Publication Date

Spring 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


David K. Bruck


chaparral, fire, fire season, herbaceous, prescription burn, Zigadenus

Subject Areas

Biology, Botany; Conservation


California's chaparral shrub communities are naturally exposed to dry-season fire. It could be reasoned that prescription burns set during the wet season by land managers would have more detrimental effects on plant regeneration than dry season fires because wet season burns are more likely to kill newly emergent seedlings and damage newly emerged leaves of mature plants. Six field sites with flowering Zigadenus fremontii, an herbaceous perennial geophyte common to chapparal and part of the post-fire bloom, were established at Henry W. Coe State Park in Nothern California. Three sites were part of the September 2007 Lick Wildfire and three were part of a February 2007 prescription burn. The sites were monitored for Z. fremontii regeneration over two years. Z. fremontii exposed to the prescription burn fared better than the wildfire plants, with inflorescence height being significantly higher in prescribed burn sites. Bulbs were transplanted into soil from the prescription burn, wildfire, and unburned area to determine differences in regeneration due to soil characteristics. There were no significant differences due to soil types, but only bulbs from the prescription burn sites had the ability to produce flowers in multiple years subsequent to fire. Differences in germination rates between seeds grown in soil from the wildfire, prescription burn, and unburned soil were investigated via a controlled germination experiment. There was a trend for increased germination in burned soils compared to unburned soils. The evidence from this study suggests that geophytes can benefit from fires set outside of the natural fire season of chaparral.