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INTRODUCTORY

SPECIES: Chrysothamus nauseosus | Rubber Rabbitbrush

ABBREVIATION:

CHRNAU

SYNONYMS:

Ericameria nauseosa (P. von Pall. ex F. Pursh) G. Nesom & G. Baird [63]

NRCS PLANT CODE:

CHNA2
CHNAA3
CHNAA4
CHNAB
CHNAB2
CHNAC
CHNAC2
CHNAG2
CHNAH
CHNAI
CHNAJ
CHNAL2
CHNAL3
CHNAM
CHNAN2
CHNAN3
CHNAP
CHNAS
CHNAT2
CHNAT
CHNAU
CHNAW

COMMON NAMES:

rubber rabbitbrush
gray rabbitbrush

TAXONOMY:

The currently accepted scientific name of rubber rabbitbrush is Chrysothamus nauseosus (Pall.) Britt. (Asteraceae) [5,21,47,56,64,66,139,141]. Rubber rabbitbrush is described as the most complex and widespread species within the genus Chrysothamnus [7]. Some morphological characteristics are difficult to observe and overlapping characteristics are sometimes noted [54]. The following subspecies are commonly recognized.

C. n. ssp. albicaulis (Nutt.) Rydb. [5,56,64]  white rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. arenarius (L.C. Anderson) Welsh [5,21,64,141]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. bernardinus (Hall) Hall & Clem. [5,56,64]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. bigelovii (Gray) Hall [5,21,64,139]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. ceruminosus (Durand & Hilg.) H. M. Hall & Clem. [5,56,64]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. consimilis (Greene) Hall [5,56,64,139]  threadleaf rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. glabratus (Gray) Cronq. [141]   Welsh rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. glareosus (Jones) Welsh [21,141]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. gnaphaloides (Greene) Hall [66,141]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. graveolens (Nutt.) Piper [5,47,64,139]  green rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. hololeucus (Gray) Hall & Clem. [5,21,56,64,139]  white-stemmed rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. iridis (L. C. Anderson) Welsh [5,64,141]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. junceus (Greene) Hall [5,21,64,66]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. latisquameus (Gray) H. M. Hall [5,64]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. leiospermus (A. Gray) H. M. Hall & Clem. [5,21,56,64]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. mohavensis (Greene) Hall & Clem. [5,21,56,64]  Mojave rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. nanus (Cronq) Keck [64]  rubber rabbitbrush C. n. ssp. nauseosus [5,47,64,139]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. oreophilus (Gray) Cronq. [21]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. psilocarpus Blake [5,64,141]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. salicifolius (Rydb.) Hall [5,21,64,141]  mountain rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. speciosus (Nutt.) Hitchcock & Cronquist [21]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. texensis L. C. Anderson [5,64]  Texas rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. turbinatus (Jones) Blake [5,21,64,66,141]  rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. uintahensis (L. C. Anderson) [5,21,64]  Welsh rubber rabbitbrush
C. n. ssp. washoensis (L. C. Anderson) Cronquist [5,21,56,64]  rubber rabbitbrush

Numerous races and ecotypes of rubber rabbitbrush have also been identified [95].
Certain subspecies occur across a wide ecological amplitude whereas others, such as C. n. ssp. salicifolius, are narrowly restricted in either habitat or range [7,89]. Intermediate morphological forms occur at the edges of the subspecies' geographic ranges [78]. However, Anderson [7] reports "all subspecies are relatively well-defined and often coexist with little or no genetic exchange."

LIFE FORM:

Shrub

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:

No special status

OTHER STATUS:

Chrysothamus nauseosus. ssp. nanus is state-listed as a watch candidate in Washington [136].

AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:

Tirmenstein, D. (1999, March). Chrysothamnus nauseosus. In: Remainder of Citation



DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Chrysothamnus nauseosus | Rubber Rabbitbrush

GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:


Rubber rabbitbrush is widely distributed west of the 100th meridian in North America [67]. It occurs from southern British Columbia through Saskatchewan, south through the Great Plains to northern Mexico, and west to the Pacific Ocean [20,55,76]. Distribution of several subspecies of Chrysothamnus nauseosus is as follows [4,7,21,81,109]:

C. n. ssp. albicaulis - common in the Intermountain Region. It extends from California and British Columbia eastward through parts of Nevada, Idaho, and Utah into Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana

C. n. ssp. arenarius - southern Utah to northern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico

C. n. ssp. bigelovii - west and south of the Four Corners area including parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado

C. n. ssp. consimilis - common in the Great Basin; extending from northern Mexico through parts of California northward into Oregon and eastward to New Mexico, Utah, Montana and Wyoming

C. n. ssp. glareous - northeastern Utah

C. n. ssp. graveolens - common in the Intermountain Region and parts of the northern Great Plains; extending from Arizona and New Mexico northward to Montana and Canada and eastward into the Great Plains

C. n. ssp. hololeucus - common in the Great Basin and the Great Plains and extending from California northward to Oregon and Idaho and eastward into Arizona and Utah

C. n. ssp. iridis - parts of Utah

C. n. ssp. junceus - southern Utah to southwestern Colorado and northern Arizona

C. n. ssp. leiospermus - occurs in parts of California and Nevada and extends eastward into Utah and northern Arizona

C. n. ssp. mohavensis - occurs from southern California to Nevada

C. n. ssp. nauseosus - extends from the western edge of the Great Plains northward to Canada and southward into Colorado and the Dakotas

C. n. ssp. oreophilius -common in the Intermountain Region

C. n. ssp. salicifolius - common in the Intermountain Region

C. n. ssp. turbinatus - occurs in the Breat and Uinta basins of Utah and on the Colorado Plateau

C. n. ssp. washoensis - Great Basin of northeastern California and northwestern Nevada

C. n. ssp. uintahensis - local to Unitah and Daggett counties, Utah

ECOSYSTEMS:

FRES15 Oak-hickory
FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES40 Desert grasslands

STATES:


AZ   CA   CO   ID   KS   MT    NE   NV   NM
ND   OK   OR   SD   TX   UT    WA   WY

AB   BC   SK

MEXICO

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS:


 3 Southern Pacific Border
 5 Columbia Plateau
 6 Upper Basin and Range
 7 Lower Basin and Range
 8 Northern Rocky Mountains
 9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:


K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K037 Mountain mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K040 Saltbush-greasewood
K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K057 Galleta-three-awn shrubsteppe
K060 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065 Grama-buffalograss
K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
K081 Oak savanna
K098 Northern floodplain forest

SAF COVER TYPES:


210 Interior Douglas-fir
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper
247 Jeffrey pine

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES:


107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
318 Bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
319 Bitterbrush-rough fescue
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
406 Low sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:


Rubber rabbitbrush occurs as a dominant to minor component in many types of plant communities [96]. It grows in openings in sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.), and ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa) stands [142]. It also grows in mixed conifer forests of California with Jeffrey pine (P. jeffreyii), white fir (Abies concolor), and sugar pine (P. lambertiana) and in salt deserts with species such as greasewood (Sarcobatus spp.) and saltbush (Atriplex spp.). Mountain rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. salicifolius) grows on relatively mesic sites and occurs with mountain big sagebrush (A. tridentata) and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) [81,137].

Published classifications listing rubber rabbitbrush as an indicator are presented below:

Natural production potential of some Rio Puerco soils in New Mexico [1]
Vegetation and soils of the Cow Creek Watershed [13]
Plant communities and habitat types in the Lava Beds National Monument, California [34]
Preliminary habitat types of a semiarid grassland [39]
A taxonomy for classification of seral vegetation of selected habitat types in western Montana [49]
Plant associations of the Crooked River National Grassland [58]
Forest vegetation of the Gunnison and parts of the Uncompahgre National Forests: a preliminary habitat type classification [68]
Classification of pinyon-juniper (p-j) sites on National Forests in the Southwest [93]


VALUE AND USE

SPECIES: Chrysothamnus nauseosus | Rubber Rabbitbrush

IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:

Rubber rabbitbrush is considered an important browse species on depleted rangelands [77]. In general, wildlife and livestock forage only lightly on this species during the summer, but winter use can be heavy in some locations [80]. Fall use is variable, but flowers are often used by wildlife and livestock. A few leaves and the more tender stems may also be used. The forage value of rubber rabbitbrush varies greatly among subspecies and ecotypes. Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. albicaulis, C. n. ssp. hololeucus, and C. n. ssp. salicifolius are preferred [78].

In Montana and Wyoming rubber rabbitbrush is considered to be an important fall and early winter food source for mule deer [33,73,100]. In north-central Montana, the percentage of rubber rabbitbrush in mule deer diets doubled from September to October, with highest use recorded in December [33]. Rubber rabbitbrush represents one of the single most important food items in winter mule deer diets in Wyoming, where it is used in summer and winter [100]. However, in parts of California it is considered only a minor mule deer food item even in winter [71]. Some elk use during September has been reported in the Missouri Breaks of Montana [73].

Pronghorn consume both flower tops and current-year leafage of rubber rabbitbrush [34]. In mixed shrub communities in Montana and Wyoming, they consume large amounts of rubber rabbitbrush during the fall. Pronghorn also use it in winter in some areas [2,9]. In parts of Saskatchewan, rubber rabbitbrush is a highly preferred pronghorn browse species during late fall [29].

In salt-desert communities of Utah, black-tailed jackrabbits graze the current year's growth of rubber rabbitbrush during dormancy [22]. In southern Idaho black-tailed jackrabbits exhibit a preference for forbs and shrubs, including rubber rabbitbrush, during August [37].

Rubber rabbitbrush is, in general, considered of little value to all classes of livestock although some subspecies receive at least light use by livestock during the winter months [123]. It is described as a "poor" forage species for domestic sheep in winter [59]. However, in parts of Utah, domestic sheep may utilize as much as 17% of the current year's growth [42]. Generalized importance ratings are as follows [15]:

     black-tailed deer - low         Rocky Mountain elk - moderate
     mule deer - moderate            moose - low
     white-tailed deer -low          caribou - low
     mountain goat - low              bighorn sheep - moderate
     Roosevelt elk - low

PALATABILITY:

Palatability of rubber rabbitbrush varies greatly according to subspecies. In general, the white or gray subspecies such as Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. salicifolius and C. n. ssp. albicaulis are more palatable to wildlife and livestock than are the green subspecies [99]. Generalized palatability ratings by subspecies are as follows [77,111]:

C. n. ssp. albicaulis - medium to high
C. n. ssp. consimilis - low
C. n. ssp. graveolens - low to medium
C. n. ssp. hololeucus - medium to high
C. n. ssp. salicifolius - medium to high

All subspecies are considered to be slightly toxic to livestock [30]. Rubber rabbitbrush fruit and flowers tend more palatable than other parts of the plant, and palatability of all subspecies is generally highest in fall and winter. New leaders may be preferred by some browsers [73]. Meyers and others [87] report that C. n. ssp. hololeucus and C. n. ssp. albicaulis are most palatable of the subspecies. Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. albicaulis remains palatable even during summer [111] and the entire aboveground plant of C. n. ssp. hololeucus is palatable [111]. The following tables summarize reported palatability ratings of rubber rabbitbrush subspecies by state.

C. n. ssp. albicaulis

                     CO        MT       ND        UT      WY
-------------------------------------------------------------
Cattle              ----      poor     ----      fair    fair
Sheep               ----      fair     ----      good    fair
Horses              ----      poor     ----      poor    fair
Pronghorn           ----      ----     ----      good    good
Elk                 ----      ----     ----      fair    good
Mule deer           ----      ----     ----      good    good
White-tailed deer   good      ----     ----      ----    ----
Small mammals       ----      ----     ----      good    good
Small nongame birds ----      ----     ----      good    fair
Upland game bird    ----      ----     ----      fair    fair
Waterfowl           ----      ----     ----      poor    poor
C. n. ssp. consimilus
                      CO        MT       ND        UT        WY
---------------------------------------------------------------
Cattle              ----      ----     ----      poor      ----
Sheep               ----      ----     ----      poor      ----
Horses              ----      ----     ----      poor      ----
Pronghorn           ----      ----     ----      poor      good
Elk deer            ----      ----     ----      fair      good
Mule dule           ----      ----     ----      fair      good
White-tailed deer   good      ----     ----      ----      ----
Small mammals       ----      ----     ----      good      good
Small nongame birds ----      ----     ----      fair      fair
Upland game birds   ----      ----     ----      poor      fair
Waterfowl           ----      ----     ----      poor      poor
C. n. ssp. graveolens
                     CO        MT       ND        UT        WY
---------------------------------------------------------------
Cattle              ----      ----     poor      poor      ----
Sheep               ----      ----     fair      poor      ----
Horses              ----      ----     fair      poor      ----
Pronghorn           ----      fair     good      fair      good
Elk                 ----      fair     ----      fair      good
Mule deer           ----      good     good      fair      good
White-tailed deer   good      ----     ----      ----      ----
Small mammals       ----      ----     ----      good      good
Small nongame birds ----      ----     ----      fair      fair
Upland game birds   ----      ----     ----      fair      fair
Waterfowl           ----      ----     ----      poor      poor

            			
C. n. ssp. nauseosus 

                     CO        MT       ND        UT        WY
---------------------------------------------------------------
Cattle              poor      poor     poor      poor      fair
Sheep               fair      fair     fair      good      fair
Horses              fair      poor     fair      poor      fair
Pronghorn           ----      fair     good      good      good
Elk                 ----      poor     ----      good      good
Mule deer           ----      good     fair      good      good
White-tailed deer   good      fair     ----      ----      ----
Small mammals       ----      ----     ----      good      good
Small nongame birds ----      ----     ----      fair      fair
Upland game birds   ----      ----     ----      fair      fair
Waterfowl           ----      ----     ----      poor      poor

NUTRITIONAL VALUE:

Rubber rabbitbrush has been rated "good" in energy and protein content [30]. Dry matter digestibility has been reported as 44.4% and crude protein content at 7.8% [25,140]. Nutritional value varies seasonally, with highest crude fat values noted in fall [120]. Crude protein levels also fluctuate seasonally. Protein value varied seasonally in 1964 as follows [131]:

                     01/2    2/5     3/1     4/2    11/30
% crude protein	     8.4%    8.0%    9.1%    8.2%   9%


Additional nutritional information is listed below [120]:

                summer    winter
crude fat       15-19%     ----
carotene        7 g/g     ----
ash              ----      8.0%
P             0.09-0.11%   0.30%
K                0.80%     3.10%
Na               0.0169%   0.032%

COVER VALUE:



Rubber rabbitbrush provides good cover for several species of nesting birds. It provides nesting cover for waterfowl on eastern Washington dunes. In Idaho, rubber rabbitbrush provides good nesting cover for sage grouse [46,52].

Plants may provide very specific habitat for insects such as Acurina [80].

Rubber rabbitbrush is of little importance to larger mammals. Subspecies such as Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. albicaulis do not retain leaves or seeds through the winter and provide particularly poor cover during this period [118]. Mule deer hiding/escape cover, thermal cover, and fawning cover values for rubber rabbitbrush are described as "poor" [100]. The following tables summarize reported cover value of several rubber rabbitbrush subspecies by state [30]:

C. n. ssp. albicaulis
                       UT        CO        WY        MT      ND
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Elk                   poor      ----       poor      ----    ----
Mule deer             fair      ----       poor      ----    ----
White-tailed deer     ----      poor       ----      ----    ----
Pronghorn             fair      ----       fair      ----    ----
Upland game birds     fair      ----       good      ----    ----
Waterfowl             poor      ----       fair      ----    ----
Small nongame birds   good      ----       good      ----    ----
Small mammals         good      ----       good      ----    ----
C. n. ssp. nauseosus
                      UT         CO        WY        MT      ND
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Elk                   poor       ----      poor      poor    ----
Mule deer             fair       ----      fair      poor    good
White-tailed deer     fair       ----      fair      ----    ----
Pronghorn             fair       ----      fair      poor    good
Upland game birds     good       ----      good      ----    ----
Waterfowl             poor       ----      fair      ----    ----
Small nongame birds   good       ----      good      ----    poor
Small mammals         good       ----      good      ----    poor
C. n. ssp. consimilis
                       UT         CO        WY         MT      ND
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Elk                   poor       ----      poor       ----    ----
Mule deer             fair       ----      poor       ----    ----
White-tailed deer     ----       poor      ----       ----    ----
Pronghorn             fair       ----      fair       ----    ----
Upland game birds     fair       ----      good       ----    ----
Waterfowl             fair       ----      fair       ----    ----
Small nongame birds   good       ----      good       ----    ----
Small mammals         good       ----      good       ----    ----
C. n. ssp. graveolens
                      UT         CO        WY         MT      ND
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Elk                   poor       ----      poor       poor    ----
Mule deer             fair       ----      poor       poor    good
White-tailed deer     poor       ----      fair       ----    ----
Pronghorn             fair       ----      fair       poor    good
Upland game birds     fair       ----      good       ----    ----
Waterfowl             poor       ----      good       good    good
Small nongame birds   good       ----      good       ----    poor
Small mammals         good       ----      good       ----    poor

VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:

Rubber rabbitbrush is excellent for soil stabilization and erosion control [26,60]. It is also well suited for use on degraded winter ranges [14,111]. Rubber rabbitbrush has a deep root system and can establish rapidly, even on severe sites [96]. Plants produce large quantities of leaf litter which produces soil mulch. On poor sites litter is important as a means of recycling nutrients to the soil surface from the deeper rooting profile. Rubber rabbitbrush has been planted in sagebrush grass, pinyon-juniper, northern desert shrub, southern desert shrub, and salt desert shrub communities [38,75,95].

Rubber rabbitbrush can be successfully seeded directly onto mined lands, including surface coal mine spoils [28,94]. It has also been successfully planted on disturbed areas such as along roadsides, where it frequently forms almost pure stands [138]. Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. albicaulis is considered one of the best shrubs for revegetating roadside cutbanks in the Sierra Nevada foothills [35].

When selecting accessions for rehabilitation, the relative palatability of the subspecies should be considered. On highly erosive soils, less palatable subspecies can be planted to discourage herbivory [95].

Seeds can be sown in spring or fall [117]. Initial establishment from seed is described as "good to fair" and early growth is generally rapid [77,123]. Seedlings are easy to establish, even on unprepared seedbeds [96]. Drill seeding, direct seeding, and aerial application have all been used effectively [28,77]. Transplanting container stock or nursery seedlings can also be effective [67,77]. Rubber rabbitbrush can be propagated by using stem cuttings [76,128,137]. Once established, it spreads easily by abundant, wind-disseminated achenes.

OTHER USES AND VALUES:

Rubber rabbitbrush was first tested as a source of good quality rubber during World War II [101]. In recent decades, there has been renewed interest in the potential of this species as a source of rubber and other chemicals [54]. Rubber content varies according to subspecies and environmental factors, with highest rubber production (6.67%) observed in Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. turbinatus [54]. Rubber content increases during periods of high temperatures and low soil moisture [53]. Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. consimilis has been found to produce the highest concentrations of resin (35.89%) [54].

Compounds present in rubber rabbitbrush are being tested for medical applications including use as a nematocide and for anti-malarial properties [138]. It is also a possible source of natural insect repellents [55]. Rubber rabbitbrush has been tested for suitability as a potential energy source from biomass. This shrub is known to grow in dense stands while maintaining relatively high individual plant biomass [132].

Rubber rabbitbrush has been cultivated since 1886 [27]. Certain subspecies have value for use as ornamentals [138]. Specific applications include urban plantings and parking strips [55,138]. The striking color of some of the white/gray subspecies and the ability to grow with little water makes them well suited for desert landscaping [137].

Some Native American peoples used rubber rabbitbrush latex as a source of chewing gum [101].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:

Rubber rabbitbrush can be susceptible to herbicides such as 2,4-D, but results vary widely according to type of treatment, rate of application, and date and year of treatment [8,143]. Relative effectiveness also depends on the amount of new twig growth and subsequent rainfall [92]. Highest kill rates are obtained when plants have at least 3 to 4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm) of new growth and when soil moisture exceeds 13% [8,27,143]. Rubber rabbitbrush may be less susceptible to herbicides during drought years when new growth may be minimal [92,112]. Plants may be more susceptible to 2,4-D after burning [112].

Various types of mechanical treatments have been tested for reducing or eliminating cover of rubber rabbitbrush. Because sprouting can occur after aboveground foliage has been removed, many types of mechanical treatments have limited utility. Areas that have been subjected to many types of mechanical disturbance often experience an increase in rubber rabbitbrush [48].

Mechanical treatments such as chaining and brush-beating are often ineffectual in reducing the cover of rubber rabbitbrush [17]. Plants may be killed by disking, but only if disks cut deeper than the ordinary 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm) [102]. Plowing at depths below the root crown (greater than 5 to 7 inches (13-18 cm) may be effective, but often repeated treatments are necessary [102,103]. Cluff and Roundy [17] observed that only 17% of rubber rabbitbrush plants (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. consimilis) were killed by rotobeating. Many plants resprouted vigorously the following year.

A leaf beetle, Trirhabda nitidicollis, may be at least moderately effective as a natural control agent of rubber rabbitbrush [23].

Clipping studies from eastern Oregon and Washington indicate greatest twig yields on heavily clipped plants (75% removal), with good production on moderately clipped plants [43,44]. Rosentreter and Jorgenson [111] noted good production when 73% of the annual growth was clipped during four consecutive autumns, although crown cover was reduced. A use level of 50% should allow rubber rabbitbrush to maintain good vigor [43,44].

Rubber rabbitbrush may dominate a site, but it tends to provide less competition to understory plants than do other shrub species such as sagebrush. Roots extend deeper in the soil than do those of perennial grasses and forbs. Because rubber rabbitbrush is deciduous, plants growing beneath the canopy of rabbitbrush receive sun during spring green-up and are protected by shading during the hot summer months. In addition, shrubs such as rubber rabbitbrush can function as windbreaks. During the winter, snow often accumulates around shrubs and provides added moisture in the spring for plants growing near the base. On favorable sites, herbage cover is greater where rabbitbrush is present [40]. Species such as crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum) remain succulent and exhibit greater fall regrowth under rubber rabbitbrush [41].


BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Chrysothamnus nauseosus | Rubber Rabbitbrush

GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:



Rubber rabbitbrush is an erect round or pyramidal native shrub that typically reaches 12 to 90 inches (31-229 cm) in height [17,55]. Certain populations have been reported to reach heights of 10 to 12 feet (3.3-3.6 m) [77]. Plant spread is generally between 0.2 and 3.3 feet (0.6-1 m) [60]. Several more or less upright stems arise from the base and branch to give plants a rounded appearance.

Rubber rabbitbrush exhibits a number of adaptations for surviving in an arid environment. Leaves and stems are covered with a felt-like layer of trichomes that insulate the plant and reduce transpiration [3]. Leaves are linear and less than 0.04 inch (0.1 cm) wide [17]. Rubber rabbitbrush has a deep taproot with less well-developed laterals [8,18,19]. Flowers are perfect [17]. Stanton [123] reports that plants may be "full grown" within 4 years.

Botanical characteristics such as leaf and flower characters vary considerably among the subspecies of rubber rabbitbrush [141]. Two separate series are recognized within Chrysothamnus nauseosus, a gray form and a green form. Green forms are characterized by glabrous involucres and greenish leaves and stems (i.e., C. n. ssp. consimilis, graveolens, leiospermus, and mohavensis. Gray forms have tomentose involucres and gray to whitish foliage and stems (i.e., C. n. ssp. albicaulis, bigelovii, hololeucus, and nauseosus [7].

RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM:



Phanerophyte

REGENERATION PROCESSES:



Rubber rabbitbrush establishes from seed and by sprouting. Sprouts originate at or near the soil surface from epicormic buds located on the stem and root crown [91,147,149]. For more information on sprouting, see "PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE" below.

Seed ripens in autumn [31,85,90]. The wind-dispersed seed may be carried up to 165 yards (151 m). Rubber rabbitbrush usually produces an abundance of seed, although fruit fill varies by plant and year [88]. Good seed crops generally occur every year or every 2 years [133]. Mild weather in late fall and early winter can enhance the percentage of seed which is viable [96]. Seeds do not persist in a seedbank [85].

Seeds germinate in winter or spring after snow melt. Seed dormancy in rubber rabbitbrush is described as conditional and temperature-dependent [88]. Germination occurs over a broad range of temperatures but over a narrow range of moisture conditions [109]. A stratification period is not necessary for rubber rabbitbrush but may speed germination. Stratification period may extend to 120 days [70]. Without stratification, germination begins within 5 to 20 days after planting [27]. In laboratory tests, germination rates are highest at 58 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (20-30 oC) and lowest at 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 oC) [109]. A specific light regime is not required, but germination can be inhibited by high saline concentrations [67,138].

Germination rates vary dramatically by seed source [85]. For example, the length of time required for 50% germination ranged from 5 to 96 days for seed obtained from California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Montana [79]. Subspecies from the same location generally show similar germination response to temperature [88]. Subspecies with wide ecological amplitude often show a wide range of germination response [88]. Specific germination characteristics by subspecies are as follows [67,114]:

Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. bigelovii - excellent germination at or below 91 degrees Fahrenheit (32.5 oC)

C. n. ssp. consimilis - mean germination time = 5.9 days; germination at constant or alternating temperatures; best germination at 57 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (25-30 oC)

Seeds from southern or warm desert populations germinate more rapidly than do those from northern or montane and high-elevation populations [79,138]. Meyer and McArthur [88] report that under laboratory conditions of 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 oC), seed collections from warm desert habitats required less than 2 weeks to achieve 90% germination, whereas collections from montane habitats took up to 20 weeks. Similarly 50% germination at 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 oC) took up to 100 days for seed from areas with severe winters. Mojave Desert seeds reached 50% germination in less than 1 week [85]. Collections from middle elevations exhibit asynchronous germination in the cold. Germination rates at near-freezing temperatures correlate with mean January temperatures at the collection site [90]. Seed collections from high elevation populations may show dormancy at autumn temperatures and may germinate slowly under the snow or at near-freezing temperatures. Collections from warm deserts germinate rapidly over a range of temperatures including near-freezing temperatures [88,90].

Rubber rabbitbrush seed retains good viability for 0 to 3 years [96,117]. In laboratory tests, germination declined from 80% to 14% from the second to fifth year of storage [67]. After 4 years of storage, viability dropped significantly as follows [125]:
    year   % germination
     2      80
     3      65
     4      34
     5      14
     7      11
    10       7
Roots of new seedlings grow rapidly [82]. Early-season mortality is primarily caused by freezing, damping off, and improper rooting [31]. After early May, mortality is mostly due to water stress. Seedling emergence and establishment are severely limited in dry years [109]. Established seedlings do not persist unless late spring rains replenish soil moisture and roots elongate before surface moisture is depleted. In eastern Oregon, seedlings established in grass and litter on the northeast side of older shrubs. They also established on north sides of small mounds or indentations made by animals. Seedling mortality on these sites was greater than 50% by June.

SITE CHARACTERISTICS:



Rubber rabbitbrush occurs in the cold deserts of the Colorado Plateau, throughout much of the Great Basin, and in warm deserts of the Southwest from lower-elevation Sonoran to subalpine zones [55,115]. Rubber rabbitbrush favors sunny, open sites throughout a wide variety of habitats including open plains, valleys, drainage ways, foothills, and mountains [26,60,123,142]. It is particularly common on disturbed sites [54]. Rubber rabbitbrush is cold hardy to temperatures of -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 oC) and tolerant of both moisture and salt stress [55,115]. The subspecies of rubber rabbitbrush may overlap in their ranges, but they often have somewhat different ecological requirements. Habitat preferences of Chrysothamnus nauseosus by subspecies are as follows [17,34,77,80,111,124]

C. n. ssp. albicaulis - foothills, open slopes
C. n. ssp. consimilis - hot, dry, alkaline lowlands, floodplains, and valley bottoms
C. n. ssp. graveolens - foothills and valleys
C. n. ssp. hololeucus - dry plains, valleys, and mountain slopes
C. n. ssp. leiospermus - diverse habitats
C. n. ssp. salicifolius - mountains, mountain brush

Rubber rabbitbrush grows on a wide range of soils [47,54]. Soils tend to be medium to coarse-textured and somewhat basic, but may range from moderately acidic to strongly alkaline [60]. This shrub commonly grows on dry, sandy, gravelly or heavy clay [123]. Rubber rabbitbrush is somewhat salt tolerant [54,55]. Although rubber rabbitbrush often occurs on poor soils, it can also be found on some productive soils [55]. Soil preference varies according to subspecies as described below [4,32,62,78,111,112]:

C. n. ssp. consimilis - pH of 5.6-8.6; common on deep, heavy soils and where water table ranges from 4.9-8.2 feet (1.5-2.5 m)
C. n. ssp. hololeucus - pH of 6.5-8.9; soils often coarse, deep, well-drained
C. n. ssp. iridis - barren seepage areas; gypsiferous soil
C. n. ssp. turbinatus - restricted to sandy soils

Rubber rabbitbrush grows across a wide elevational range. It grows from sea level to 10,500 feet (3,203 m) [138]. In the Great Basin, rubber rabbitbrush grows from 3,000 to 8,000 feet (900-2,400 m) [60]. In California, this species has been reported from 3,000 to 8,000 feet (914-2,438 m) in elevation [34]. Subspecific variation in elevational range is common. For example, where C. n. ssp. hololeucus and C. n. ssp. albicaulis occur within the same geographic area, C. n. ssp. albicaulis is found at higher elevations, usually over 6,000 feet (1,850 m), and C. n. ssp. hololeucus is restricted to lower elevation sites. Elevation range by subspecies is listed below [77]:

C. n. ssp. albicaulis 2,000 to 7,000 feet (610-2135 m)
C. n. ssp. consimilis 2,000 to 6,000 feet (610-1850 m)
C. n. ssp. graveolens 3,000 to 6,000 feet (925-1850 m)
C. n. ssp. salicifolius 6,000 to 9,000 feet (1,850-2745 m)

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:



Rubber rabbitbrush is generally regarded as an early seral species that rapidly invades and colonizes disturbed sites [55,134]. It is commonly found in seral communities such as along roadsides and on degraded rangelands [88,142]. Although it colonizes sites with little topsoil, it also invades fairly productive low-elevation riparian areas and deeper soils adjacent to drainage bottoms [23,86,122]. Rubber rabbitbrush often increases after the removal of big sagebrush [112]. On some sites, seedlings may be unable to become established until herbaceous pioneers increase soil stability [16].

Rubber rabbitbrush generally declines later in succession [135]. In the high desert of Oregon, it attains dominance only on highly disturbed early seral stands, but remains dominant for long periods on burned or abandoned agricultural lands [131]. Rubber rabbitbrush is considered a mid-seral species in some semi-arid sagebrush communities [84]. It was found to dominate the shrub layer on 35 to 65 year old pinyon-juniper sites in north-central Arizona [127]. During this time, rubber rabbitbrush cover declined from 22.03% to 10.1%. In shrub communities in Idaho, rubber rabbitbrush can remain dominant for 10 to 25 years after fire [149]. A "typical" successional pathway on sand dunes of Idaho is listed below [16]:
stage 1     0 to 30 years  pioneer species such as Elymus spp.
stage 2     10-70 years    rubber rabbitbrush assumes dominance
stage 3     50-70 years    antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
stages 4-5  > 70 years     big sagebrush, followed by antelope 
                             bitterbrush
Meyer and McArthur [88] report that some of the geographically isolated subspecies form part of climax vegetation on dunes and shale barrens. Rubber rabbitbrush may continue as a minor component in stands near or at climax condition.

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:



Bud burst usually occurs in late March or early April but may occur as early as late February. Restricted growth continues until May. Accelerated growth occurs from May until early or mid-August. Photosynthesis continues through the summer drought period [19]. Vegetative growth begins earlier and is more vigorous where competition is less [113].

Flower bud initiation takes place in early- to mid-summer, with flowering from mid-summer to fall [96,115]. Populations at higher elevations flower in July whereas those from low elevation Mojave Desert populations do not begin flowering until mid-October. Populations from cold deserts and northern pinyon-juniper woodlands are intermediate [88].

Seed ripens from late fall to early winter [96]. Seed set occurs in late September at higher elevations and in late November at low elevation Mojave Desert sites [88]. Seed dissemination starts before all flowers are fully mature. The rate of dissemination is affected by weather conditions, including wind and moisture. Fruit typically matures earlier on plants experiencing little competition. Germination occurs from March through June [133].

Generalized phenological events were reported as follows in a study conducted near Millican, Oregon [82]:
Phenological Event                         Date
                                 
Leaf development                           Mid-April to Mid-May
Flower bud initiation                      Mid-June to Mid-July
Bracts yellow                              Early Aug. to Early Sept.
Flowers mature                             Early Sept. to Early Oct.
Seed disseminated                          Early Sept. to Mid-Nov.
Phenological development of rubber rabbitbrush near Elko, Nevada was as follows [108]:
Date             Event
            
7/18/53          Buds initiated
8/28/53          Mid-bloom
4/28/54          Dormant
6/3/54           2-4" Growth
6/30/54          3-6" Growth

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Chrysothamnus nauseosus | Rubber Rabbitbrush

FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:


Rubber rabbitbrush is a fire-adapted species that is typically unharmed or enhanced by fire [99,148]. Recovery time is often rapid to very rapid. Rubber rabbitbrush is often one of the first species to colonize burned areas by sprouting or from off-site seed [107,148]. Sprouts originate from adventitious buds located on the stem and root crown [24]. This species reproduces abundantly from heavily seed crops [148]. Seeds are easily dispersed to burned sites over long distances by wind.

Fire intervals in sagebrush-grass communities have been estimated at 7 to 70 years [148]. The range of fire intervals reported for some species that dominate communities where rubber rabbitbrush occurs are listed below. To learn more about the fire regimes in those communities refer to the Fire Effects Information System summary for that species, under "Fire Ecology or Adaptations."

ponderosa pine: 2-42 years
Mexican pinyon (Pinus cembroides): 20-70 years

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY:


Tall shrub, adventitious bud/root crown
Small shrub, adventitious bud/root crown
Initial off-site colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer, on-site seed


FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Chrysothamnus nauseosus | Rubber Rabbitbrush

IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:



Rubber rabbitbrush is often top-killed by fire [74,91]. Because of relatively high resin content, both foliage and stems may be consumed, even at fairly high moisture content. Mortality after fire is variable but is often very low [99,103]. Fire effects may depend on subspecies, season of burn, and condition and vigor of plant. After fires with high fireline intensities or a long residence time, buds located at or near the root crown may be killed, limiting ability to resprout [146]. Young [147] reported mortality of 20% after fire in Intermountain shrubsteppe. In the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge of Oregon, postburn mortality of <5% was observed [149].

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:



Potential damage is influenced by proximity to other shrubs that provide additional fuel and increase fireline intensity. Mortality is also greater where plants have been defoliated by browsing prior to burning. Plants may lack sufficient carbohydrate reserves to resprout [99].

PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:



Recovery of rubber rabbitbrush after fire is described as "rapid" or "very rapid" [91,123,128,148]. Recovery may occur by means of vigorous sprouting or through an abundance of wind-dispersed seed [148]. Resprouting may be aided by the release of nutrients after fire [121]. Most postfire sprouting is epicormic (stem) and not root or root crown sprouting [99]. Sprouting response depends on burning conditions, weather, season of burn, subspecies, and ecotypic variation [74,99,116]. White-gray subspecies such as Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. hololeucus and C. n. ssp. albicaulis are relatively susceptible to fire, whereas the green-gray subspecies (i.e., C. n. ssp. consimilis and C. n. ssp. graveolens) more often survive [144]. Postfire drought conditions may cause mortality in plants that would otherwise resprout [105]. In many areas, reproduction from seed is also important in increasing rubber rabbitbrush population densities [65,99]. Surviving plants can, in some cases, sprout culms that quickly flower almost immediately after fire. In other instances, plants sprout the following growing season and produce an abundance of flowers and seeds [147]. These seeds germinate and establish the second year after burning. Postfire seed crops are often particularly heavy [149].

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:



Rubber rabbitbrush is sensitive to competition. Sites with a dense stand of perennial grasses and forbs are less likely to be dominated by rabbitbrush after fire than those where the understory has been depleted. Burning can temporarily eliminate sagebrush and other plants that compete for water and space. Release from competition stimulates rubber rabbitbrush to produce large numbers of seed [82].

Rubber rabbitbrush biomass production remains low for 1 to 3 years after fire and then often increases rapidly [145]. Rubber rabbitbrush can be a major component of vegetation within 3 to 5 years after a burn [12]. Wright [145] reported that burning reduced rubber rabbitbrush by 59% the first year after fire near Dubois, Idaho. Three years after burning, production doubled; it tripled by the end of year 12. Rubber rabbitbrush reestablished from seed after fire in a Great Basin dry meadow. It peaked in abundance 12 years later [50].

Rubber rabbitbrush may dominate postburn shrub-grass communities in degraded condition if perennial grasses are poorly represented [149]. In many Intermountain shrub-steppe communities, seedlings of rubber rabbitbrush will occupy the sites for 10 to 15 years before big sagebrush again assumes dominance [147].

In pinyon-juniper communities of California, rubber rabbitbrush colonizes higher elevation burns (> 6,600 feet (2,000 m)). Along with other shrubs, it increases in cover and density for 30 to 50 years [135]. It serves as a "nurse shrub" and is rarely found on burns older than 47 years. Two general postburn patterns were noted in these communities: 1) understory fires followed by rapid postfire perennial grass succession, and 2) canopy fires followed by slow postfire shrub and tree succession [135]. General cover by year was as follows [135]:
year %cover year %cover year %cover
1 0.7 33 8.3 140 0.6
8 1.7 38 1.2 160 0
9 3.2 47 5.2 --- ---
13 3.2 90 2.7 --- ---
18 2.6 130 --- --- ---
 

Immediate reductions in rubber rabbitbrush after a July burn near Kamloops, British Columbia were reported as follows [61]:

Prefire Postfire month 14
Frequency 93.3 40
Density (n/25m2) 2.0 0.4
Cover (%) 6.5 1.2

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:



Control of rubber rabbitbrush with fire is described as "erratic" [17]. Results may differ even on the same site and date if burned in different years. The outcome depends largely on whether the fire is hot enough to kill the crowns [17]. In general, fire must be at least "moderately hot" for effective control [74]. Rubber rabbitbrush may be more susceptible if burned after heavy grazing or during the early summer [148]

On many greasewood-rabbitbrush sites, vegetation is typically very sparse and burns can take place only under very hazardous fire conditions [17]. Many degraded sagebrush sites are also difficult to burn. A rest from grazing in summer can increase fuel continuity for better spread if burned in spring, summer, or fall [74].


FIRE CASE STUDIES

SPECIES: Chrysothamnus nauseosus | Rubber Rabbitbrush

CASE NAME:

Horsehaven 2, Nevada

REFERENCE:
Zschaechner, G. 1985 [150]

SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION:

fall/severe

STUDY LOCATION:

The burn occurred in northeastern Nevada on BLM lands, Elko District; approximately 8 miles (15 km) southwest of Jackpot, Nevada.

PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY:

The burn took place in a sagebrush-grass community. Some associated plants included big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana), low sagebrush (A. arbuscula), green rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus vicidiflorus), antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), Utah serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis), bluegrass (Poa spp.), needlegrass (Stipa spp.), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus), tailcup lupine (Lupinus caudatus), arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), stickseed (Hackelia spp.), fiddleneck (Amsinckia spp.), and horsemint giant hyssop (Agastache urticifolia). The rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) stand was approximately 35 years old.

TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE:

flowering

SITE DESCRIPTION:

Elevation: 7,500 feet (2285 m)
Aspect: southwest
Slope: 12%
Mean annual temperature: 44 degrees Fahrenheit (8 oC)
Mean annual precipitation: 8.84 inches (224.5 mm)
Soils: Derived from quartzite and volcanic rocks; rocky outcrops
Depth to bedrock: 26 inches (66 cm)

FIRE DESCRIPTION:

Horsehaven Burn #2 was carried out on October 6, 1980. Two plants were monitored for fire effects. One was 24 inches (60 cm) in height, a with 4.59 square foot (0.13 m2) crown, the other 51 inches (130 cm) in height with 17.65 square feet (0.50 cm2) of crown area. Basal clumps of both plants had a diameter of 25 inches (10 cm). Litter depth was measured at 0.8 inch (2 cm).

Conditions Reported:
Air temperature = 74 degrees Fahrenheit (23 oC)
Fireline intensity=840 to 3770 BTU/ft/sec
Relative Humidity = 16%
Heat/unit area = 1260 to 5660 BTU/ft2
Wind speed average = 3 mph (5.6 km/h)
Flame length=10 to 20 feet (3-6 m)
Live foliage moisture=112%

FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES:

One plant was completely consumed. On the other, fire left branches 0.5 to 1 inch (1.3-2.6 cm) in diameter. The plant that was consumed was more isolated from surrounding fuels. Both plants had approximately 1.2 inch (3 cm) of white ash at their bases.

Neither plant resprouted. Although foliage moisture was 112%, extreme fireline intensity probably removed the stem sprouting sources. Phenological state may also have been a factor. Burning was done when plants were flowering, a low point in their carbohydrate cycle.

FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS:

No entry


Chrysothamnus nauseosus: References


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150. Zschaechner, Greg A. 1985. Studying rangeland fire effects: a case study in Nevada. In: Sanders, Ken; Durham, Jack, eds. Rangeland fire effects: Proceedings of the symposium; 1984 November 27-29; Boise, ID. Boise, ID: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Managment, Idaho State Office: 66-84. [2692]



Chrysothamnus nauseosus Index

Related categories for SPECIES: Chrysothamus nauseosus | Rubber Rabbitbrush

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Information Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Fire Effects Information System

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