How does fire affect woody plants?

Prescribed Fire October 11, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Multiple biotic (e.g., plant vigor) and abiotic factors (e.g., climate) interact to affect how woody plants respond to fire. Generally speaking, woody plant response to fire depends on whether the plant is a sprouter or non-sprouter. “Sprouter” is an informal name given to plants that are known to resprout (typically from the base or roots) after being top-killed (by fire or other means), whereas “non-sprouter” characterizes plants that rely on seeds to repopulate after being top-killed. For example, eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a nonsprouter while alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) is a sprouter. Note fire tolerance can vary within the same genus. See Fire Effects Information System to see how specific species respond to fire. Abiotic factors include fire intensity, timing, and frequency. Frequent fire generally favors herbaceous over woody plants, and can be used to keep woody plants in a suppressed, shrub-like state. For more information see Fire Effects in Native Plant Communities (.pdf).

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.