Prescribed or controlled burns are an important part of the management of forest ecosystems, and have been used widely by the North Carolina State Parks. The burns not only help prevent or reduce damaging wildfires, but also control excessive amounts of brush, shrubs and leaf litter that inhibit native plant populations. Controlled burns have been discussed in the past for the B. W. Wells State Recreation Area, and this year, are being planned for the winter. The hope is that some of the native wildflowers that flourished when Dr. Wells lived at Rockcliff Farm will return when the habitat is favorable for their growth.
In nearby Durham County, the state Plant Conservation Program has had spectacular success with prescribed burns on some of their rare plant preserves. At one site in particular, the Hoary Puccoon – Lithospermum canescens – has experienced an enormous increase in population.
In the following photo, David Tart, a PCP Preserve Management Technician, is marking each new Hoary Puccoon plant with a flag. The flags show the spread of the plants into an entirely new area of the field.
David Tart Marking the New Hoary Puccoon Plants
PCP Research Specialist Lesley Starke is recording the Hoary Puccoon plant location and numbers data, and counting the plants near the original population center. Last year this process took approximately an hour; this year it took all day.
Lesley Starke Tabulating the Hoary Puccoon
Lithospermum canescens is classified as Threatened in North Carolina, occurring in only Durham and Granville Counties. It is a perennial that blooms in April and May, and the bloom can last for a long time. Although they have a tendency to sprawl along the ground, the bright yellow to yellow/orange blooms are so conspicuous that they are easy to find.
Prescribed burning has succeeded in increasing the range and the absolute numbers of this valuable wildflower far beyond expectations.