Prairie plants are well adapted to fire. They have evolved unique growth habits to protect their delicate tissues from the intense heat. The budding cells are located at or below ground level where they escape the high temperatures and experience little damage from the fire while some prairie plants actually require fire in order to grow.
Fire has a number of associated benefits to the prairie. It removes dead plant material and thatch that has accumulated in previous growing seasons and returns it to the soil in the form of ash. This recycling of nutrients and the rapidly warming blackened soils following a prairie fire contribute to a healthy prairie. The single most important benefit of fire in the prairie landscape is the suppression of brush and other woody plant species. Trees such as the non-native Chinese tallow tree and shrubs are not well adapted to fire and are suppressed or often killed in the process of a burn. In the absence of fire, prairies are slowly degraded by the invasion of trees, shrubs and other woody species. Over time, trees will create a closed canopy harvesting most of the available sunlight. This lack of sunlight causes the shading out the original native prairie plant community.
Recognizing the historical importance of fire in the prairie landscape, Armand Bayou Nature Center uses fire as a tool to restore and maintain the health of our prairies. Prescribed burning is the use of fire to achieve a specific ecological goal in the prairie landscape. Our prescribed burn team consists of staff and trained volunteers. Go to the Volunteering web page for information about becoming a burn team member.