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Keywords:

  • Ephemeral herb;
  • Flatwoods;
  • Lake Wales Ridge;
  • Land management;
  • Ordination;
  • Scrub;
  • Xerophyte
  • Wunderlin (1982).

Abstract. The widespread suppression of fire during the 20th century has created extensive areas of fire-prone ecosystems that are in long-unburned condition. Plant species of flatwoods and scrubby flatwoods (= oak scrub) in the southeastern USA possess adaptations that facilitate resprouting, clonal spread, or seeding following fire. While the majority of the woody species of these associations can persist for long periods without fire, fire suppression reduces the populations of ephemeral herbs. Long-unburned (> 35 yr) flatwoods and scrubby flatwoods were burned after five annual vegetation censuses. Both stands were resampled five times over a >8-yr recovery period. One recently burned (<20 yr) flatwoods and two recently burned scrubby flatwoods were censused prior to fire and were recensused over a 5-yr or 11-yr period following fire depending on the stand. In spite of the variety of recovery strategies and time since fire, there were limited changes in the compositions and structures of post-burn stands compared to their preburn states. Detrended Correspondence Analysis showed that recently burned stands returned to preburn states within 1–2 yr. However, the reintroduction of a single fire to long-unburned stands did not restore the populations of herbs typical of recently burned stands. Our results suggest that a single fire may not be effective in restoring flatwoods and scrubby flatwoods that have experienced fire suppression to states more characteristic of recently burned stands.