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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Prunus virginiana Shrubland

Common Name:
Chokecherry Shrubland

Community Description

Summary:
This community has a wide distribution, being reported from states primarily in the northwestern United States, including the northwestern Great Plains, but also in Nevada. In Colorado, this riparian shrubland occurs as small pockets on higher terraces or as narrow bands along the high-water mark of steep banks and incised channels. It can also grow at the base of cliffs adjacent to rivers and streams where it forms impenetrable thickets. Stands have a dense, medium-tall (1.5-2 m) shrub canopy that is almost impossible to walk through. This vegetation is dominated by Prunus virginiana and grows at the interface between the riparian areas and the adjacent upland. Shrub cover is generally greater in drainage bottoms and on lowermost slopes, and less on slopes. Prunus virginiana may be the dominant shrub species, but often other species are codominant or dominant, especially on slopes, including Rhus trilobata (skunkbush sumac), Amorpha canescens (lead plant), Symphoricarpos occidentalis (western snowberry) and Toxicodendron pubescens (poison ivy). Stands dominated by Prunus americana may be a variant of this type. In drainage bottom situations, herbaceous cover is usually sparse, less than 10%. On slopes, the shrubs typically occur in some grassland type, and graminoid cover can be greater than 75%.

Environment:
In Colorado, this association grows at the interface between the riparian areas and the adjacent upland. Stands usually occur as small pockets on higher terraces or as narrow bands along the high water mark of steep banks and incised channels. It can also grow at the base of cliffs adjacent to rivers and streams where it forms impenetrable thickets (Colorado NHP pers. comm. 1998). In southwestern South Dakota, stands are found in a variety of habitats. Slope varies from flat to very steep, with variable aspect. Stands are commonly found in the bottoms of draws and drainages. This type also occurs associated with rock outcrops (H. Marriott pers. comm. 1999, Von Loh et al. 1999).

Vegetation:
In Colorado, this community type is a medium-height (1.5-2 m) shrubland with dense vegetation that is almost impossible to walk through. (Colorado NHP pers. comm., 1998). In southwestern South Dakota, moderate- to dense-shrub cover characterizes this type, typically in the 25-75% range. Shrub cover is generally greater in drainage bottoms and on lowermost slopes, and less on slopes. Prunus virginiana may be the dominant shrub species, but often other species are codominant or dominant, especially on slopes, including Prunus americana, Rhus trilobata, Amorpha canescens, Symphoricarpos occidentalis and Toxicodendron pubescens. In drainage bottoms, herbaceous cover is usually sparse, less than 10%. On slopes, the shrubs typically occur in some grassland types, and graminoid cover can be greater than 75%.

Range:
This association has a wide distribution, reported chiefly from the northwestern United States, including the northwestern Great Plains, with an outlier in Nevada.

Dynamics:
Hansen et al. (1995), consider the stands in central and eastern Montana to be grazing (browsing) disclimax, potentially climax in Fraxinus pennsylvanica or Acer negundo. Some stands on slopes are the result of recent fire that killed the overlying canopy, converting a Pinus ponderosa / Prunus virginiana forest (CEGL000192) to this Prunus virginiana shrubland type.

Global Rank: G4Q State Rank: S4

Global Rank Comments:
This type is widespread, but it represents a broadly defined dominance type, with little information on the associated species or habitats that might help define the type more precisely. If, e.g. a Great Plains type was separated out from the other types, such a type could be relatively rare.

Community References

Identifier:
CEGL001108

Author:
D. Faber-Langendoen, WCS

Citations:
Caicco and Wellner 1983n, Copeland 1980a, Evans 1989a, Hansen et al. 1991, Hansen et al. 1995, Jones and Walford 1995, Kittel et al. 1996, Kittel et al. 1999, Von Loh et al. 1999

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This information is from the:
Montana Natural Heritage Program
Montana State Library--Natural Resource Information System
1515 East Sixth Ave., Helena, MT 59620-1800
406 444-5354
http://mtnhp.org
mtnhp@mt.gov