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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Cornus sericea Shrubland

Common Name:
Red-oiser dogwood Shrubland

Community Description

In Colorado, this riparian shrubland often forms continuous, narrow bands along streambanks, benches, and bars. It can form very dense, small stands with limited disturbance, often at the base of a cliff. The medium tall (1-2 m) deciduous shrub canopy is dominated by Cornus sericea. Information on the understory vegetation and stands that occur outside Colorado will be added later.

This type is typically adjacent to stream and river channels, but it can occupy a diversity of landforms. It may appear as dense linear bands on alluvial benches in narrow canyons or broad thickets on islands and floodplains of major streams and rivers. It may also occur on well-watered sites below beaver dams. Most occurrences have evidence of annual or near-annual flooding (Manning and Padgett 1995; Hall and Hansen 1997). Soils of this community are classified as Inceptisols, Entisols, or Mollisols. Where sites are located outside of the active floodplain, a litter/duff layer 2 inches or more thick may accumulate. Surface horizons are comprised of a wide range of alluvial materials with textures ranging from silt clays to sandy loams. These layers may be relatively shallow or as deep as 5 feet. Underlying layers are typically coarse sands, gravel, and cobbles that facilitate the movement of aerated groundwater through the subsurface layers and may be important for the longevity of stands. Water availability ranges from high, where this type occupies floodplains immediately adjacent to active channels, to low on upper, remote floodplain sites. Mottled and gleyed soils may occur (Manning and Padgett 1995; Hall and Hansen 1997; Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997).

Cornus sericea forms a dense, closed canopy, often excluding understory shrub and herbaceous species. Cornus sericea is usually the only shrub species with high cover values. Associated species vary with geographic location and elevation, but commonly associated shrubs include Rosa woodsii, Ribes hudsonianum, Acer glabrum, Salix exigua, Salix lutea, and Clematis ligusticifolia. Because of its wide range, a great diversity of herbaceous species is associated with this community, usually in low cover (Manning and Padgett 1995; Hansen et al. 1995; Hall and Hansen 1997; Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997).

This is a widespread type known from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Montana.

The herbaceous biomass varies widely and is largely dependent on the density of the dogwood canopy (Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997). Ratings for red-osier dogwood palatability for livestock range from low (Manning and Padgett 1995; Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997) to "ice cream" (Hansen et al. 1995; Hall and Hansen 1997), but the stands are often so dense that they limit grazing in many cases. This community functions in a variety of ways to promote stream health. Red-osier dogwood forms dense root networks that stabilize streambanks against lateral cutting and erosion, provides cover in the form of overhanging branches and banks, and shades channels, effectively moderating extreme summer temperature fluctuations (Hall and Hansen 1997). Dogwood sprouts vigorously after a fire and germination of its seed-bank is stimulated by fire (Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997).

Global Rank: G4Q State Rank: S3

Community References


98-01-02/ B. Moseley

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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