Prescribed burn of meadows at Crow’s Nest

April 12, 2011

We held our first prescribed burn of the year yesterday, a little late in the season but finally the weather cooperated. We burned half of the meadow around the Chief’s Grove (easily visible from Piersol Road), plus one of the small northern meadows that supports some fire-dependent warm-season grasses.

Projects such as this would not be possible without help from Natural Lands stewardship staff who on short notice drop what they’re doing at their own preserves and come together to safely conduct a burn.

A prescribed burn (sometimes abbreviated Rx Fire) is a controlled application of fire to a meadow under specific weather conditions and fuel moisture.

The burn meets several objectives to maintain the meadow in grasses and wildflowers: remove the tops of any woody plants that have become established; set back introduced species including cool-season turf grasses that have already greened up; blacken the ground so it warms up more quickly so it favors native warm-season grasses. It also removes excess nutrients from the site; many of our native grasses such as Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem or “poverty grass”) are acclimated to poor soils and cannot compete in rich ones.

Prescribed fire more closely mimics the processes that naturally create and maintain meadows—better than mowing, an alternative we use when burning is not possible.