Friday, November 02, 2007

Harvesting Wiregrass Seeds

Five volunteers joined Collis Boyd and Norman Brunswig, Audubon South Carolina staff at the Francis Beidler Forest, to harvest seeds from Wiregrass (Aristida stricta) for replanting on other Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)/Wiregrass restoration sites. The tract harvested today will continue to be a seed nursery for other Longleaf Pine/Wiregrass restoration projects. One team cut the seed heads off of the Wirgrass while the second team applied herbicide directly to invading hardwoods.

In a mature Longleaf Pine ecosystem, hardwoods would not get a foothold due to the periodic fires that burned through the forest. The fires would consume the pine straw and kill the hardwoods that are not adapted to fire like the thick-barked Longleaf Pines. However, the slower growing Longleaf Pines do not grow quickly enough to establish a Longleaf Pine forest before hardwoods can establish dominance. This is why the native Longleaf Pine forests did not reestablish themselves once they were clear-cut by European settlers and later by lumber companies in the 19th and 20th century. Additionally, cleared longleaf stands were replanted with faster-growing Loblolly Pine and Slash Pine. Audubon South Carolina, along with other private and governmental agencies, contine to work towards restoring the native Longleaf Pine forest with its associated plant and animal communities.

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