Fire, Rubus and Geranium

By Bill Kleiman

In a closed canopy oak woods we have been doing annual fire for a long time.  The Rubus allegheniensis, common blackberry is slowly fading in stature and density, while the wild geranium, G maculatum, has become abundant.   This is what I think I see.  I don’t have data to prove it.

The invasive honeysuckle shrubs in this woods also keep re-sprouting after our fires.  Those plants are still there, but smaller in size, and not big enough to flower and then seed.

The fires top kill the woody stems of the briars which yields more sunlight to the herbaceous plants of geraniums, and other forbs, sedges and grasses.

About Grassland Restoration Network blog

Bill Kleiman publishes this blog. Bill's daytime job is manager of Nachusa Grasslands. We are looking for guest authors on various topics of grassland habitat restoration. Contact me with your ideas or drafts.
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9 Responses to Fire, Rubus and Geranium

  1. margy stewart says:


  2. Henry Eilers says:

    2 questions: apparently deer do not graze down the Geranium?? It’s a huge problem for us.
    b. Since you at Nachusa have a great deal of experience with seed processing and storage: we have lot of diverse prairie seed for a site that may not be ready until May. The seed is stored in a partially open shed. Will it get sufficient cold-moist stratification ? Can we hold it until that late date? (Mold)??

    • Seed left in winter storage will likely do well if planted early spring. Earlier the better. Early May better than late May. We don’t moist stratify as that can be work at large scale. If you do stratify don’t let it mold. Use a walk in fridge or some such temp control. If the seed is moist it may go through a seeder poorly.

      • Henry Eilers says:

        Thanks for answers

      • James McGee says:

        In a shed, the seed might be exposed to too much cold. When seed falls on the ground, it typically gets insulation from snow which prevents exposure to the very cold winter air. At ground level under snow, the temperature might only reach 15 to 10 degrees F while the seed would be exposed to much lower temperatures in an uninsulated shed.

        In contrast to the above, I’ve been told certain seed (Baptisia) does better when put in the freezer because this kill the weevils (Spring Valley Nature Center Staff). Although, I have not tried it myself.

  3. We have deer and browse but hunting too. We don’t have deer enclosures to state with data. My sense is deer population not too high.

  4. Paul says:

    I have been doing burns in my woods since I purchased my property four years ago, the property had never been burned prior, but some management had been done previously so there was no mature honeysuckle; but there was a lot of gooseberry and prickly ash. I have hand treated the prickly ash and gooseberry in most areas as well as targeting any other invasive, then use fire as a follow-up in some of those areas. In areas where I have done fall burns I have seen good response in slowing the return of gooseberry, which has resulted in an excellent return of spring ephemerals and wild geranium in those areas where the gooseberry was suppressing it (equivalent to your photo in plant density). In areas where I did spring burns, I saw a comparable response in most places, however, two years ago, I did my final burn too late and plants must have just been starting to pop and saw a marked decrease in wild geranium and spring ephemerals over the previous year. This year the wild geranium density was still less then half of the neighboring plot, as was spring ephemerals. Burn quality also plays a big role, which is to be expected. my best burns saw a much stronger response on garlic mustard regrowth, blackberry and gooseberry regrowth.

  5. James McGee says:

    Raspberries fruit on second year wood. Annual burning would be expected to prevent fruit production which would eliminate raspberries over time by attrition. Geraniums are excellent at spreading by seed which is likely why they have become so abundant. Over time species that compete by spreading vegetatively, like Pennsylvania sedge, should reduce the abundance of geraniums to a more natural level.

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