Ceanothus parvifolius

Littleleaf ceanothus


The Basics

Taxonomy: Kingdom - Plantae (plants). Subkingdom - Tracheobionta (vascular plants). Superdivision - Spermatophyta (seed plants). Division - Magnoliophyta (flowering plants). Class - Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons). Subclass - Rosidae. Order - Rhamnales. Family - Rhamnaceae (buckthorn). Genus - Ceanothus L. Species - Ceanothus parvifolius (S. Watson) Trel.

Ecology: Ceanothus parvifolius has a limited growing area only located in California. Often foing in Jefferey and Ponderosa pine forests this species is drought and shde tolerant. Ceanothus parvifoius is also a nitrogen-fixing shrub that increases with disturbance. This species can grow in open to midslope locations ranging 1060 - 2800 meters in elevation.    


Ceanothus parvifoulius is a deciduous species that often grows in dense groups. Habit: Plant grows erect, open, and generally <1.5 m. tall. Stem: +- spreading to generally ascending: the twigs are flexible and have no thorns, green. Leaf: alternate, deciduous: stipules scale like; petiole 1--5 mm; blade 8--21mm, 3--12mm wide, oblong-elliptic to elliptic, flat, adaxially shiny green, glabrous, abaxially paler, generally glabrous, 1--3-ribbed from base, tip obtuse, margin generally entire. Inflorescence: raceme- to panicle-like, 4--9 cm. Flower: blue. Fruit: 3.5--5 mm wide, sticky; horns 0.


In the YFDP: Fire top-killed littleleaf ceanothus, but littleleaf ceanothus was one of the first species to colonize following fire, presumably from the soil seed bank.

Animal: While this is a short lived species Ceanothus parvifolius can affect them. Foraging from deer, elk, cattle, and sheep, in the spring and summer, effects the new growth and flowering times. Small rodents and birds also affect Ceanothus parvifolius by consuming as much as 99% of seeds produced. Insects and fungus: Insects can harm this species by infesting seeds and can cause substantial loss of viable seeds. Fungus can girdle the roots and kill the species all together.


Seed reproduction: Depending on the sight and other factors Ceanothus parvifolius can produce seeds after 3 to 6 years. The flower blooms from May to July and can produce 1.9 x 106/acres of seeds. When seeds are dry they are forced from the pod and stay where they fall. Gradually filtered into the duff and soil unless taken away by small rodents or birds. 

Seed germination and longevity: Seeds can live in the soil as long as 9-24 years. This longevity is due to the hard shell around the seed. This shell need to be broken by heat either from the sun or fires. The temperature needs to be at 176 to 194OF for the seeds to germinate. If the temperature reaches 248 to 284OF the seeds will be killed and will not germinate. 

Sprouts: Depending on the age of the plant the sprouting can vary. As Ceanothus parvifolius gets older it is less likely to sprout. On average after the removal of the top, Ceanothus parvifolius grows 20 to 25 in. in 1 year. After 5 years they can grow 3 to 7 ft.

Species Distribution


The Rolse of the Genus Ceanothus in Western Forest Ecosystems
The role of the genus Ceanothus in western forest ecosystems. Vol. 182. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1985.

USDA Plants Database
USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

The Jepson Herbarium
The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California. B.G. Baldwin, D.H. Goldman, D.J. Keil, R. Patterson, T.J. Rosatti, and D.H. Wilken [editors]. 2012. 2nd edition, thoroughly revised and expanded. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Wildflower center
Johnson, L. B. (2007, 01 01). Ceanothus parvifolius. Retrieved from Wildflower Center: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CEPA4