Transition from Fire Season

Authored by Jacob Barrett

Since the closing of fire season, our main focus has been to prepare our native groundcover donor site to be ready for planting this coming year. Our donor site is located on the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve (OISP) in what used to be old agricultural fields used by the previous landowner. When we plant these old fields in native groundcover, it allows us to collect more seed more quickly and efficiently with the use of a seed stripper called a flail-vac. While we do use the flail-vac in wooded areas to collect seed, it will be much easier for seed collection on the donor site because we will not have to dodge trees and shrubs.

In the past few weeks we have been applying herbicides to rid the site of invasive plants. Our applications have been made with a broadcast treatment via tractor as well as spot treatment with backpack sprayers. Among numerous species, we have been specifically targeting Bahia and Bermuda Grass. These grasses can be difficult to eradicate, but the herbicide applications are working great. It is important that we clear our planting area of these grasses so that when we collect seed in the future, it is not contaminated with these problematic, non-native species.

Another task that we have been focusing on recently has been to evaluate sites that were burned this past fire season. With this year being my first-ever fire season, I have been blown away by the response of the groundcover. Pre-burn on the OISP sandhill in early May, the Wiregrass was drab-colored and low-lying. Now that same sandhill has lush Wiregrass throwing up seed heads waist high. After three fires on this particular piece of land, we are seeing the canopy become more open and beginning to see native groundcover fill in more areas. It is an amazing sight to behold.

While we are reviewing these recently burned sites on the OISP, we are constantly on the lookout for desirable plant species for seed harvest this fall. A few of the species that we have documented locations for collection are: Toothache Grass (Ctenium aromaticum), Indian grasses (Sorghastrum secundum, S. nutans), muhly grasses (Muhlenbergia capillaries, M. expansa) and dropseeds (Sporobolus floriadanus, S. junceus). Of course, Wiregrass will make up the bulk of our seed harvest this year, but these other species will more than likely be harvested by hand-stripping rather than the use of the flail-vac.

If you are interested in volunteering to assist with seed collection, please contact me at jbarrett@oriannesociety.org. We are currently looking at late September to October for the first round of collection and again around the third week of November.

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