Back in April, I wrote a post about the regrowth after one of our spring prescribed fires. That’s a fun time of year to burn because the growing season is getting started and the response of green plants pushing through the black ash comes strong and fast. Typically, fall burns don’t show any green-up until the next spring. This year, however, the crazy warm weather has changed things a little. In the two burns we’ve done this fall, most of the ground is still black and barren, but here and there, some green is pushing up through the ash as well.
Here are some photos I took this week of a burn we conducted two weeks earlier. The site was a recently restored prairie (2013 planting) and this was the first burn at the site. Green plants weren’t the only interesting things I found as I walked around.
Big bluestem skeletons stand tall in the ashes.
Cedar trees are uncommon on our land because of our consistent use of fire. This one won’t give us any more trouble….
Despite the lateness of the season, patches of grasses and sedges were showing signs of growth, taking advantage of warm days and some recent rain.
Sedges often stay green well into the winter, but I was still surprised to see these actively growing after a fire.
Among the scorched plants were goldenrod stems with galls. The insects in these galls left well before the fire, but there other invertebrates overwinter in aboveground plants and are vulnerable to dormant season fires.
The bare sand of pocket gopher mounds stand out against the dark background. Ant hills, vole runways, and mole tunnels were also spread across the burned area.
Most plants burned completely, but in some places, fire intensity was lower and bigger stems of sunflowers and other plants only partially burned, sometimes falling as if they’d been chopped down.
Lines of fallen grass and forb stems show where the fire backed into the wind, rather than being pushed by it. In a backing fire, only the lower parts of plants are consumed, and the wind blows them over into the already burned prairie where they escape being further burned.
A white skeleton of a long dead rabbit (I think?) was left tarnished but intact by the fire.
Near the edge of the burned area, grasshoppers skipped away from my feet as I walked.
Almost like after a later burn, with that green-up happening!
Some of the hardiest plants will stay green all winter. I have continued pulling field thistles right up until they get covered with snow and then used a hoe to chop off rosettes right after the snow melts. After clearing an area of rosettes and seeing all the new ones that pop up in spring I can’t help but thinking the thistles continue growing right under the snow, even though I doubt that is true.
One thing that is great about prairie burns conducted during moderate conditions is all the carbon that is left. I still wonder where it all ends up? And if the carbon possibly could be getting sequestered and help slow the effects of global warming.
I was fascinated to read recently that the use of fire was integral to prehistory native American cultures management of their environment where grasslands were trying to be preserved.
Yes, looks like rabbit skull. You can be sure as rabbits (all lagomorphs) have four, as opposed to two, incisors in the upper jaw. One of the few vestiges things I still recall from vert zoo…
As a plant guy, you probably already know this, but other folks may not. Eastern redcedar is not a cedar. It’s a juniper. The two groups are different families of plants. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinaceae
Referring to redcedar as a cedar is a misnomer.
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