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Saturday - March 28, 2009

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Herbs/Forbs
Title: Appearance of Viola lanceolota after controlled burn
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Oh Great Green Guru, I just recently found Viola lanceolota (bog white violet) on a portion of Brazos Bend State Park’s prairie that was burned about 2 months ago to control for woody growth. (I wouldn’t have been able to identify this violet without your incomparable Native Plants Database—thanks!) I haven’t seen this violet in the park before—has it just been hidden by the tall grasses of the prairie, or did it come up because the burn removed the other growth? Will we find it in the tall grasses next year, when the prairie has regrown? And where can I find out more about how prairies recover from a burn (specifically, the order in which plants return)? Thanks for all your help.

ANSWER:

Thanks for the nice words-we love our Native Plant Database, too. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has an active Fire Ecology program. Although we presently are concentrating on the Hill Country around the Center, nevertheless the same principles apply. There are several more links to articles and information in that Fire Ecology section that you might want to follow up.

We found a really neat site with the state of Texas broken up into wildlife districts, and looked at the Oak-Prairie Wildlife District, which includes Ft. Bend County. This, in turn, gave us links to the local wildlife biologists or district supervisors for these areas, with phone numbers. There is a Wildlife Biologist in Rosenberg, who should be knowledgeable about that particular burn, and could perhaps direct you to information on the speed with which the prairie returns from a controlled burn. 

In terms of whether the  Viola lanceolata (bog white violet) was already there before the burn, we're guessing that it probably was. It could have been hidden by the tall grasses, or seeds could have been dormant in the soil. The burnoff of the taller material around the area permitted sun and moisture to get to the soil where the plant or the seeds were hiding, and they came up. The reason we think the plant was already there is we looked at the USDA plant distribution by Texas county of Viola lanceolata (bog white violet) and found that, at the time that survey was made, the plant was either already growing in Fort Bend County or in areas near enough that it had spread there. It's hard to tell which county is which on those USDA maps, but the plant was either growing in Ft. Bend County or really close. 

We realize we didn't fully answer all your questions, as Fire Ecology is a specialty a little out of our usual line, but we hope we gave you some leads and information that will help you find out all the answers.

 

 

 

 

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