This spring I wrote about a prescribed fire we conducted on our property in January. Now that things are growing, I can report more about fire effects on the plant community. Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t initiated any quantitative monitoring…yet, so my observations are just that. The disclaimer out of the way, I did have a really exciting find. First to come on were the trout lillys (Eythronium albidum). Granted we had a pretty extensive population before the burn, but the burned population bloomed first and I suspect was more extensive than in the unburned part of the woods.
As I was inspecting some widely dispersed Carolina larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum), I saw a pale purple color in the distance that piqued my curiosity. That patch of pale purpleness turned out to be a group of wild hyacinth (Camassia scilloides). Clearly it must have been there, but I hadn’t seen it bloom before. I was so excited I ran up the 100 meter driveway to tell my husband. My son, on my shoulders, giggled all the way as he bumped along.
Our population of spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) was also more robust both in stature and number of stems than in past years. We did kill a couple small trees and topkilled lots of shrubs. I suspect the trees that succumbed were already stressed out from summers of drought, winter ice storms, and competition in my overstocked woods. I’ve come across some crispy eastern red cedar seedlings in my tramps, likewise, the multiflora rose we were targeting seemed to have succumb to the cut/herbicide/fire treatments of 2014. Oh, and there are the giant blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre) plants I found along (the roadside that I didn’t know were there before either. The geranium and trillium show was as spectacular as ever, joined in by buttercups and toothworts.
Without baseline data, and comparison to unburned areas it is tough to say what is really the result of weather and increased observations and what is really attributable to fire. In the next year, I’ll have to stop hiding behind the “I have a young child” excuse and implement some monitoring.
Outside of my plant geek observations (and amusement), the neighbors are on board for doing burns on our adjoining boundaries in the future. My husband also told me that I need to get my own drip torch in the future rather than borrowing one. I guess that makes me the neighborhood burn boss. I hope your spring burn season was productive and that your summer monitoring brings surprises.