Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Cladium jamaicense


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

ABBREVIATION : CLAJAM SYNONYMS : Mariscus jamaicensis (Crantz) Britt. SCS PLANT CODE : CLJA COMMON NAMES : sawgrass Jamaica sawgrass TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of sawgrass is Cladium jamaicense Crantz. [10,21]. There are no recognized varieties or subspecies. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Cladium jamaicense
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Sawgrass is most extensive in southern Florida, but it occurs in all the southeastern Coast States and Gulf States. Its range extends from coastal Virginia to Florida and west to southeastern Texas. It is also native to the West Indies. An outlying population grows in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas [10,29]. Sawgrass is also native to Hawaii [31]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES41 Wet grasslands STATES : AL FL GA HI LA MS NC SC TX VA BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K073 Northern cordgrass prairie K078 Southern cordgrass prairie K080 Marl - everglades K091 Cypress savanna K092 Everglades SAF COVER TYPES : 101 Baldcypress 106 Mangrove SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Kushlan [14] speculated that sawgrass-dominated communities once covered nearly 2 million acres (800,000 ha) of the Everglades. Although sawgrass stands have declined due to reduced water flows and increased salinity, they still dominate approximately 65 to 70 percent of the remaining Everglades. Sawgrass marshes have been classified into two general catagories: (1) dense stands occurring in shallow water underlain by deep organic soils and (2) sparse stands occurring in deep water on shallow peat or marl [14]. Dense stands appear monospecific but often include other tall emergents. Sparse stands often include considerable amounts of spikerush (Eleocharis spp.), arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia, S. lancifolia), and maidencane (Panicum hemitomon). Published classifications describing sawgrass community types (cts) include: Area Classification Authority FL: Everglades general veg. cts Loveless 1959 se LA marshland veg. cts Penfound & Hathaway 1938 Loveless [15] found that the sawgrass-arrowhead-maidencane community type was the most extensive in the Everglades and covered vast areas of marsh. Common associates in sawgrass-dominated freshwater marshes in southeastern Louisiana include cattail (Typha angustifolia, T. latifilia) and giant bulrush (Scirpus californicus) [29].


SPECIES: Cladium jamaicense
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Sawgrass leaves are practically worthless as forage and are generally avoided by livestock, wild ungulates, and small mammals [9,24]. The starchy underground organs are consumed occasionally by muskrat [25], and frequently by nutria [20]. The seeds are eaten by ducks and shorebirds but generally in small to moderate quantities [4,19,28]. After a few years without burning, sawgrass stands become very dense and accumulate much standing dead material. This dense cover prevents waterfowl from foraging for the seeds. Burning opens the stands, making foraging for seeds much easier [23,27]. PALATABILITY : Sawgrass's palatability to livestock is low [9,24]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Sawgrass provides good hiding cover for ducks, muskrat, racoon, mink, and otter [17]. In Louisiana, dense sawgrass stands support high densities of mink because they provide excellent cover, elevation above the water, and prey [2]. In the Everglades, round-tailed muskrats use sawgrass stands for nesting only when the stands are bordered by other communities which contain preferred foods [25]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Sawgrass is susceptible to changes in salinity and hydroperiod [see Successional Status].


SPECIES: Cladium jamaicense
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Sawgrass is a coarse, rhizomatous, perennial sedge. The flat 0.5-inch-wide (1.2 cm) leaves have saw-toothed margins, and are seldom less than 3 feet (1 m) long, and typically 6 to 10 feet (2-3 m) long [8]. Sawgrass often grows in dense, nearly monospecific stands which result from an extensive network of rhizomes. Apical meristems arise from the top of the rhizomes. In the Everglades, Yates [28] found that rhizomes were generally within the top 4 inches (10 cm) in marl soil, and within the top 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) of peat soil. On permanently flooded sites sawgrass forms tussocks and the roots and rhizomes grow above the sediment surface [28]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Cryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Sawgrass's predominant mode of reproduction is vegetative through an extensive rhizome system [1]. Sexual reproduction via seedling establishment is generally insignificant [1,24]. Although seeds are produced each year in most stands, seedling establishment and survival are rare. Seed production varies greatly from year to year, and from one location to another. Occasionally large numbers of seeds are produced, but viability is usually low. Germination of southern Florida seed averaged about 20 percent [1]. In southern Florida, seedfall begins in early August, which coincides with the wet season. The floating seeds are primarily water-dispersed. Some seeds are also dispersed by waterfowl after passing through the digestive tract unharmed [28]. Naturally germinating seedlings have been observed in the fall following summer seed dispersal. They are usually found in open areas with wet but unflooded soils. Seedling survival is poor because the seedlings are intolerant of fluctuating water levels and are killed by either dry-down or flooding [1]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Sawgrass primarily grows in shallow, freshwater marshes, although it occasionally grows in and may even dominate some brackish water areas [27,29]. It grows best on seasonally flooded sites in which the period of inundation is 6 to 9 months, or longer [14,15,27]. Optimum water depth is about 1 foot (0.28 m) [1]. Sawgrass grows best on deep organic soils. In fact, the vast sawgrass marshes of the Everglades grow on peat and muck deposits up to 13 feet (4 m) deep [24]. Sawgrass also grows on marl soil and even in small solution holes in rocky areas, but with decreased vigor [8]. Sawgrass has extremely low nutrient requirements. It dominates the Everglade's organic peats which are deficient in minor elements and have low quantities of available phosphorus and potash [14,24]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Sawgrass stands are relatively stable on sites shallowly flooded for most of the year. However, when flooding depth or hydroperiod is altered, sawgrass is replaced by other communities. When water levels increase, sawgrass is often replaced by cattails, pickerelweed (Pontederia lanceolata), fire flag (Thalia geniculata), maidencane, spikerush, white water lily (Nymphaea odorata), neverwet (Orontium aquaticum), and yellow lotus (Nelumbo lutea) [1,14]. When water levels are reduced or hydroperiods shortened, drier site species replace sawgrass. These include wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), saltbush (Baccharis spp.), buttonwood (Concarpus erecta), red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), plume grass (Erianthus giganteus), muhly grass (Muhlenbergia spp.), marsh fleabane (Pluchea spp.), fennels (Eupatorium spp.), hemp vine (Mikania spp.), pigweed (Acnida cuspidata), bluestems (Andropogon spp.), and giant bristlegrass (Setaria magna) [5,15,27]. In areas of the Everglades receiving nutrient rich inflows such as along canal system inflow gates, sawgrass stands are being invaded by Dominican cattail (T. domingensis) [6]. Primarily a freshwater species, sawgrass has been replaced by saltmarsh species in the southern Everglades as brackish water moves farther inland due to reduced freshwater inflows and the slowly rising sea level [27]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : In Florida, sawgrass vegetative growth is not winter dormant. In fact, it is one of the most cold-tolerant of Florida's marsh species [24]. Leaf growth continues year-round but does slow somewhat during the dry season [11]. Flowering stalks are first visible in March or April. They grow rapidly and are in full flower by June or July. Seeds mature by August, and thereafter begin dropping [1,28]. After flowering, the culm and its associated leaves and rhizome die. Death and decay are rapid [1].


SPECIES: Cladium jamaicense
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Plant adaptations to fire: For much of the year, sawgrass rhizomes are buried in soil under water where they cannot be harmed by the heat of a fire. Even when marsh soils are exposed during low water level periods, the meristems are insulated by surrounding, tightly overlapping leaves. Furthermore, these attached leaves often act as wicks when soils are moist, keeping the base of the culm moist [14,27]. When aboveground foliage is consumed by fire, sawgrass quickly initiates new top-growth (often within a day) from these surviving rhizomes. Yates [28] observed sawgrass seeds germinating on recently burned sites. However, seedling establishment is an insignificant mode of postfire recovery for sawgrass. Fire ecology: Sawgrass evolved under a regime of frequent fire, and requires fire to maintain dominance. Without fire, litter builds up and surpasses live biomass in just 3 to 5 years [27]. After many years without burning, plant vigor declines. Estimates of natural fire frequencies range from 3 to 25 years [27]. Kushlan [14] felt that sawgrass marsh is best adapted to burning about once every 10 years; however, sawgrass responds well to prescribed buring intervals of 3 to 5 years [27], and has also shown no detrimental effects from burning 2 successive years [8]. Fire plays an important role in the competitive relationship between sawgrass and maidencane. In many marshes sawgrass competitively excludes maidencane. However, maidencane quickly invades when sawgrass stands are destroyed by severe, peat-consuming fires. Sawgrass reestablishment is slow because maidencane inhibits sawgrass seedling establishment. Sawgrass may eventually reclaim these areas, but only slowly, through rhizome expansion [16]. 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 : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Cladium jamaicense
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : In general, fires carry well in both drained and flooded sawgrass stands, consuming most of the aboveground or abovewater biomass. On flooded sites, plants are burned down to a uniform height, usually several inches above the water surface [8,27]. The effects of fire on sawgrass mortality vary with water depth and soil moisture. On flooded sites, and on sites with exposed but saturated soils, no underground regenerative structures are harmed. As soils begin to dry, however, some meristems are killed by the heat of fire. When soils become dry because of drought or marshland drainage by man, fires can burn deep into peat layers, consuming all of the rhizomes and roots, thus killing entire stands [8,27]. Sawgrass typically sprouts and grows rapidly after fire, but is killed if water levels rise rapidly, keeping the new growth completely submerged [14]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : In the Everglades, peat-destroying fires have been recorded in the 1920's, 1937, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1951, 1952, 1962, and 1965 [12]. In some areas, the peat burned to bedrock or marl soil [5]. These fires destroyed "tremendous expanses" of sawgrass communities, which were replaced by maidencane or shallow-water aquatic communities. The increased frequency of these severe fires, which would normally only occur under extended drought conditions, is a result of man's alterations of the Everglade's hydrology (lowering of the water table). PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Leaf growth: If rhizomes and meristems are undamaged, regrowth is rapid following fires occurring at any time of the year. Plants may sprout the day after burning, and within 2 weeks, leaves are commonly 8 to 16 inches (20-40 cm) tall [8]. Within 6 months plants have typically grown 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m) tall, and within 1 to 2 years approach preburn heights [8,12,23,25,28]. Cover and weight: Most of the cover in unburned sawgrass stands is from accumulated litter [8]. Thus, even 1 year after burning, cover remains low because the cover is entirely from live leaves. In the Everglades, sawgrass regained about 50 percent of its preburn cover and 70 percent of its standing crop (aboveground dry weight) within 1 year of burning [8]. If fire damages the meristems, regrowth is much slower. A wildfire burned sawgrass stands in the Everglades in May 1971, an extreme drought year. Eighteen months after burning, the standing crop of burned stands was only 38 percent of that of unburned stands [24]. Density: In the Everglades, sawgrass density was neither increased nor decreased following burning when standing water was present [8]. Flowering: Fire does not seem to stimulate flowering in sawgrass. Flower stalks are usually produced the second year following burning [5], but have been observed in April following January and February prescribed burns [12]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Growth rates following burning vary with soil moisture and season of burning. The most rapid growth occurs following winter or spring burning on sites that are flooded or have saturated soils. Tilmant [25] observed sawgrass growing up to 2.5 feet (0.75 m) 2 weeks after an early March burn that took place when water was at the ground surface level. In the Everglades, plants regained 73 to 98 percent of their preburn height within 7 to 12 months after burning [8] : date burned -------------------------------------------------- Oct. 31, 1971 Dec. 9, 1971 March 8 or 16, 1972 avg. preburn height 107 inches 133 inches 93 inches avg. postburn height 90 inches 97 inches 92 inches in Oct. 1972 preburn height regained by Oct. 1972 85% 73% 98% The sites burned in March, 1972, had burned 1 year earlier, and thus preburn leaf height was lower than normal. Nevertheless, the rate of growth following this spring burn was greater than the fall burn growth rates. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Sawgrass leaves have a high surface area-to-volume ratio, and, after a few years without burning, stands accumulate much of this dead fuel which promotes fire spread. In general, dense stands are easy to ignite and burn hot. They will burn within hours after a rain and when water levels are a foot (0.28 m) or more deep [27]. The highest temperatures during sawgrass fires occur at about 1.6 feet (0.5 m) above the water surface where most litter accumulates. During sawgrass fires in the Everglades, maximum temperatures at this height ranged from 576 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit (302-399 C) [8]. Fires will generally not carry in sparse sawgrass stands when water is present or soils are saturated. In dense sawgrass stands in the Everglades, when water was present, fire spread in a fingering or mosaic pattern and stopped when it reached sparse sawgrass, open glade, or dense hardwood stands [8]. Containment is not a problem when burning sawgrass because most prescribed burning takes place when water is present, and thus fire usually stops when it reaches an area of sparse fuel more than a few feet (1 m) wide [27]. In sawgrass stands burns are prescribed mainly to reduce wildfire hazard. To accomplish this, burning has to remove much of the accumulated litter. Prescribed burning can be done safely anytime the soil is wet, but is usually done when several inches of water is present to allow the use of airboats [27]. Burning when water is present also ensures sawgrass survival because the water layer protects the rhizomes. Conversely, prescribed burns can be used to kill sawgrass if burning takes place when the marsh floor is completely dry. Whenever possible, headfires or spot fires should be used when burning sawgrass [27]. Pushed by the wind, these fires will cross areas of sparse fuels backfires are unable to. Also, because headfires are fast-moving, they are less likely to dry-out and ignite any elevated areas of organic soil.


SPECIES: Cladium jamaicense
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U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 27. Wade, Dale; Ewel, John; Hofstetter, Ronald. 1980. Fire in South Florida ecosystems. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-17. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 125 p. [10362] 28. Yates, Susan A. 1974. An autecological study of sawgrass, Cladium jamaicense, in southern Florida. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami. 117 p. Thesis. [17794] 29. Penfound, W. T.; Hathaway, Edward S. 1938. Plant communities in the marshlands of southeastern Louisiana. Ecological Monographs. 8(1): 3-56. [15089] 30. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. 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