding density of the clay-colored sparrow in the burned area was 67 percent of that in the control area; the difference was attributed to a decrease in shrub density [43].


SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
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