Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Salix richardsonii
SPECIES: Salix richardsonii
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Esser, Lora L. 1992. Salix richardsonii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name for Richardson's willow is Salix
richardsonii Hook. . There are no varieties, forms, or natural hybrids;
although hybridization and introgression with S. barclayi and with S.
alaxensis var. alaxensis has been suggested .
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Salix richardsonii
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Richardson's willow occurs from the Arctic Coast southward through most of
central and south-central Alaska; it does not occur in the western
Alaskan Peninsula or Kenai Peninsula. It extends eastward across
northern Canada to the Baffin Islands; southward to northwest Hudson
Bay; and west to northern British Columbia [1,5,19,35].
AK BC NT YT
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K052 Alpine meadows and barren
SAF COVER TYPES :
201 White spruce
202 White spruce - paper birch
203 Balsam poplar
204 Black spruce
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 :
Richardson's willow is a common, thicket-forming shrub of streambanks and
moist slopes in the Arctic and above timberline where it is often
associated with alders (Alnus spp.) and birch (Betula spp.); it is also
found in open spruce (Picea spp.) stands and old burns at lower
elevations [5,35]. Richardson's willow can also be found in floodplain
thickets on rivers and grows on newly exposed alluvial deposits that are
periodically flooded [12,35]. Individual shrubs can be found on
south-facing steppes, on pingos found in permafrost regions, and on dry,
rock outcrops [13,39]. Published classifications describing Richardson's
willow as a codominant in community types are listed below:
Arctic community types of Northwest Alaska .
SPECIES: Salix richardsonii
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Richardson's willow is an important food source for moose, caribou, mule
deer, muskrat, and beaver [13,23,24,26,31]. During the winter in
Alaska, moose feed primarily on shoots of current growth of willow
(Salix spp.), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), paper birch (Betula
papyrifera), and balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) growing as shrubs
or saplings in young, seral communities. Of the preceding species,
willow is the most preferred by moose . Of the more than 20 species
of willow found in Denali National Park, Richardson's willow was one of
three species utilized the most . In one study, willows comprised
94 percent of total biomass consumed by moose from January to April,
with Richardson's willow comprising 6.1 percent .
Richardson's willow is considered moderately palatable. In one study,
Richardson's willow was consumed by moose to a greater extent when
occurring in mixed stands with highly preferred species than when
growing in pure stands . Willow palatability increases as the
season progresses .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Nutrient composition of Richardson's willow consumed by moose in Denali
National Park, Alaska, from January to April, 1984, was as follows :
gross energy: 5.08 kcal/g
percent in vitro digestible organic matter: 39.4
percent of dry matter: 5.9
percent lignin: 19.4
percent ash: 2.8
percent ether extract: 8.3
The spring protein concentration of willow twigs is three times greater
than that of willow bark. Calcium concentration is greater in bark than
in twigs, and phosphorus concentration is greater in twigs than in bark
COVER VALUE :
Richardson's willow characteristically produces dense thickets along
streams and rivers, which provide thermal and hiding cover for mule
deer. Branches are used by beaver in the construction of dams and lodges .
Richardson's willow can stabilize streambanks when thickets are dense by
moderately undercutting the bank, which provides hiding and resting
cover for fish .
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Richardson's willow is useful in stabilizing streambanks and providing
erosion control on severely disturbed sites . Willow species are
the most important colonizers of disturbed sites in the Alaskan taiga
because of their ability to produce root and root crown shoots, which
provide for quick recovery [13,37]. At an Alaskan arctic coastal plain
site, Richardson's willow colonized bare areas of tundra after removal of
debris that had been there for 30 years. High percentage cover occurred
on sites with favorable moisture and nutrient regimes . Richardson's
willow was found to be a poor colonizer in areas where crude oil was
spilled; plant recovery and establishment were extremely slow on these
Willow planting, using stem cuttings, has been recognized as a valuable
tool for restoring riparian habitat. Restoration of riparian habitat
benefits a large number of wildlife species .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Richardson's willow is an important nectar producer for bees . Tough,
flexible shoots of Richardson's willow can be woven into baskets and
furniture . Native Americans used the broth from boiled bark for
sore throats and tuberculosis [2 ].
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Richardson's willow is an important source of browse for moose in Alaska.
If the management objective is to provide moose habitat and if
environmental manipulation of species composition is possible, then only
the growth of preferred species, such as Richardson's willow, should be
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Salix richardsonii
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Richardson's willow is an erect, much-branched shrub usually forming dense
clumps 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m) tall, sometimes to 15 feet (4.5 m) [5,35].
Young twigs are stout and densely hairy; older twigs are glabrous. The
bark of Richardson's willow is smooth . Shrubs are composed of light
wood that becomes brittle with age; a single trunk rarely survives 60
years . In silty loam containing much organic matter, the roots of
Richardson's willow are numerous in the top 7.5 inches (19 cm) of soil,
but become less abundant at 9 inches (23 cm). In frozen ground, roots
of Richardson's willow do not exceed 9 inches (23 cm), but as the ground
thaws roots will grow up to 17 inches (43 cm) deep .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Sexual reproduction: Richardson's willow is dioecious. The fruit of
these plants is contained in a capsule that splits in half to release
many seeds that are then dispersed by wind or water [11,33]. Optimum
seed production occurs between 2 and 10 years . Bees are the chief
pollinating agents . The seeds of Richardson's willow are
short-lived, germinating immediately on moist surfaces . Seed
germination occurs over a broad temperature range, 41 to 77 degrees
Fahrenheit (5-25 degrees C). This appears to be a compensatory
mechanism due to the short seed life . Germination of Richardson's
willow seeds occurs best in moist, exposed mineral substrates that
receive direct sunlight .
Vegetative reproduction: Richardson's willow will sprout from the root
crown or basal stem . It will root readily from stem cuttings or
from root and stem fragments buried in moist soil. Damaged and cut
stems produce prolific sprouts from the stembase or root collar .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
In Alaska and northern Canada, Richardson's willow is found in wet areas
such as heaths, riverbeds, and streams; it is also found in the open
tundra, in pingos, and in mountains to at least 5,578 feet (1,700 m)
[14,39]. In interior Alaska, Richardson's willow occurs in glacial drift,
outwash deposition areas, and on old river floodplains with considerable
variation in habitat conditions .
Soils: Richardson's willow grows best in moist, alluvial bottomlands but
is also found in well-drained sandy or gravelly substrates. The general
pH range for willows is 5.5 to 7.5 . Growth of Richardson's willow is
severely reduced when water levels are maintained at or above the root
crown for extended periods .
Plant associates: Richardson's willow is commonly associated with the
following species: quaking aspen, white spruce (Picea glauca), black
spruce (P. mariana), Alaska paper birch (Betula resinifera), feltleaf
willow (Salix alaxensis), diamondleaf willow (S. pulchra), netleaf
willow (S. reticulata), American green alder (Alnus crispa), Sitka alder
(A. fruticosa), bog birch (Betula glandulosa), lichens (Ericaceae spp.),
huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.), bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis
canadensis), bluegrass (Poa spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), and mosses
(Polytrichum spp.) [12,27].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Richardson's willow is an early successional species on moist sites and,
once established, may persist in areas with frequent disturbances such
as fires or flooding [7,8]. It also becomes important in the later
stages of riparian succession. Successional studies have shown that
once silt accumulates, Richardson's willow will become established quickly
. Richardson's willow was the first shrub to invade flood meadows,
after grasses and horsetail, on sandy alluvium in the tundra .
Richardson's willow has low shade tolerance and therefore loses dominance
on sites that are heavily forested or succeeded by more shade-tolerant
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Richardson's willow flowers from May through July or August [6,20]. The
fruit ripens soon after flowering, followed by seed dispersal in early
to midsummer .
SPECIES: Salix richardsonii
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Richardson's willow sprouts rapidly from basal stems and roots after fire
[28,32]. It produces minute, hairy seeds that are easily disseminated
by wind, and which are important in reestablishment [21,32].
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 :
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Salix richardsonii
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Richardson's willow is a fire-tolerant species that sprouts readily from
the root or root crown after being top-killed by fire . If soil
organic layers are completely removed by fire, then the roots of
Richardson's willow will not be able to sprout .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Richardson's willow is an early successional species on burned sites
because of its ability to sprout vigorously from the root crown or roots
following fire [20,36]. Invasion by willows after fire depends on the
time of year of the fire, weather, and the absence or presence of a
mineral seedbed . Richardson's willow seeds need a nutrient-rich
mineral seedbed to germinate. The chance of Richardson's willow
establishing after a fire lessens as available mineral soil seedbeds
become occupied by faster growing herbaceous species and mosses .
Fire severity can affect willow postfire recovery. High-severity fires
can damage the roots to the point of no recovery [20,38]. Following
low-severity fires most willows will recover quickly because of their
ability to send up new roots from the root crown . Intense burning
can completely kill willows .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Prescribed fire is widely used as a wildlife management tool to
rejuvenate decadent willow stands and stimulate sprouting [11,25].
Early seral stage communities created by fire can increase the carrying
capacity of winter range for moose in interior Alaska . Recurring
fires within some parts of the boreal forest have allowed aspen and
willow to replace coniferous forests . The tendency of willows to
expand quickly following fires and other disturbances and to form dense
thickets inhibits natural regeneration of conifers . Prescribed
burning can reduce initial competition from willow in areas to be
planted with cultivated species .
SPECIES: Salix richardsonii
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