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John's Longleaf Blog


My name is John Winn and I am a lawyer.  I am also a trustee of the Longleaf Ecology and Forestry Society (LEAFS).  I helped establish LEAFS in 1993 by drawing up the papers which created it as a land trust and have been actively engaged in the management ever since.  LEAFS owns the property which is the subject of this website and holds it for the benefit of the general public.  The general public—that’s you.  So tell us how we’re doing and how we can improve.  Thanks.

February 2, 2014: Since last November we've conducted a series of prescribed burns on the Lake Alto sie in the sections which were the first we worked on there. They were planted with 15,000 seedlings back in 1996 after several site preparation burns. Most of these sections have now subsequently been burned four or five times. Many of the trees from that first planting are well over 20 feet in height and doing well.

May 27, 2013:  In the past few weeks, we’ve had some good rains, so there are some places where there is standing water.  We’ve been burning some of these sections, letting the fire carry in to the water.  And then, because there’s such good soil moisture, we’ve been interplanting in the burned parts with a few seedlings held over from last winter’s planting.

October 1, 2012:  Today is when container-grown longleaf seedlings usually become available from growers.  If they are planted now, they have all winter to become established, so that when the hot dry weather of late spring comes around, they’ll be in good shape to withstand the stress.  Bare root seedlings won’t be available until later, but the same theory applies to them.  If there is no rain at all, however, all bets are off.  Bare root seedlings are especially vulnerable if there’s no rain.  Years ago, when they were the only longleaf seedlings generally available, it used to be said, “You can’t plant longleaf.”  But as the picture below shows, if there’s a drought, slash and loblolly plantings can also fail.  All these young slash pines were, of course, not planted on or by LEAFS, but are not far from the LEAFS sites.  In the dry hot summer of 2012, they had no chance of survival.  Here on LEAFS, we have several thousand seedlings on order for interplanting this fall and expect most of them (90% or more) to survive. 

July 25, 2012: Recently a visitor asked about the frequency of burning at LEAFS.  He said that it appeared that the 1471 tract had been burned frequently, but not so much at the Lake Alto tract.  My response was that it depended on where you looked and that about one-third of each tract had been burned in the past year.  About another third is due or past-due for burning.  What we’re trying to eventually achieve is getting one-third burned each year at both locations, with most burns during the growing season, March to May, when natural fires, ignited by lightning, occur.  What somewhat complicates that is our planting of longleaf seedlings.  They are generally available in late fall and early winter, so site prep burns, which are conducted immediately prior to planting, are also done at that time; if burns are done during the spring, by planting time, competing vegetation has had six months or so to recover.  Once seedlings are planted, burning should be postponed for a year or more to let them get established.  When the seedlings are well into their grass stage, you can burn without doing too much harm to them, but when they start height growth, they are vulnerable to fire damage which can kill them.  This means that there is a window of opportunity for burning, but then burning should be postponed again until the young trees are tall and vigorous enough to withstand fires.  So adhering to a firm burn schedule is not always possible.  Dry weather, such as we’ve had this year, further complicates things.  As I’ve mentioned before, we’re close to completing our planting at LEAFS.  When we’re no longer planting seedlings, weather will become the controlling factor as to the timing of burns.

March 2, 2012:  Planting season for longleafs is winding down.  Traditionally, bare root seedlings are not planted after February; container grown seedlings can still be planted, at least for a few more weeks, or even longer if it will ever start raining.  If not, since has been a very dry winter here, the seedlings we’ve planted are going to struggle, even those which have been in the ground since fall and have had a chance to get established.  But, hopefully, we’ll have pretty good survival.  This planting season we interplanted several sections on both LEAFS sites, filling in spots where seedlings from prior plantings had not lived or had been killed in subsequent fires.  (That happens—probably more often than we’d like—as grass stage seedlings, or more especially, seedlings just coming out of the grass stage, can be vulnerable to fire; they’re fire-resistant, not fire-proof!)  Both LEAFS sites are now pretty much fully stocked, at least theoretically.  Almost all sections have been site-prep burned, planted, left alone for a few years, burned again, and then interplanted.  This coming year a few sections on each site will have been at least two years since they were last burned and interplanted.  So, if conditions are right, they are slated for burning.  Hopefully, any seedling mortality will be limited, but if not, we have a few replacement seedlings on order for fall planting.

November 3, 2011:  Fall and winter are the traditional seasons for planting longleaf.  Generally, it’s best to start planting as early in the fall as possible in order than seedlings can have all winter to establish themselves.  This year we were able to locate a few seedlings for planting in September in some of those sections we’d burned the preceding months, but seedling availability was somewhat limited.  Our main order of seedlings is now ready for shipment from the nursery, so we’ll be planting the remainder of the burned sections during the next few weeks.  Then, depending on the weather, we may do some winter burning, followed immediately by planting.  For the most part, our planting now is just filling in bare spots, a seedling here, another few there.

July 28, 2011: Most natural fires in Florida occur during the rainy season, caused by lightning.  So in using prescribed fire in longleaf pine restoration, it’s usual to burn in that same season, which is also the growing season.  However, when there are lots of wildfires and concern for public safety, prescribed burning is strictly limited.  And that was the case this year, so we have been unable to burn from February until this month.  Now we’ve had some significant rain and have been able to burn several sections, each of no more than two or three acres.  Today we burned a few acres that had last been planted in 2004.  Those sections we burned two weeks ago are already starting to green back up.

May 7, 2011:  Today we were applying herbicide in a section burned earlier and in walking around, we flushed a turkey hen.  The eggs in the nest she was sitting on have started to hatch.  Below is a picture showing the eggs and a few poults.  We left quickly so that the hen would return.

April 18, 2011:  In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day, the Division of Forestry Andrews Nursery made available some container grown longleaf seedlings.  Planting season for longleaf generally ends in February, as March and April can be pretty dry months.  Still, since there were some open spots in the sections we burned in February, we took a chance and planted some.  If we can get a little rain in May, maybe they can hang on until the summer rains really start.

February 21, 2011: Last week we burned a section of the 1471 site and that may be the last burning for a while, as it looks like it’s going to be pretty dry for the next few weeks.  After that, even if we do get some rain, there’s no compelling reason to burn until early summer as we’ll be finished planting for this season.  Fires naturally occur during the growing season, so that’s when we like to be doing most of our burning now.  Our winter burns are mostly for site preparation, to open things up for interplanting.  Still, it would be good to have some rain to help out all the seedlings we’ve planted this winter.

January 18, 2011:  In honor of Florida Arbor Day—which I thought was today, but isn’t until Friday—we planted a couple hundred longleaf seedlings in some spots where seedlings and young trees were pretty thin in a few sections which were burned last summer.  We hadn’t done any planting since early December on account of it being so dry, but yesterday we finally had a little rain, maybe a little over half an inch.  Even with the lack of rain, for the most part, the seedlings we’d planted earlier this planting season were looking pretty good.  I saw a few with the start of new needles, so that’s encouraging.

November 20, 2010: Members of the local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society visited the 1471 site today for a field trip.  Some fall wildflowers, especially in those areas which were burned this past summer, caught their eye.  These included several goldenrods (Solidago stricta and Bigleowia nudata) and deer tongues (Carphephorus corymbosus and C. paniculatus); another deer tongue species (C. odoratissimus) was past flowering, but noticeably fragrant where it had been mowed in the path.  Another species past flowering, but still of interest was another member of the composite family, a crownbeard called wingstem (Verbesina heterophylla), which is endemic to northeast Florida.

October 31, 2010: At the end of September, the rain stopped and so did our burning and planting.  In some of the sections we’d burned earlier, we’d been interplanting seedlings in spots where they were a bit thin in number.  The plan was to burn a few more sections and continue planting, but that’s all on hold now until rain starts up again.  Despite absolutely not a drop during October, most of the newly planted seedlings still look pretty good, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.  In the interim, we’ve completed the new kiosks.

August 18, 2010: Vandalism of the signs at the Lake Alto Park site has been a minor problem, so we are replacing them with a new kiosk. It's not "vandal-proof," if there is such a thing, but it's sturdier than those which we've had. Those at the 1471 site are visible from the road, so they haven't been bothered much, but they are showing their age, so we'll replace them also. That's going to have to wait a few days, as we've had so much rain lately that the ground it too wet to dig holes.

August 12, 2010: We've been burning the sections along 1471 for the past several days, but had some rain today, putting out today's fire. It was enough that we probably won't be able to burn for at least a few days. These sections have a mixture of young longleafs from five to 15 years old, together with some large pines which were there when restoration started. Only a few of these older trees are longleafs, so there hasn't been much natural regeneration in these sections. Some of the trees we planted are at a vulnerable stage, those which are about waist-high, and we probably killed a few of them. On the other hand, those which are still in the grass stage ought to benefit from increased sunlight and reduced competition from palmettos and gallberries. Later we'll see if we should do some interplanting this fall.

July 22, 2010: Yesterday we had a group from the Florida Invasive Species Partnership at the 1471 site. They were having a two-day meeting in Gainesville and this was their field trip. I "apologized" for not having lots of invasive species to show them, but was assured that they were glad to see someplace where invasives are not a problem. As this site was relatively undisturbed, invasives never had a chance to get established. And prescribed burning must have some effect in keeping them out. It probably is not enough on its own once invasives get started, but it helps.

April 16, 2010:  We burned a section today that we’d tried to burn on January 31.  Things were a lot wetter then, and there were some places in this two acre section which did burn well, but for the most part, not much happened then.  That was disappointing, as the section had not been burned since July 2004, and there were parts where loblolly pines had very thickly seeded in.  When I say “thickly,” I mean thickly: a young head-high loblolly every foot or so.  These were certainly shading out the longleafs.  On the other hand, there were spots where there practically weren’t any pines at all, but lots and lots of gallberries, and these hadn’t burned well in January either.  In January, there was standing water in many of the firelines.  Now we haven’t had much rain for nearly two weeks.  Today’s humidity was down in the upper 30s and there was a slight east wind, so the fire ran pretty well into the areas which had burned earlier and burned out the section.  There were a few longleafs that were at a vulnerable stage—waist-high with white candles of new growth—and some of them may have been killed.  But losing them wasn’t a big price to pay for knocking back the loblollies and gallberries.  We’ll have a look in two weeks at how things are shaping up and decide what to do here next. 

April 8, 2010: Today I walked through the section we burned two weeks ago.  When we burned, the young longleaf pines were just starting to come out of winter dormancy, so now—two weeks later—they have well developed candles of new growth, very evident little spikes of green in a sea of brown.  So it’s looking good.  As far as the interplanting is concerned, there were only a few spots where, for one reason or another, young pines were pretty scarce.  I had a few container-grown seedlings on hand, so I went ahead and planted 60 of them.  Normally, April is not a great time to be planting, as it’s usually the start of the dry season which will run until the summer thunderstorms start in about June.  But there’s still a lot of soil moisture and the 60 seedlings cost only $14.75, so even if they all die, it’s not a big loss.

March 23, 2010:  We burned a small section today which is adjacent to CR 1469.  Both of the LEAFS sites are divided into many small management blocks, none of which is more than a few acres in size.  This very much simplifies prescribed burning, allowing us to conduct most burns with a two man crew.  We use two tractors, one with a water tank and sprayer and the other with a disc harrow.  The firelines are permanently installed and simply have to be freshened up prior to each burn.  Today’s burn was in a section which was last burned in February 2004, so the interval between burns was a bit longer than we’d like.  The section has many young longleafs between six and 12 years old and the purpose of the burn was to reduce their competition for light and nutrients and also to allow some interplanting in the few spots where pines are scarce.  It had been rainy lately, so there were spots with standing water and we expected a fairly patchy burn.  The humidity was about 50% and a northwest wind of up to 10 MPH had been predicted, but the actual wind speed was much less, so our burn was even patchier than we’d expected.  Still, our objectives were pretty much accomplished and when we burn again there in three or four years, there will be plenty of fuel in those spots where today’s fire either didn’t carry or burned out quickly.




Copyright 2010.