Response of Herbaceous Vegetation to Winter Burns in the Western South Texas Plains: An Observation

Donald C. Ruthven III, James F. Gallagher, David R. Synatzske


Prescribed fire is becoming a more widely utilized habitat management practice in southern Texas.  We examined the effects of winter burns on the abundance and diversity of forbs and grasses on three rangeland sites during the first and second growing seasons postburn in the western South Texas Plains.  Forb and grass cover, density, and frequency were estimated in 50, 7.9-x 19.7-in quadrats.  Forb and grass species richness and diversity were similar among treatments and growing seasons.  Forb cover was greater on burned sites during the first growing season.  Burning increased densities of three-seed croton (Croton lindheimerianus), rough buttonweed (Diodia teres), and spreading sida (Sida abutifolia) during the first growing season.  Densities of three-seed croton and rough buttonweed were similar among treatments during the second growing season, while increased densities of spreading sida persisted into the second growing season postburn.  Most grasses were unaffected by burning.  Date of burn influenced herbaceous vegetation response with greatest forb densities on early winter burns and highest grass densities on mid-winter burns.  Even with less than optimum growing conditions burning can increase abundance of annual and perennial forbs.


prescribed fire; South Texas; herbaceous vegetation; diversity; species abundance

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