Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Ziziphus obtusifolia
SPECIES: Ziziphus obtusifolia
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Sullivan, Janet. 1993. Ziziphus obtusifolia. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
Condalia lycioides (Gray) Weberb
Condalia obtusifolia (Hook.) Weberb
Condaliopsis lycioides (Gray) Suess.
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The accepted scientific name for lotebush is Ziziphus obtusifolia (T &
G) Gray . Accepted varieties are as follows [36,43]:
Ziziphus obtusifolia var. canescens (Gray) Johnston
Ziziphus obtusifolia var. obtusifolia
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Ziziphus obtusifolia
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Lotebush occurs from Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and southwestern
Oklahoma south to San Luis Potosi and Vera Cruz, Mexico .
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES35 Pinyon - juniper
FRES38 Plains grasslands
AZ OK NM TX MEXICO
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
7 Lower Basin and Range
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K027 Mesquite bosque
K031 Oak - juniper woodlands
K044 Creosotebush - tarbush
K045 Ceniza shrub
K054 Grama - tobosa prairie
K058 Grama - tobosa shrubsteppe
K059 Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
K060 Mesquite savanna
K061 Mesquite - acacia savanna
K065 Grama - buffalograss
K085 Mesquite - buffalograss
K086 Juniper - oak savanna
K087 Mesquite - oak savanna
SAF COVER TYPES :
66 Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper
67 Mohrs ("shin") oak
241 Western live oak
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Lotebush is a common member of honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var.
glandulosa) or mesquite (P. laevigata) communities. It is usually a
subdominant but is sometimes codominant with honey mesquite [1,39].
Other common subdominants in these communities include four-winged
saltbush (Atriplex canescens), wolfberry (Lycium spp.), and in
southeastern New Mexico, javalinabush (Microrhamnus ericoides), and
broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) .
On upland sites with finer textured soils, honey mesquite communities
(with lotebush) are often associated with other plant species that
include pricky pear (Opuntia imbricata var. imbricata, O. polycantha, O.
leptocaulis), and algerita (Mahonia trifoliolata) .
In communities where lotebush is codominant, common understory species
include buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides), sideoats grama (Bouteloua
curtipendula), crabgrass (Digitaria california), Wright's threeawn
(Aristida wrightii), Texas wintergrass (Stipa leucotrica), and broomweed
(Gutierrezia dracunculoides) .
In succulent-scrub upland communities in the Chihuahuan Desert, lotebush
is associated with ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), coldenia (Coldenia
greggii), catclaw acacia (Acacia greggii), cenizos (Leucophyllum minus,
L. frutescens), Condalias (Condalia spp.), lippia (Aloysia wrightii),
and littleleaf sumac (Rhus microphylla) [14,36]. Lotebush is a frequent
member of Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) or Pinchot juniper (J.
pinchotii) communities on the Edwards Plateau and the Rolling Plains of
SPECIES: Ziziphus obtusifolia
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
The fruit of lotebush is eaten by gray foxes, raccoons, ringtails, and
various birds including scaled quail, white-winged doves, band-tailed
pigeons, mockingbirds, northern orioles, phainopeplas, white-necked
ravens, curved-billed thrashers and golden-fronted woodpeckers
[26,31,50]. The twigs are browsed by white-tailed deer but are probably
not preferred . Cattle browse lotebush, but it is apparently of low
The southern plains woodrat makes extensive but not exclusive use of
lotebush twigs for construction of houses, although it prefers sites
closer to prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) plants . Lotebush is a
preferred nest site for a number of bird species .
The mealy drupe is edible for humans but is not palatable . It is
preferred by some species of birds and small mammals .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Lotebush browse is of medium food value for white-tailed deer .
In vitro dry matter digestibility averaged for all four seasons was 45.4
percent. Leaf crude protein as a percentage of dry weight ranged from
19 percent in May to 40 percent in March .
Nutritional value (as percentage of dry weight) for lotebush fruits is
as follows :
crude protein 11
COVER VALUE :
Lotebush is a primary source of loafing cover in fall, winter, and
spring for northern bobwhite. It is preferred in winter for its closed,
spinescent canopy that provides overhead concealment and good protection
from climatic extremes. Northern bobwhite use only larger lotebush
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
The roots of lotebush can be used as a soap substitute and also as a
treatment for wounds and sores of domestic animals . Until
recently, the fruits were eaten in small quantites by the Pima Indians
of the Gila River region .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
On the Rolling Plains of northwestern Texas, lotebush only rarely
develops into wide-ranging dense stands that require control measures,
but it but can become a problem locally. Where it does occur in dense
stands that impede management of livestock, Scifres and Kothmann 
recommend thinning with individual plant treatments, either mechanical
Removal of top growth is insufficient to control lotebush. After 30
days, 90 percent of lotebush plants clipped 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the
soil line had sprouted . More stems per plant are produced when top
growth is removed to approximately 2 inches (5 cm) above the soil than
when it is removed to ground line, to below the first woody lateral
shoot, or left undisturbed [19,42].
Lotebush is resistant or partially resistant to many herbicides, but is
susceptible to basal sprays of picloram [8,32]. Scifres and Kothmann
 recommend either basal applications of 2,4,5-T plus picloram,
picloram pellets or dicamba granules for control of lotebush.
Dodd  achieved effective control of lotebush by root plowing
followed by raking. Other authors agree that mechanical control methods
which completely uproot the plants offer more promise for control than
those which only remove top growth [32,42]. These methods, however,
result in poorer range conditions (more annual invaders) than chemical
treatments. This can be at least partially compensated for by
artificial seeding .
In an area of mixed brush dominated by honey mesquite (that includes
lotebush), Scifres and others  recommend a variable rate pattern of
herbicide application that could be more economical than strip-applied
patterns. Such variable rate patterns can be made more site specific
and take into account different brush species' susceptibility to
herbicides and the particular potential of each site. This type of
application also results in the patchy brush that is preferred by
wildlife, particularly white-tailed deer.
Management for wildlife habitat should leave large lotebush clones or
individuals intact. Sprouting lotebush plants (where top growth was
removed) often have a prostrate or rosette growth form that is useless
to nesting birds .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Ziziphus obtusifolia
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Lotebush is a native, deciduous medium-sized shrub. It is densely
branched and leafy. It generally grows up to 6 feet (2 m) tall but can
reach heights of 13 feet (4 m) [21,36,42]. The branches are light gray,
covered with a waxy bloom, and have thorn-tipped branchlets. The fruit
is a drupe with one stone .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Sexual reproduction: Lotebush reproduces by seed. There is apparently
no innate dormancy of seed or seed-coat inhibition; Vora  reported a
mean emergence of 95 percent from fresh, depulped seed, and concluded
that no pretreatment is necessary for germination. Seeds are dispersed
by birds and small mammals .
Asexual reproduction: Top-killed lotebush will sprout from the root
crown or, if that is removed, from the roots [19,42].
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Lotebush is common on dry plains, mesas, and slopes . Lotebush
occurs on limestone- and igneous-rock-derived substrates in highly
eroded areas, and on rocky prairie hillsides [21,36]. It is tolerant of
xeric conditions but can also be found on more mesic soils, such as
those immediately surrounding a desert oasis . Historically,
lotebush was probably restricted to dissected uplands and rocky places
along with its woody associates. In the past 50 to 300 years there has
been an increase in the density of woody species (including lotebush) on
grasslands [3,4,7,56]. Lotebush tends to occur in aggregated stands in
low densities . In Arizona and in Trans-Pecos Texas, lotebush is
found from 1,000 to 5,500 feet (300-1,700 m) elevation [24,36].
In the Chihuahuan Desert, lotebush is associated with creosotebush
(Larrea tridentata), guayacan (Guaiacum angustifolium), lechuguilla
(Agave lechuguilla), Texas sotol (Dasylirion texanum), and Texas
persimmon (Diospyros texana). Associated grasses in this region include
chino grama (Bouteloua ramosa), red grama (B. trifida), black grama (B.
eriopoda), sideoats grama (B. curtipendula), threeawn (Aristida spp.),
and tridens (Tridens spp.) . In Saltillo, Mexico, lotebush occurs
in grassland-shrub communities with yucca (Yucca rigida) and chino grama
(B. breviseta) .
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative Seral Species
In a study of the mechanisms by which woody species are encroaching on
Texas grasslands, Archer [3,4] found that the original colonizer of
grass swards is usually honey mesquite. A combination of factors
appears to be responsible for the increased establishment of honey
mesquite and associated species in grasslands: grazing and increased
dispersal of mesquite seeds by livestock, fire suppression, and possible
climatic changes . Honey mesquite creates conditions for the
establishment of other woody species, either by altering soil and
moisture conditions, or simply by virtue of the fact that birds choose
to roost in it and disperse seeds of other species around its base.
Lotebush colonizes mesquite clusters around 35 to 46 years after the
mesquite is established .
Pinchot juniper appears to facilitate lotebush establishment on high
plains sites with shallow clay loam soils. On these sites lotebush is
positively associated with large Pinchot juniper trees. On Rolling
Plains sites with deeper clay loam soils, there is no such association.
Whether the association is caused by birds dispersing seeds while
roosting in the tree, or by juniper alteration of microhabitat to be
more favorable for germination of lotebush was not determined by the
study . Lotebush in turn reduces Pinchot juniper growth rates
during October and November, though its zone of influence is relatively
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
In the Rio Grande Valley, lotebush abcisses leaves as early as November,
loses most or all leaves by mid-December, and new growth is evident by
early February . Lotebush flowers in April and May in the Rio
Grande Valley, and as late as July farther north [21,52]. Fruit ripens
by June in the Rio Grande Valley .
Germination of seeds probably takes place in summer or fall or as soon
as moisture conditions permit .
SPECIES: Ziziphus obtusifolia
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Lotebush is very tolerant of fire; even when 100 percent top-kill is
achieved with a prescribed fire, usually very little root-kill will
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
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Fire is not very effective in controlling brush in southern Texas unless
some form of pretreatment is practiced. Fire alone produces uneven and
patchy burns, with large islands of brush left intact. Any type of
mechanical control that crushes or knocks down large shrubs enhances the
effect of fire. Lotebush in particular is not adversely affected by
fire and will increase in the number of stems per plant after
fire. Removal of lotebush requires mechanical uprooting or treatment
with effective herbicides before burning [8,10,11,12].
Many fire prescriptions in mixed grass-shrub communities have a number
of objectives that can include an increase in herbage yields, an
increase in utilization of coarse grasses, an increase in the
availability of forage, to remove dead woody material, to improve
wildlife habitat and to control undesirable shrubs, cacti and cool
season grasses .
Northern bobwhite respond favorably to increased herbaceous growth
following fire, providing that some woody cover is maintained. Burning
in western Texas can cause a critical loss of northern bobwhite cover
unless some of the large lotebush and honey mesquite plants are left
unburned . Hot fires where all lotebush plants are top-killed will
reduce the amount of nesting sites available for at least 1 year after
the fire, and more likely for up to 6 to 7 years . Cooler fires
that have patchy coverage will leave some larger, single-stemmed
lotebush individuals untouched and available as nesting cover .
Fire prescriptions that have wildlife habitat as a management goal
should preserve larger lotebush clones or individuals. Lotebush that
sprouts after top-kill is not used for nest sites nor is it useful
loafing cover for bobwhite quail until the sixth or seventh growing
season after the fire. The costs of dozing firelines around the larger
lotebush can be offset by the sale of hunting leases [39,40].
Control of lotebush after a prescribed fire can be aided by pasturing
Spanish goats on the burned site. These goats prefer lotebush sprouts,
especially where there is easy access (i.e. old stems are burned away) .
SPECIES: Ziziphus obtusifolia
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Lotebush is top-killed by most fires .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Lotebush is not easily killed by fire. Neuenschwander and others 
found that they killed none of 50 marked plants with a prescribed fire,
even though all of the plants showed at least some damage and most were
top-killed. Similar results occurred on a prescribed burn where 88
percent of the plants were top-killed, but only 5 percent did not sprout
. Box and others [10,11] achieved from 87 to 100 percent lotebush
top-kill with prescribed fire, but only 10 to 40 percent mortality. The
40 percent figure was the highest recorded fire mortality for lotebush
found in the literature reviewed for this write-up, and may be
artificially high, as it was recorded only for the first growing season
after the fire .
Lotebush sprouts readily after being top-killed by fire, either from the
stem tissue of the root crown, or directly from the roots if all stem
tissue is killed (root sprouting does not occur if any stem tissue is
intact) [19,42,46]. Neuenschwander and others  found that in a dry
year, lotebush may not sprout the first growing season following fire
top-kill, but with adequate moisture in the second or third growing
season it will then respond.
With adequate moisture, growth rates are very high for sprouts during
the first few years after fire top-kill, then growth slows to a gradual
increase (which can still be three times that of unburned plants) until
maximum heights are reached about 6 to 7 years after a fire .
Lotebush canopy height was reduced 32 percent 3 years after a prescribed
fire in a mixed grass-mesquite community . Lotebush and other brush
recovered to prefire canopy diameters (probably due to an increased
number of stems per individual) by the end of one growing season after a
prescribed fire .
Lotebush regains its original position in a community much more slowly
than four-winged saltbush . Flower and seed production occurs as
soon as 3 to 4 years after a fire .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
This fire study provides information on postfire responses of plant
species in communities that include lotebush:
SPECIES: Ziziphus obtusifolia
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