Native Plants & Fire

“Fire. Man’s oldest foe. Insatiable, remorseless, unquenchable.” – Kent Brockman.

Reporter for Springfield’s Channel 6 news (on The Simpsons), Kent Brockman isn’t quite right about fire, though I’m sure it seems like it when the flames are threatening your house. I’ve been watching the coverage of the fires in San Diego County. I grew up in Oceanside, a city currently surrounded by the brush fires in Carlsbad, San Marcos, Escondido, and Camp Pendleton. The house where I once lived is in no immediate danger, and neither are the few family friends still living on that street, but many others in the area are not so lucky.

Fire is a necessity to certain ecosystems, including Southern California. The chapparal that commonly grows there is easily burned and the smoke assists germination. And up north, the giant sequoia needs fire to clear the understory and heat for its pinecones to open and disperse seeds.

NBC7 in San Diego posted a list of fire resistant plants, including a subset of native plants. Ideally, those would be the only ones people would use, since using non-native plants introduces other potential problems. All in all, it seems like a smart strategy to me to use these native plants as a line of defense against fires that will certainly come.

For more about how fire and smoke affect the germination of seeds, see the following articles in Native Plants Journal:

Thomas D Landis. “Where there’s smoke… There’s Germination?” (1.1)

Michele J Laskowski, Chelsea C Dicksion, Brianna Schaefer, and Betty Young. “Examining smoke water as a potential germination-enhancing technique to aid the recovery of the endangered Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana Eastw. [Ericaceae])” (14.1)

To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, Stay safe, San Diego.

-Jason Gray, Journals Manager

 

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