After wildfire come wildflowers: A boon for pollinators
BY SUZIE SAVOIE
Published: Winter 2017 Applegater Newspaper
People who hiked the Boundary Trail through the Red Buttes at the headwaters of the Applegate River after the 1987 wildfires reported massive floral displays on the Siskiyou Crest within the burned area. After the 2012 Fort Complex Fire, which also burned in the Red Buttes, I saw for myself the same thing: more wildflowers than anyone had seen in decades—and happy pollinators, too.
The diversity and color of wildflowers responding to the Fort Complex Fire was truly staggering. Before the fire, much of the area was covered in dense stands of montane chaparral. The Fort Complex Fire burned in a natural mosaic of high-severity fire in the montane chaparral, burning off large patches and encouraging a lush growth of wildflowers where the chaparral had once been. The wildflowers benefited from the wildfire.
After the Fort Complex Fire, wildflowers were blooming at the base of burned-off woody shrubs, responding to the lack of shrubby competition. Typically, before the fire, bluehead gilia (Gilia capitata) was seen only in the occasional rocky bald, but after the fire it carpeted the Boundary Trail in a spectacular display. Indian paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) bloomed in abundance—some areas were so thick with blooming Oregon sunshine that you could see the golden-yellow hue from miles away. Parish’s nightshade (Solanum parishii) also appeared more abundantly. This species is strongly fire-adapted and often associated with chaparral habitat. Considered relatively rare in Oregon, this species is more abundant in California. Chinese houses (Collinsia spp.) were found in dense masses on thin, rocky soils throughout the fire-affected area; however, it was phacelia (Phacelia spp.) that stole the show. Where stands of montane chaparral were consumed by high-severity fire, the area was transformed into flower fields dominated by phacelia.
Over the next couple of years, we are likely to see the same amazing wildflower response within the fire-affected areas of this year’s Miller Complex Fire, which burned throughout the headwaters of the Applegate River as well as in the Red Buttes Wilderness. The majority of the Miller Complex Fire in the Applegate watershed burned at low to moderate severity, but some places, such as Azalea Lake in the Red Buttes Wilderness, did sustain some high-severity fire effects in the fire-adapted lodgepole pine forest. The trail into Azalea Lake will surely be a carpet of wildflowers within a couple of years, and it will be a boon for our native pollinators, creating colorful pollinator habitat out of the ashes.
Wildfires are a natural and necessary part of the ecosystem in the Siskiyou Mountains. Because the flora is fire-adapted—having evolved with natural lightning-caused wildfire and indigenous burning over millennia—many species of wildflowers respond positively to wildfires and often produce larger plants and more abundant flowers.
Wildfires can rejuvenate the landscape. Many plant species need the heat of fire to reproduce or their populations will dwindle. For example, knobcone pinecones can remain closed for 80 to 100 years without fire, and rare Baker’s cypress seeds are also released from their cones from the heat of wildfire. Intense heat can break down seed coats and clear away competing vegetation, allowing wildflower seeds to germinate and the plants to thrive and grow. Recent studies have shown that chemicals from charred wood in the soil following wildfire also stimulate seed germination and plant growth. The seeds of many wildflower species can lie dormant in the soil for decades and then germinate by the millions following wildfire. The plants may have been there long ago, but the area has since turned into chaparral or forest; after a fire the seeds finally have the right opportunity to germinate.
Wildfires enhance the world-class biodiversity in the Siskiyou Mountains. The massive floral displays following wildfires are not only beautiful but are also bountiful feasts for hungry pollinators reliant on nectar and pollen from wildflowers for food. Wildfires can increase the available food for native bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.
I look forward to continuing my exploration of the fire-affected areas in the Miller Complex Fire over the next couple of years. The flowers are going to be bee-eautiful!
Suzie Savoie, Conservation Chair, Siskiyou Chapter Native Plant Society of Oregon
An abundance of wildflower species growing along the Boundary Trail
in the Red Buttes following the 2012 Goff Fire, part of the Fort Complex Fire.
The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has been implementing pollinator habitat restoration projects on public land along the Applegate River. Over the last two years many sites along the Applegate River have been planted with native flowering plants beneficial to native pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, beetles, and pollinating flies and wasps. Monarch butterfly conservation has been a particular focus of the project, and many of the native plants will provide crucial nectar resources for monarch butterflies as they migrate along the Applegate River.
Many of these pollinator plants have been grown at the Forest Service’s Dorena Nursery, from seeds collected by Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds (KSNS). The seeds were collected from native pentemons, buckwheats, milkweed, western verbena, bluehead gilia, bush penstemons, and bicolor annual lupines that grow in the vicinity of the project areas, making the seed ideally suited for site-specific habitat restoration. Some of the seed was used for growing containerized plants at the nursery for out-planting, and some of the seed has been direct seeded at the project sites.
At KSNS, we are happy to be part of this important work. We have also volunteered to help plant some of the plants alongside Forest Service staff, Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, Applegate Neighborhood Network, and local Applegate community members. We look forward to seeing these areas with abundant flowers and pollinators in the near future, and we hope our public land managers continue implementing projects that benefit native plant and pollinator conservation.
Come learn more about using native equivalents for common nursery plants in our upcoming presentation in southern Oregon, hosted by Pollinator Project Rogue Valley.
Are you the type of person who wants detailed, highly informed information about native plants and native plant propagation?
If so, you may be interested in reading a recent study that looked at the growth of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) in nursery production. Collecting from various locations to increase genetic diversity for the study, Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds supplied the seeds of both species for this research. We are happy to be a part of the growing interest in research that will help the iconic monarch butterfly.
Read the study here:
Growth and Survival of Two Western Milkweed Species: Effects of Container Volume and Fertilizer Rate
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds are used in many different applications each year.
From commercial nursery production, to large and small habitat restoration projects, roadside revegetation, botanical gardens, native plant research, and backyard pollinator gardens — you name it! It gives us great satisfaction to see all the hard work come to life!
What does it take? Seed site reconnaissance, collection, cleaning, processing, packaging, and lots of time goes into the production of our local, wildcrafted native seeds. We pour our hearts into it because it feels so good to watch these native plants grow, provide habitat and restore ecosystems throughout the region.
Please enjoy this slide show featuring a few of the successful projects where Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds were used in 2017. Another great season watching native plants grown from seed thrive!
Do you have a photo of the plants you grew from our seed? If so we’d love to see it! To another year of successful native seed projects! Yay!
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds participates in many community outreach events, including presentations, panels, workshops, symposiums, small events, and large events that incorporate the use of native plants and native plant seeds into their themes or programs.
This week we had the honor of being invited to do a presentation at Sanctuary One animal sanctuary in the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon. After a one-hour Powerpoint presentation, “Using Native Seeds for Land Stewardship and Pollinator Habitat,” we provided some hands-on work with native seeds. Giving people, including kids, the opportunity to see the seeds, experiment with seed cleaning techniques and packaging the cleaned seeds allows for a deeper understanding of the native plants themselves and how they reproduce.
Workshop participants got to take seed home that they cleaned in the workshop to grow out on their own in the future. This workshop used basic household items to show that the collection and processing of native plant seeds can be done on a small scale without the need for expensive equipment.
Thanks to Sanctuary One for hosting such a great community event!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like us to incorporate native plant propagation, native plant conservation, or native plant seeds into your program, workshop, event, or presentation in southern Oregon or northern California.
The seed collection field season is in full swing. The high elevation wildflowers are putting on a spectacular display this year, making it is hard to decide if I want to go see the high country wildflowers or stay in the low country to collect seed. Sometimes I can get the best of both worlds, as some early-blooming species are already going to seed in the high country. We have been collecting species like meadow larkspur (Delphinum nuttallianum) and Siskiyou lewisia (Lewisia cotyledon) that are ready in the higher elevations.
It’s a busy time of year for us at Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds. We are in the field as much as we can be, and when we’re not in the field we are processing and cleaning seeds. This all takes a lot of time and effort. We will have a great selection of species to choose from this fall! Don’t hesitate to give us a heads up if you are interested in seed for a particular species. We can keep an eye out for it as we get around the Klamath-Siskiyou region collecting seeds from far and wide. Email: email@example.com
A time lapse video of cleaning Silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons) seed.
Do you love the flora of the Klamath-Siskiyou? Come see over 300 species of wildflowers at the 4th of July Wildflower show in Ashland, Oregon.
Collected flowers are carefully arranged and identified for a quick and beautiful learning experience.
Want to help collect wildflowers for the show or help set up the show? No experience necessary. It’s a fun way to support native plant conservation and native plant awareness while learning along the way.
Thanks to the Siskiyou Chapter Native Plant Society of Oregon for putting on this fabulous show every 4th of July in Ashland, Oregon.
National Pollinator Week!
June 19-25, 2017
Native plants have evolved over millennia with native pollinators. Native plants depend on healthy pollinator populations for their survival, and native pollinators depend on native plants for their survival — they are inextricably linked!
This week we celebrate National Pollinator Week by showcasing some of the variety and beauty of native pollinators using native plants in this slideshow of photos taken by Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds. The diversity of pollinators we have in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion is a direct result of the world-renowned plant biodiversity found here.
Pollinator ecology is a fascinating subject that one can spend a lifetime learning about. National Pollinator Week helps highlight the importance of pollinators and the need to take measures to protect pollinators into the future.