Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Aristida stricta


SPECIES: Aristida stricta
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Uchytil, Ronald J. 1992. Aristida stricta. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : ARISTR SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : ARST5 COMMON NAMES : pineland threeawn wiregrass TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of pineland threeawn is Aristida stricta Michx. [33]. There are no recognized subspecies or varieties. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Aristida stricta
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Pineland threeawn grows on the Atlantic coastal plain from southeastern North Carolina to southern Florida, and westward to Mississippi [8]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine STATES : AL FL GA MS NC SC BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest K114 Pocosin K115 Sand pine scrub K116 Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 69 Sand pine 70 Longleaf pine 71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 84 Slash pine 85 Slash pine - hardwood 98 Pond pine 111 South Florida slash pine SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Pineland threeawn is the dominant grass cover in xeric longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) savannas and nearly all slash pine (P. elliottii) flatwoods [7,8]. It is also a major component of many grass-sedge (Carex spp.)-pitcher plant (Sarracenia spp.) bogs [8]. Associates: Common herbaceous associates include Curtis dropseed (Sporobolus curtissii), toothachegrass (Ctenium aromaticum), lovegrass (Eragrostis spp.), bluestems, beak rush (Rhynchospora spp.), bottlebrush threeawn (Aristida spikiformis), and panicums. Shrub associates include saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), gallberry (Ilex glabra), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), scrub oaks (Quercus spp.), and ericaceous shrubs [2,20,23]. Published classifications that describe pineland threeawn community types include: Plant communities of the Coastal Plain and their succesional relationships [39] The phytosociology of the Green Swamp, North Carolina [20].


SPECIES: Aristida stricta
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Pineland threeawn provides primary cattle forage in recently burned pine flatwoods in Florida and Georgia [14]. Following burning, it is grazed primarily in the spring, after which cattle shift to other grasses such as bluestems (Andropogon spp.) and panicums (Panicum spp.) [27,37]. In areas not burned for 2 or 3 years, cattle do not graze pineland threeawn because of large accumulations of dead material [14]. PALATABILITY : On unburned range, pineland threeawn is largely unpalatable to grazing animals. New growth is tender and nutritious, and highly palatable for about 6 weeks [8,14]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Mature pineland threeawn is a low quality forage. Compared with other native forage grasses, it is poorly digested and nutritionally inferior [18,27]. Nutritional quality is greatly increased by prescribed burning [see Fire Management Considerations]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Longleaf pine/pineland threeawn ecosystems have been reduced by as much as 98 percent since presettlement times and are considered endangered [30]. Pineland threeawn establishment is essential for restoration of these ecosystems, yet little is known about pineland threeawn propagation [9]. Research has shown that pineland threeawn can be regenerated from seed collected in natural stands 5 to 8 months after summer burning [36]. This suggests that pineland threeawn can be reestablished by direct seeding or by transplanting container-grown material. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Timber/Soil/Ecosystem Management: To reduce competing vegetation and facilitate easy planting of pines, mechanical site preparation is a common management practice following timber harvest in pine savannas and flatwoods. Chopping or disking, which is most common, nearly eliminates pineland threeawn because it has shallow roots. These practices have destroyed thousands of acres of pineland threeawn annually, promoting growth of weedy grasses. Once removed from a site, pineland threeawn does not reestablished, even after several decades, because of negligible seed production [2,8,30]. Grazing: Pineland threeawn increases slowly on areas burned annually and grazed year-round. It decreases in areas grazed heavily in spring and left ungrazed during summer and fall [22].


SPECIES: Aristida stricta
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Pineland threeawn is a native, densely tufted, cool-season, perennial bunchgrass. It grows in large clumps that are up to 6 inches (15 cm) across at the base. Hundreds of stiff but flexible leaves arise from each clump. The narrow leaves are strongly inrolled, resembling a fine wire, and may attain lengths of 20 inches (0.5 m) [8]. Most leaves die within 1 year of their formation but are persistant; thus plants contain much dead material [31]. Seedstalks are rare and occur only after fire. They are about 3 feet (1 m) tall, erect, with a spikelike terminal panicle about 12 inches (30 cm) long [14]. Plants produce tillers with no rhizomes, except for populations in south Florida, which are rhizomatous [31]. Pineland threeawn is extremely shallow-rooted and is easily pulled or dug from the ground. Most roots are within 8 inches (20 cm) of the soil surface, and no roots grow deeper than 18 inches (46 cm) [31]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Pineland threeawn sexual reproduction is extremely rare. Plants flower in the summer or fall only if defoliation (i.e., fire, grazing, mowing) has occurred within the previous 9 months. Season and type of defoliation greatly affect flowering vigor. In general, late spring or summer burning results in the most vigorous flowering, and sometimes abundant seed production [5,31]. Plants may flower following fire at other times of the year, but seeds are rarely formed. Seedling establishment is poor. Because of high optimum germination temperatures (85-95 degrees Fahrenheit [30-35 deg C]) and after-ripening requirements, germination cannot begin until the growing season after dispersal [8,31]. In the long interum between dispersal and germination, seeds are susceptible to destruction by fungi and seed predators, resulting in scant natural germination [8]. In the laboratory, germination has varied greatly from 2 to 97 percent [31], and 20 to 25 percent [36]. Vegetative regeneration: Following disturbance which removes top-growth, pineland threeawn initiates new growth from underground meristems [8]. Vegetative expansion is slow and complicated. As the central portion of older and larger clumps die, the clump becomes doughnut-shaped. As the clump expands the doughnut-shaped clump fragments, forming many small clumps, each of which have the potential to expand and form a doughnut of their own [8]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Pineland threeawn is the principal grass of longleaf and slash pine savannas and flatwoods [8,31]. It also grows on dry sandhills in association with turkey oak (Quercus laevis), in scrubby flatwoods and dry prairies, and in seasonally wet grass-sedge bogs, where it grows on elevated tussocks [2,8]. Soils and soil moisture: Most pineland threeawn habitats are characterized by relatively infertile sands and sandy loams [8]. The soils of longleaf pine-pineland threeawn savannas are often psammaquods or sandy ground water podzols [5]. These soils are typically composed of over 90 percent fine sand with the water table ranging between 20 and 40 inches (50-100 cm) below the soil surface [5]. Pineland threeawn tolerates seasonal flooding, but does not survive on sites where the water table is within 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil surface year-round [8]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Pineland threeawn dominates fire-maintained southeastern grasslands and savannas. These communities are probably best described successionally as "fire-maintained sub-climax or climax" [31]. In the absence of frequent fire, hardwood trees and shrubs, especially saw palmetto and gallberry, quickly invade and dominate savanna understories. At the Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida, hardwoods begin to dominate savanna understories after just 4 to 8 years of fire exclusion [7]. Pineland threeawn is somewhat shade tolerant. It can persist in the shade of invading hardwoods for 20 to 40 years, but is eliminated if fire does not occur after that time [8]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Growth begins in January in south Florida, and in March in Georgia. Leaf blades grow 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) in 4 weeks [22]. Flowering in Florida typically occurs from July through September [31], and from September through November in the Carolinas [33].


SPECIES: Aristida stricta
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Plant adaptations to fire: Pineland threeawn is a fire-adapted species. Its meristems are located about 1 to 1.5 inches (3 cm) below the soil surface, where they are insulated from the heat of fire [23,31]. Fire in Southeastern savannas and grasslands generally raises soil temperatures very little because the flaming front passes quickly. During prescribed fires in wiregrass stands in Florida, soil temperatures 0.13 inch (0.2 cm) below the soil surface seldom exceeded 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 deg C) [31]. Thus, meristems are located deeply enough that fire seldom or never subjects them to lethal temperatures. Following fire, the surviving meristems quickly initiate new top-growth. New leaf blades commonly emerge within 3 days after fire [25]. Fire ecology: In general, pineland threeawn litter builds up quickly, decomposes slowly, and is highly flammable. Without fire, aboveground biomass peaks in just 3 or 4 years, resulting in a dense "wiregrass rough" [31]. In presettlement times, this was one of the primary fuels to sustain lightning-caused fires in Coastal Plain savannas. The natural fire regime was one of frequent, low-intensity, summer surface fires. Christensen [6] estimated that Coastal Plain savannas burned every 2 to 8 years. Clewell [8] estimated presettlement fire frequencies in longleaf pine savannas at 2 to 4 years. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tussock graminoid


SPECIES: Aristida stricta
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : The fibrous composition, abundance, and high percentage of dead leaves make pineland threeawn highly flammable [8]. Burning pineland threeawn stands at any time of the year tends to remove all aboveground biomass, leaving only a thin layer of ash on the soil [5,31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : Clewell [8] speculates that decadent pineland threeawn clumps growing beneath young hardwood stands may be susceptible to fire. Under these circumstances, pineland threeawn may be killed because burning of the deep accumulations of hardwood leaf litter could raise soil temperatures around the apical meristems to a lethal level. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Vegetative growth: Following fire, pineland threeawn quickly initiates new top-growth from undamaged underground regenerative structures. The leaves grow rapidly, and preburn cover is regained within a few months. In southern Florida, pineland threeawn grew to a height of 8.6 to 9.4 inches (22-24 cm) 30 days after burning in March and May. Sixty days after burning, plant heights were 10 inches (25 cm) on March burns, and 12.6 inches (32 cm) on May burns [40]. Flowering: Season of burning greatly affects pineland threeawn's flowering response. In Florida, it responds vegetatively with little or no flowering following dormant-season burns, but flowers vigorously following burning in May, June, or July [1,25]. Platts and others [32] found that following summer burning, 78.5 percent of pineland threeawn tillers produced flowering culms, but only 5.9 percent produced flowering culms following dormant season burns. Season of burning appears to be less important in North Carolina. Prescribed fire in a longleaf pine savanna in late February resulted in 94 percent of pineland threeawn plants flowering [5]. Throughout pineland threeawn's range, fire-stimulated flowering is short lived. No flowering occurs during the second fall after fire [31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Cattle grazing considerations: Prescribed fire is used to increase the nutritional quality of pineland threeeawn. In general, protein content and digestibility increase significantly, but return to preburn levels within 2 or 3 months. When pineland threeawn was burned in January or February in Georgia, protein content on March 15 was 10 percent on burned sites, but only 3 percent on unburned sites. By June 10, protein content of burned and unburned plants was similar at 4.2 and 4 percent, respectively [16]. Without periodic burning pineland threeawn hearbaceous yeilds decline rapidly. After 6 to 8 years without fire, herbaceous yields are reduced by 50 percent [26]. Season of burning greatly affects short-term yields. Pineland threeawn produced two and four times as much herbage 60 days after burning when burned in May or March, respectively, as compared with burns in October or November [25]. Hughes [40] suggests that grazing should be deferred following burning until pineland threeawn grows 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) tall. Effects of fire suppression: Pineland threeawn becomes decadent after just 8 to 10 years without fire [17]. After 10 to 20 years of fire exclusion, many clumps become dormant and inconspicuous [8]. On the Alapaha Experimental Range in Georgia, cover was reduced from 12 to 1 percent after a fire-free interval of 21 years [17]. However, plants that have survived fire exclusion in a decadent or dormant state for decades are rejuvenated and grow vigorously after fire [8]. Fuel buildup: Within 3 or 4 years after fire, a steady state of aboveground biomass is reached in pineland threeawn stands, which may equal 5,500 to 7,000 pounds per acre (6,200-7,800 kg/ha). About 70 percent of this is mulch [31]. Pineland threeawn-dominated stands produce enough fuel to burn annually [16]. Prescribed fire on a 2-year rotation is carried out in south Florida flatwoods dominated by pineland threeawn [12,40].


SPECIES: Aristida stricta
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