Annual sprouting of aerial stems and ramets enables populations of salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis Pursh), salal (Gaultheria shallon Pursh), and probably other forest shrubs to maintain dense covers (>20 000 stems/ha). We studied annual stem production of salmonberry on cut (all stems cut within 15 cm of the ground) and uncut (stems were not treated) plots for 8 years and salal for 5 years in the understories of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco), alder, and riparian stands, as well as clearcuts, which are all common stand types in western Oregon. Mean salmonberry stem production on uncut plots ranged from 4.7 stemsA?ma??2A?yeara??1 (95% CI 2.9a??7.4) in alder stands and clearcuts to 1.6 stemsA?ma??2A?yeara??1 (95% CI 1.0a??2.6) in conifer stands. Mean salal production was greater, ranging from 58 stemsA?ma??2A?yeara??1 (95% CI 25a??135) to 8.6 stemsA?ma??2A?yeara??1 (95% CI 3.7a??20.1) on uncut plots in clearcuts and unthinned Douglas-fir stands, respectively. Annual production of both species was somewhat greater on cut plots. Most stems produced in early spring die by December, but enough are recruited to replace mortality of older stems. Stem density was maintained for 8 years for salmonberry and 5 years for salal on both cut and uncut plots. Based on length of rhizomes and bud density we estimate that only 1a??5% of the buds in the rhizomes are needed to support this annual stem production. Although these species sprout vigorously after their aerial stems are killed, disturbance is not necessary for maintaining a dense cover. It appears that, once established, salal, salmonberry, and probably other clonal forest shrubs can maintain a dense cover that can interfere with establishment of trees and other shrubs in canopy gaps or other openings.
Additional publication details
Salmonberry and salal annual aerial stem production: The maintenance of shrub cover in forest stands