Eco-Burns and the Power of Renewal

Eco burns can be deeply disturbing.  For most of us the idea of starting a fire to purposefully destroy the beauty of nature is troubling.  But nature often depends on fire to renew. Long before there was man on the Myakka prairies there was lightening and through thousands of years the cycle of burning-renewal-burning constructed the unique landscape that is Myakka.

In her book, Myakka, Park Biologist Paula Benshoff has an excellent chapter called “Fire, Most Naturally.” She states that “the most intriguing and fascinating facet of my job is …involvement with fire ecology.”

Oak tree that was felled by the burn. In the foreground is an old tree trunk that had served as a bench for many years.

Last March a prescribed burn was conducted between Fox’s High and Low Roads, one of my favorite hiking areas.  It was a shock to emerge from the canopy of trees that leads from the parking area to the prairies.  The burn was about two weeks old and everything was still very black and sooty.  The old oak that had stood as a sentinel for many years  was a victim of the burn.  Its rotted mid-section could not hold.  It came down hard.  Another victim was the large tree trunk that had been there for many years and served as a useful bench.

Fox’s High Rd. area was equally shocking. One reason I like this area so much is the easy access to different eco-systems.  Fox’s High Rd. has sandy areas that make me think of our beautiful local beaches and there are pine trees dotting the landscape and framing several small meadow areas. I was worried that the pines would be gone.  But they survived, a little singed, but still strong.

Fox’s High Road after prescribed burn.

As I poked through the charred landscape my worry and despair quickly gave way to wonder as I came across strong signs of new life.

Fresh growth two weeks after prescribed growth.

The marsh off Fox’s Low Rd. looking back towards the road. This area is normally thick with vegetation and swampy but the drought had taken hold before the burn so there was plenty of dry vegetation for the fire..

It is now autumn in Florida.  There are some who will swear that Florida has no autumn.  Accustomed to the dramatic colors of tall trees, newly arrived Florida residents have a hard time seeing our Florida Fall.   But the season has been spectacular this year, especially in the burn areas.  The grasses have roared back.  They are tall, vigorous and bursting with different colors and shapes.  Similarly the wildflowers seem more abundant and there seem to be more varieties.

The old oak that stood for so many years on Fox’s Low Road is being given a beautiful salute.  In this age where we celebrate life rather mourn the dead, the oak’s pyre of  wildflowers and grasses seem gentle, supportive and most appropriate.

And along Fox’s High and Low Roads the views are wonderful.  Check out the gallery pictures below for “before-and-after” shots.  But most of all, Get Out There!  Winter will be here all too soon and this glorious season of autumn in Florida will be gone. ❧

(For best results with gallery pictures, double-click on first image and then scroll through.)

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