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:
NRCS PLANT CODE:
The scientific name of pineland threeawn is Aristida stricta Michx.
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Aristida stricta
Pineland threeawn grows on the Atlantic coastal plain from southeastern
North Carolina to southern Florida, and westward to Mississippi .
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
AL FL GA MS NC SC
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS:
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
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
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 .
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
Published classifications that describe pineland threeawn community
Plant communities of the Coastal Plain and their successional
The phytosociology of the Green Swamp, North Carolina .
SPECIES: Aristida stricta
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Pineland threeawn provides primary cattle forage in recently burned pine
flatwoods in Florida and Georgia . 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 .
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].
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].
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
. Pineland threeawn establishment is essential for restoration of
these ecosystems, yet little is known about pineland threeawn
propagation . Research has shown that pineland threeawn can be
regenerated from seed collected in natural stands 5 to 8 months after
summer burning . This suggests that pineland threeawn can be
reestablished by direct seeding or by transplanting container-grown
OTHER USES AND VALUES:
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 .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
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) . Most leaves die
within 1 year of their formation but are persistant; thus plants contain
much dead material . 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 .
Plants produce tillers with no rhizomes, except for populations in south
Florida, which are rhizomatous . 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) .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM:
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 interim between dispersal and
germination, seeds are susceptible to destruction by fungi and seed
predators, resulting in scant natural germination . In the
laboratory, germination has varied greatly from 2 to 97 percent ,
and 20 to 25 percent .
Vegetative regeneration: Following disturbance which removes top-growth,
pineland threeawn initiates new growth from underground meristems .
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 .
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 . The
soils of longleaf pine-pineland threeawn savannas are often psammaquods
or sandy ground water podzols . 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 . 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
Pineland threeawn dominates fire-maintained southeastern grasslands and
savannas. These communities are probably best described successionally
as "fire-maintained sub-climax or climax" . 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 .
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 .
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 . Flowering in
Florida typically occurs from July through September , and from
September through November in the Carolinas .
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) . 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 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" . 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  estimated that Coastal Plain savannas burned
every 2 to 8 years. Clewell  estimated presettlement fire
frequencies in longleaf pine savannas at 2 to 4 years.
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:
SPECIES: Aristida stricta
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
The fibrous composition, abundance, and high percentage of dead leaves
make pineland threeawn highly flammable . 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  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 prefire 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 .
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 
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 . Throughout pineland threeawn's
range, fire-stimulated flowering is short lived. No flowering occurs
during the second fall after fire .
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 prefire 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 . Without periodic burning pineland threeawn
herbaceous yields decline rapidly. After 6 to 8 years without fire,
herbaceous yields are reduced by 50 percent . 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 .
Hughes  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 . After 10 to 20 years of fire
exclusion, many clumps become dormant and inconspicuous . On the
Alapaha Experimental Range in Georgia, cover was reduced from 12 to 1
percent after a fire-free interval of 21 years . However, plants
that have survived fire exclusion in a decadent or dormant state for
decades are rejuvenated and grow vigorously after fire .
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 . Pineland threeawn-dominated stands
produce enough fuel to burn annually . Prescribed fire on a 2-year
rotation is carried out in south Florida flatwoods dominated by pineland
SPECIES: Aristida stricta
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