Brush Pile Burn Concern

by Carl Strang

Last fall I had a concern, which apparently I did not share in this blog, that some of the brush piles on Mayslake Forest Preserve’s savanna ridge might have been placed too close to some of the Hill’s oaks.

The piles were composed of cut buckthorn and other invasive shrub stems. They were expertly stacked by the volunteer restoration team, and burned by Forest Preserve District staff in winter.

Last week I took a look at the oaks closest to the burn scars. For the most part they appeared unaffected by the fires. One tree did show some scorching on its bark.

Here you can see the blackened bark surface on the side toward the fire.

That tree’s lowest branch, which had overhung the brush pile, was not completely killed, but it had only one sprig of green leaves. The other twigs apparently were dead. Otherwise, that tree had a reasonably full canopy.

The top of the oak with the scorched bark.

I have to conclude that my concern was misplaced. There may have been some damage my eyeball assessment could not discern, but the trees all should survive. Hill’s oak is a savanna species, after all, and so must have some resistance to fire.

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2 Comments

  1. David Shepard said,

    January 31, 2015 at 1:12 am

    Interesting comments on the Hill’s/Scarlet oak conclusions. You may want to read my interpretation of the problem in the 2009 International Oak Journal. There is no reliable taxonomic key that separates the two species. The concentric rings are frequently absent in scarlet oak populations throughout its range and both can have ellipsoid acorns. Hipp’s study is an ongoing DNA project that originally grouped Hill’s oak more related with black then changed abruptly to scarlet oak as a sister species after my publication. Also scarlet oak genotypes were found in Wisconsin Hill’s oak, and Hill’s oak genes in northeastern scarlet oak trees implying the trees might be part of a same species complex. Also, I discovered the Tinley Park southern Scarlet oak (over 90 acorn producing trees) along with twelve other southern disjunct species including Nuttall’s, Shumard, Chestnut, and Overcup oak. There is no evidence they were planted and the likely hood they were .. a horticultural impossibility. Read International Oaks 2005 edition. Marlin Bowles and Cook County forest Preserve made a major oversight in their 1990 plant inventory of that preserve.

    Dave Shepard

    • natureinquiries said,

      February 2, 2015 at 7:31 am

      Good information, Dave, thanks.


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