Grasstree (xanthorrhoea preissii) recovery after fire in two seasons and habitats


To distinguish fire-stimulated growth from the underlying growth patterns imposed by season, we measured leaf production of Xanthorrhoea preissii Endl. (Xanthorrhoeaceae). We compared unburnt with spring- and autumn-burnt sites in forest and woodland habitats. Following fire, X. preissii responded with accelerated leaf production, regardless of season. Rapid leaf production during the initial flush of growth was partly at the expense of starch reserves in the stem, at least after autumn fire. Although this initial flush was relatively short-lived after fire in both seasons (12–32 weeks), the effect of fire on leaf production was sustained for up to 20 months, accompanied by a significant reduction in leaf longevity. Mean maximum leaf production rate was higher for spring-burnt grasstrees (up to 6.1 leaves day–1) than those burnt in autumn (up to 4.5 leaves day–1), associated with seasonally optimal growing conditions in late spring–early summer. Similarly, the timing of autumn burns in relation to declining temperature with the approach of winter appeared to dictate how rapidly grasstrees recovered. The consequences of fire season could have implications for the reproductive success of X. preissii.



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