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:
Elaeagnus argentea Pursh. [34,51,54,60]
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
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 :
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].
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
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].
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES19 Aspen - birch
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands
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
18 Paper birch
107 White spruce
201 White spruce
202 White spruce - paper birch
203 Balsam poplar
204 Black spruce
235 Cottonwood - willow
251 White spruce - aspen
252 Paper birch
253 Black spruce - white spruce
254 Black spruce - paper birch
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
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
. It is an incidental riparian type along the Big Hole and Ruby
rivers of Montana , and may occur as a riparian dominance type in
Montana . It is found in riparian communities dominated by willow
and poplar (Populus spp.) in Utah , and is a member of riparian
shrub communities in Idaho and Wyoming .
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 . 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 . It is a member of the western
snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) community in central Alberta
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 . 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 .
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)
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
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
Preinoculation of silverberry with mycorrhizal and nitrogen-fixing
symbionts may result in more rapid revegetation of oil sands tailings
. 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 .
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 .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Silverberry is an increaser species on overgrazed cattle rangelands, but
frequent sheep browsing or mowing reduce silverberry cover .
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 . 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 .
Silverberry fixes nitrogen ; this nitrogen may be available to other
species of plants growing nearby. According to Bailey  and Watson
, 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 .
Silverberry was sensitive to foliar injury after a sulfur fire in a
sanitary landfill in Alberta .
Silverberry is susceptible to leaf spot, leaf rust, dieback, and root
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
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 . The fruit is ovate to
ellipsoid, drupelike and 0.32 to 0.40 inch (8-10 mm) long [19,51].
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
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 . 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
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
Elevational ranges are listed for some western states and Canadian
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 
Utah 6,040 to 8,050 1,830-2,440 
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 .
Silverberry is a facultative wetland species in Alaska .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Silverberry flowering dates for several states are as follows:
North Dakota mid-June 
South Dakota June-July 
Ontario July-Aug 
Saskatchewan May-June 
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 .
SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Silverberry sprouts from rhizomes following fire . In grasslands
on level to rolling topography, in which silverberry is a common shrub,
presettlement fires probably occurred every 5 to 10
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 .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Silverberry sprouts from rhizomes after fire , and probably
establishes from seed if dispersed onto burned sites. However, it does
not recover quickly after fire . 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 . 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 :
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 :
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 .
In mixed-grass prairies of North Dakota, silverberry cover is "slightly"
reduced after spring burning .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
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 . In quaking aspen parklands in Alberta,
silverberry does not burn well in spring prescribed fires .
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 .
SPECIES: Elaeagnus commutata
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64. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States
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