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SPECIES:  Fremontodendron californicum
California flannelbush. Wikimedia Commons image by John Rusk from Berkeley, CA.


SPECIES: Fremontodendron californicum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Pavek, Diane S. 1993. Fremontodendron californicum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : FRECAL SYNONYMS : Fremontia californica Torr. [33] SCS PLANT CODE : FRCA6 COMMON NAMES : California flannelbush California fremontia California slippery-elm mountain leatherwood TAXONOMY : The scientific name of California flannelbush is Fremontodendron californicum (Torr.) Cov. It is a member of the cacao family (Sterculiaceae) [23,26]. Accepted infrataxa are [48]: Fremontodendron californicum subsp. californicum, California flannelbush Fremontodendron californicum subsp. decumbens (R.Lloyd) Munz, prostrate flannelbush LIFE FORM : Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : Fremontodendron californicum subsp. decumbens is Endangered [47]. OTHER STATUS : Information on state- and province-level protection status of plants in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe.


SPECIES: Fremontodendron californicum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : California flannelbush is widespread in California. It extends eastward into central Arizona and southward into northern Baja California, Mexico [18,23,33,37,38].
Distribution of California flannelbush. 1976 USDA, Forest Service map provided by Thompson et al. [49].
   FRES21  Ponderosa pine
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub
   FRES35  Pinyon - juniper


    3  Southern Pacific Border
    4  Sierra Mountains
    7  Lower Basin and Range
   12  Colorado Plateau

   K023  Juniper - pinyon woodland
   K030  California oakwoods
   K031  Oak - juniper woodlands
   K033  Chaparral

   237  Interior ponderosa pine
   239  Pinyon - juniper
   240  Arizona cypress
   241  Western live oak
   245  Pacific ponderosa pine


California flannelbush is a member of dry temperate sclerophyllous floras and is a
characteristic species of chaparral [3,19].  It is a dominant shrub of
desert chaparral communities which also finger into desert scrub or
pinyon-juniper (Pinus spp.-Juniperus spp.) communities [6,17,18].
Additionally, it is found in chamise (Adenostoma fasciculata) chaparral
and northern mixed chaparral, and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)
communities of California [9,19,42].  California flannelbush is a dominant or
indicator species in the following publications:

(1)  Vegetation types of the San Gabriel Mountains [16]
(2)  Preliminary descriptions of the terrestrial natural communities
       of California [19]
(3)  Vegetation of the San Bernardino Mountains [31].

California flannelbush is associated with numerous species listed in descriptions
of ecosystems, Kuchler plant associations, or SAF cover types.  Two
species that are associated with California flannelbush but not mentioned in those
descriptions are desert almond (Prunus fasciculata) and bush poppy
(Dendromecon rigida) [16].


SPECIES: Fremontodendron californicum
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : California flannelbush wood is heavy and varies from hard to soft [10,30]. The wood is fine-grained, but it is not used commercially due to the small-sized bole [10]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : California flannelbush provides yearlong browse for livestock and large game animals [4,9,10,23,37]. Young leaves and twigs are consumed more often than older parts [37]. PALATABILITY : Palatability of California flannelbush was rated as excellent for deer, good to fair for sheep and goats, fair to poor for cattle, and poor or useless for horses [34,37]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : California flannelbush is recommended for erosion control at elevations ranging from 500 to 6,000 feet (152-1,829 m) [14,20,35]. California flannelbush has been planted on banks and levees of flood control channels in California [14]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Tea made from California flannelbush bark relieves throat irritations [27]. The mucilaginous inner bark is used in poultices for wounds [9,10]. California flannelbush is used in landscaping [20,22,23,34]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Following the removal of mixed chaparral top growth in California rangeland by bulldozing and burning, forage production was evaluated in a series of exclosure treatments over 6 years. The treatments were various combinations of 1 to 3 years of protection with 2 to 4 years of browsing. California flannelbush grew rapidly in all treatments, even exceeding browse line in the 1-year treatments. It grew out of browsing reach with or without continuous use by deer and/or cattle. Intensive browsing pressure is necessary to maintain California flannelbush as low, readily available forage [13]. The root system of California flannelbush is sensitive to disturbance which makes it unsuitable for bareroot transplanting. Methods of propagation are discussed in detail in the literature [20,22]. California flannelbush seed harvest, storage, germination, and planting methods are also discussed in detail [8,24,34].


SPECIES: Fremontodendron californicum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : California flannelbush is a native, evergreen, erect to decumbent shrub or tree. It reaches 3.3 to 13.1 feet (1-4 m) tall as a shrub. As a tree, it may grow to 30 feet (9 m) tall and 13.8 inches (35 cm) in diameter [10,23,26,30, 38,40]. It has a broad, open crown and a short trunk with deeply fissured bark. The thick leaves are simple with 3 to 5 lobes and are 1 to 1.4 inches (2.5-3.5 cm) long [10,40]. Leaves usually remain for 2 years; however, during wetter than normal springs, California flannelbush produces larger leaves that are shed in late summer [3]. The flowers are 1 to 1.5 inches (0.4 to 1.8 cm) long [26,37]. Flowers are solitary in twig axils and numerous throughout the plant [26,30]. The fruit is a very hairy capsule 0.63 to 1.5 inches (1.6-3.9 cm) long and contains numerous seeds [26,34,37]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte Chamaephyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : California flannelbush reproduces sexually and asexually. California flannelbush blooms the second year after germination [34]. It is usually an abundant seed producer [10]. Germination levels during laboratory trials were very low (3 to 10 percent) [24]. Seeds have an elaiosome [24]. Although seeds are thrown from the capsule by wind or other disturbances, ants are probably the main dispersal agents [34,43]. California flannelbush sprouts vigorously from the lignotuber following removal of top growth [17,26,43]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : California flannelbush grows in mediterranean climates [3]. Over its range, California flannelbush is found on all aspects in foothills and low elevation mountains [51,42]. In California and northern Mexico, California flannelbush often occurs on granitic slopes from 3,000 to 6,000 feet (900-1,800 m) [9,15,40,32]. Kruckeberg [28] classified California flannelbush as an indicator species for serpentine soils in California; however, it also occurs on soils derived from other parent materials [43]. California flannelbush is found on a variety of soil textures that range from gravelly loams to clays. It may occur on soils that are shallow or deep and rich [1,43]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species California flannelbush is a minor component of climax chaparral. It is primarily found in seral communites of woodland-grass chaparral [4,5]. Occasionally, it occurs in seral forest chaparral. California flannelbush grows in open to very dense chaparral stands; light does not appear to be a limiting factor in establishment. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : California flannelbush blooms between April and July throughout its range [9,10,30,34]. Fruits mature during August or September [34]. Seeds disperse during summer and fall [24,34].


SPECIES: Fremontodendron californicum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : California flannelbush is well adapted to recurring fires with its abundant seed production, prolific sprouting, and rapid growth. It reaches maturity relatively quickly; seeds can spread via animal or wind into fire-opened areas. Chaparral is one of the most fire-susceptible vegetations in the world; fire is the major cause of secondary succession in chaparral [15]. California flannelbush cover, similar to that of other chaparral species, is influenced by the frequency of burning. Chaparral communities evolved under variable fire recurrence regimes [46]. Recurrence intervals may be as short as 0 to 40 years, depending on the size and age of previous fires, or as long as over 100 years [5,45]. California flannelbush is also a dominant shrub in desert chaparral communities which burn less frequently and intensely than other chaparral types [15,21]. California flannelbush invades singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla) stands following fire [5,21,31]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Fremontodendron californicum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire top-kills California flannelbush; surviving lignotubers sprout following fire [7,9,34,44]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : All aboveground biomass of California flannelbush was killed during a prescribed fire in November 1980 in chaparral of southern California. Two months later, California flannelbush had sprouted in a study site at 5,085 feet (1,550 m) elevation. By June 1981, California flannelbush sprouts covered approximately 744.9 square feet per acre (171 sq m/ha) and seedling cover was 39.2 square feet per acre (9 sq m/ha) [25]. California flannelbush vigorously sprouted and rapidly grew during the first 6 years following mechanical clearing (1954) and prescribed fire (1955) in mixed chaparral on the San Joaquin deer winter range in California. Twenty-two years following a wildfire (1939) in a different area on the winter range, California flannelbush plants were numerous. Surviving lignotubers had sprouted, and plants had attained tree status [13]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : In California, prescribed fire is used to improve grazing conditions in woodland-grass chaparral cover types where California flannelbush occurs [4]. Most California flannelbush utilization by browsing animals takes place during the first 2 years following fire when sprouting is greatest [37].


SPECIES: Fremontodendron californicum
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