Trailing Strawberry Bush 2010

by Carl Strang

Last week I began to collect this autumn’s forest herbivore data. Today I’ll focus on the trailing strawberry bush at Meacham Grove Forest Preserve. In last year’s account of this study I expressed concern about a second controlled burn of this forest floor area in 3 years. The 2007 burn had knocked back the plants, and though they had recovered some in 2 years I wondered how they might respond to another burn happening so soon. I am not the only interested party, of course.

These deer I saw while collecting the data are affected by the fall burns, possibly for the better, and the removal of litter may help the plants by removing some insect herbivores. But it was clear that some trailing strawberry bush plants were scorched. As I checked my study colonies of the plants last week I found them looking green and scarcely touched by herbivory. They still are very small, and none produced fruit (2000 was the last year when any of the colonies fruited). Though they were smaller than in 2009, the difference was not statistically significant whether colony size was measured as overall length by width (median value of that product reduced from 5.5 square meter in 2009 to 0.95 in 2010) or by the total ground coverage of the scattered bits composing each patch (median value reduced from 0.28 to 0.1 square meter). Though some of the colonies now are very small, what remains appears healthy, and in general the fire appears to have reduced their competition from other forest floor plants.

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