We observed flower and fruit production for nine understory shrub species in western Washington and Oregon and examined the relationships between shrub reproductive output and plant size, plant age, site factors, and overstory density to determine the factors that control flowering or fruiting in understory shrubs. In Washington, 50 or more shrubs or microplots (for rhizomatous species) were sampled for each of eight species. The variables examined were more useful for explaining abundance of flowers or fruit on shrubs than they were for explaining the probability that a shrub would produce flowers or fruit. Plant size was consistently the most useful predictor of flower/fruit abundance in all species; plant age was also a good predictor of abundance and was strongly correlated with plant size. Site variables (e.g., slope) and overstory competition variables (e.g., presence/absence of a canopy gap) also helped explain flower/fruit abundance for some species. At two Oregon sites, the responses of five species to four levels of thinning were observed for 2-4 yr (15 shrubs or microplots per treatment per year). Thinning increased the probability and abundance of flowering/fruiting for two species, had no effect on one species, and responses for two other species were positive but inconsistent between sites or from year to year. We believe reducing overstory density or creating canopy gaps may be useful tools for enhancing shrub size and vigor, thus, increasing the probability and abundance of fruiting in some understory shrub species.
Additional publication details
Seed and vegetative production of shrubs and growth of understory conifer regeneration