Sunday, March 29, 2009
Feel the Burn!
Why is it I get excited when visiting a local tallgrass preserve and I see that part of it had been burned in the fall or spring? I'll admit being pretty excited when I hear some favorite site had some burn event the previous season...it's not that a charred landscape is what I prefer - it's what comes afterward. Fire was a natural occurrence on the tallgrass prairie, it prevented incursion of trees and competition from other plants that may have been invasive or disruptive in some way. It also warmed the soil, contributed nutirients and removed heavy thatching and buildup of sunlight blocking debris. But the characteristic I look for "visually" is - it promotes heavy flowering.
We have a prairie remnant here at Prairie Hill Farm; it was what drew us here originally. With the property buffered by pasture land, we also encouraged the native plants that had once grown here in profussion by burning periodically. When there is an absence of burning for many years most areas like pastureland experience a noticeable degradation of "diversity" - a boring and devoid "monoculture" results. It's sad to see what was once a natural habitat of dozens of native grass species and hundreds of different flowering native forbs (wildflowers) turn into one color, with one or two grass species and scattered invasives (non-native plants).
It's not just the noticeable lack of color and form but the lack of wildlife diversity that results. All creatures require that chain of life we used to hear about...this plant requires this insect for pollination...this bird requires these insects or seed or pollen bearing plants to thrive...this amphibian requires these plants for habitat - and on and on. That's biodiversity plain and simple! That's also what we humans have changed so dratiscally...but I won't get so preachy here, I'm only saying I like it hot when it comes to prairie! Hot with color, form, contrast, insects, birds, frogs, reptiles and mammals!
Yesterday (Saturday) we had a window of opportunity to burn our pasture and prairie remnant. It's hot work, but for those results we enjoy the rest of the year through. The prairie is charred now, but oh what a beauty it'll be this spring summer and fall!