Sunday, January 10, 2010

Geek Out: Germination and Wildfire Study

 Chaparral of the Eastern Sierra

Holy smokes!  I think I just hit upon the Holy Grail of native plant geekery.  I innocently googled Nemophila germination hoping to find some nugget of wisdom as to why mine didn't do a darn thing (I'm crossing my fingers that it was the frosty days and not some other propagator's flaw).  Well, I did not find my answer, but I hit upon a paper talking about the relationship between seed germination and wildfires in Chaparral plant communities!  It even touches upon certain plants that require seed distribution by animals and insects!  It's published online by the Western Ecological Research Center, which boasts offices across our state and its neighbors.  Can't wait to delve further into this new find.
Apparently, Romneya coulteri has a higher germination rate when it's "in the presence of charred wood."  My wheels are turning...
I realize that most folks might either consider this old hat or have absolutely no interest, but I have gained so much knowledge from this community, that I thought I'd give back just a little.


  1. Don't worry, you're not the only geek out there. I was explaning somethiing to my DH one day...he had this blank look on his face. I said 'too geeky for you?' He just nodded & started laughing. So feel free to geek out anytime & I will too!

  2. Interesting. Perhaps I should plant our Romneya next to one of our old charred redwood stumps. This area was clear-cut in the early 20th Century, and we still have a few charcoaled giant redwood stumps on the property here...we were just trying photograph one yesterday on a hike around our property that was an interesting mix of charred wood, lichen and moss. Of course, I do wonder if the charred wood needs to be fresh...but if any ol' char will do, should be perfect!

  3. Susie- thanks for helping me embrace my geekiness!
    Clare- I think it works with the chemicals that are produced by the burnt material, but I'm not sure if there's a freshness requirement. We need dated stickers, like milk! Can't wait to see your photos, sounds lovely.

  4. christine, you are to be commended. your site is the most user friendly i have yet to come upon. it is my go to nightly read now as i am planning a total replanting of my home in palo alto to be straight up native after years of being mixed native/beneficial.

    this past summer i was an abutting property to the brookdale lodge fire in the santa cruz mountains. i can not express the words of gratefulness i have for a neighbor who had just retired from the burlingame fire department and just happened to be home at the time the fire began. as he stood watching the inferno waiting for the volunteer fire department to arrive and i was asking if i should move out we watched a huge ember jump the street and land on my property at the base of an old growth redwood. his knowledge and my having hundreds of feet of hose on the property possibly saved the whole of clear creek canyon. i lost 75 feet of redwood stake fence but we saved the old growth redwoods at each end. after the fire i replaced the fence saving the charred stakes. i buried the smaller pieces under a newly spread layer of redwood chip that one of the local loggers got to me. i kept the charred stakes thinking to lay them on top of other areas of my property for their burned properties.

    i will see if i can get a plant or two and plant them in this area and also near some of the old, charred stumps from the clear cut 100 years ago. i am mostly in shade but this part of the property is the hottest and sunniest. do you have a bead on where i could find it? happy new year.

    Glen Alder
    brookdale, ca

  5. christine,

    i'm not quite sure how this works, but using Glen Alder as my id would work best for me vs my name. it is the name that was given to our 100 year old cabin by the original family. after the clear cut the alders were the first to grow and i am told the property was just beautiful.



  6. ....the third and last installment. i had not realized Romneya coulteri was the matillaja poppy. i'll see if i can put my fingers on some seed. would you suggest broadcasting it now or in the spring?

    again, thank you for your time.


  7. Hi Linda,
    Wow, thanks! You're making me blush with so many sweet compliments!
    I'm fascinated by your story- the folks out in the country have so many challenges, but it must be so rewarding as well.
    Romneya coulteri can be found at local nurseries in one gallon containers and sometimes in 4". Annie's Annuals might mail you one, but Capital Wholesale Nursery probably has them and they're in San Jose (a drive, but less of one!)
    They can be quite invasive, so beware, but the blooms are more than worth the extra work!