This past winter was very dry in Colorado Springs, and many were surprised to start hearing reports of “fire danger is high” as early as February this year. Then, on February 10, someone messed with fireworks and started a fire at Sonderman Park right in the middle of town, eventually scorching almost 15 acres. No one was ever arrested for starting the fire.

sandlilies.jpgIn early May, I decided to go to Sonderman and surrounding areas to search out migrating birds (you can read about them and see some of the photos I took at https://careymoonbeam.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/spring-migration/). Before leaving the park, I sought out the burn area since someone had told me that there were sand lilies (Leucocrinum montanum) blooming in the scorched soil. Sure enough, there were lots of sand lilies coming up and just a hint of grasses that were making a comeback. The most chilling part of the landscape were the blackened remains of the yucca (Yucca glauca). An area that would have been dominated by the long, sharp-pointed green sword-like leaves of the yucca just had short black stumps speckling the ground. A few blackened tree skeletons and charred shrub remains broke up the monotony.
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yuccasrecover.jpgFast forward to six weeks later, June 21. I took my husband with me to revisit the burned area in Sonderman Park. I didn’t mention before that we started getting serious moisture in April and it had certainly continued until this visit. This must’ve helped tremendously in the changes in the burned area. We could still see the completely dried leaves of some of the burned yuccas. In fact, in this photo that my husband took, I’m sitting right on the edge of the burn line. In front, none of the yucca are blooming, and some still have the brown dead leaves they got as a result of the fire. From where I’m sitting and beyond, the yucca are blooming. (Some were nearly red this year!)
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We took a look at some of the larger yucca stumps and were amazed to see green leaves growing up from the bases! Wow! I knew yuccas were super tough plants, but it was still amazing to see that they could regrow after being burned. I suppose that is one advantage of having a good, long tap root. (Have you ever tried digging up a yucca?? Good luck!)
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The yucca were in good company. Although the sand lilies were gone, there were plenty of blooming cacti and orange Indian paintbrush in the burn area. I saw a yellow patch far from the path, so I carefully bushwhacked my way out (this area is known for rattlesnakes) and discovered a patch of toadflax (Linaria vulgaris). Unfortunately, that is one of our List B noxious weeds, and I wonder if the fire-cleared area will make it easier to gain a foothold.

I promise to revisit the area soon and report back.

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