Great Basin Naturalist


The objective of this study was to determine if crude protein varies significantly during late summer and midwinter among stands of bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata Pursh) in southwestern Montana. A secondary objective was to determine if leaves, when present, contribute significant additional protein in the region. Nine sites with different environmental conditions within a radius of 14.5 km were studied. Bitterbrush leaves and leaders collected in August 1990 and 1991 and February 1991 were used for crude protein and leaf-to-leader ratio determinations. Crude protein differed (P < 0.001) among sites for both leaves and leaders on individual collection dates. Crude protein in leaves was nearly twice the level found in leaders. Because few leaves were present in February, they increased crude protein in total foliage by only 0.3% over twigs alone. February crude protein levels averaged 6.8% for total foliage, which is below the estimated requirement for wintering deer.