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From Wildfire to Wildflower


From Wildfire to Wildflower

California Poppy

Photograph by Milos Tonchevski (stock image).

The super bloom is not a recent phenomenon. According to early Spanish explorers along the California coast, Native Americans would burn grassy fields in the wild, and then some time after, wildflowers would emerge from the burnt out areas.

We know some plants to be more fire tolerant than others, but what would explain the flourishing of wildflower plants seen post-fire as with California’s super bloom?

Perhaps similar to how heat from fire allows pine cones to open up and eventually grow into pine trees and then entire forests, heat allows seeds of some wildflower species to open up and in some cases, result in super bloom.

However, at least according to those in the know, heat is just one condition and not necessarily the best one, as  too much heat prevents the seeds from growing at all.

Research has found a more likely cause, of massive wildflower growth post-fire, in smoke. From fire, there is smoke which releases a chemical that helps with germinating seeds.

Alas, beyond the peak of bloom, when seasons shift and temperatures rise, and especially so in desert areas, super blooms eventually dry out and often then become potential fuel for future wildfires.

California Wildflowers
California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, California.  Photograph by Mike Ostrovsky (stock image).

published on May 20, 2019.

About Author

JEREMY CHEN is Editor of Bloomsday Review, which he co-founded with Kristina Anderson. He is involved in the floral trade as a marketer of hardline goods. Jeremy is based in Irvine, CA.