Skip to main content Accessibility help

Fire as a Tool for Controlling Tamarix spp. Seedlings

  • Michelle K. Ohrtman (a1), Sharon A. Clay (a1), David E. Clay (a1) and Alexander J Smart (a2)


Fire is often used in northern grasslands to control invasive grass species but has unknown effects on Tamarix spp., more recent invaders. Temperature (using an oven as a fire surrogate) and duration combinations that would be most lethal to Tamarix seeds and seedlings were determined. Tamarix seeds were sown in soil-lined dishes, water added to saturation, and seedlings grown for 1 to 5 d. Seeds were also placed in water-saturated or dry soil just before temperature exposure (79 to 204 C [175 to 400 F]) by duration (1 to 5 min) treatments. After treatment, soil water loss was measured by weight difference, and surviving seedlings were counted for 6 d. Tamarix seedling establishment and survival decreased with increasing temperature and duration. The 5-d-old seedlings were the most affected. No 5-d-old seedlings survived 1- and 2-min exposures to 204 C, whereas 1-d-old seedlings had greater than 25% survival. If soils were saturated, two to four times more seedlings established following seed exposure to 177 and 204 C. Longer durations at lower temperatures were required to reduce Tamarix survival. Increasing duration from 2 to 5 min at 121 C decreased 5-d-old seedling survival from more than 80% to less than 10% and eliminated those seedlings at 149 C. Five minutes at 149 C decreased dry-soil seed viability to about 15%, whereas germination on saturated soils remained high (∼75%). No seeds survived the exposure to 177 and 204 C. Soil moisture loss values associated with 90% mortality of 5- and 1-d-old seedlings were 1.7 and 2.2%, respectively. On saturated soils, 90% of seeds died with 2.5% water loss. Under suitable conditions, fire can decrease Tamarix seedling survival. Fire may be useful for controlling Tamarix seedlings in northern grasslands and should be considered for management of new invasions.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author's E-mail:


Hide All
Abella, S. R. and MacDonald, N. W. 2000. Intense burns may reduce spotted knapweed germination. Ecol. Restor. 18:203205.
Abrams, M. D. and Hulbert, L. C. 1987. Effect of topographic position and fire on species composition in tallgrass prairie in northeast Kansas. Am. Midl. Nat. 117:442445.
Bernhardt-Römermann, M., Römermann, C., Sperlich, S., and Schmidt, W. 2011. Explaining grassland biomass—the contribution of climate, species and functional diversity depends on fertilization and mowing frequency. J. Appl. Ecol. 48:10881097.
Bond, W. J. and van Wilgen, B. W. 1996. Fire and Plants. London Chapman and Hall. 20 p.
Bossard, C. C. 1993. Seed germination in the exotic shrub Cytisus scoparius (Scotch broom) in California. Madrono 40:4761.
Boudreau, D. and Willson, G. 1992. Buckthorn research and control at Pipestone National Monument (Minnesota). Restor. Manag. Notes 10:9495.
Bova, A. S. and Dickinson, M. B. 2005. Linking surface-fire behavior, stem heating, and tissue necrosis. Can. J. Forest Res. 35:814822.
Busch, D. E. 1995. Effects of fire on southwestern riparian plant community structure. The Southwest. Nat. 40:259267.
Busch, D. E. and Smith, S. D. 1993. Effects of fire on water and salinity relations of riparian woody taxa. Oecologia 94:186194.
Campbell, G. S., Jungbauer, J. D. Jr., Bristow, K. L., and Hungerford, R. D. 1995. Soil temperature and water content beneath a surface fire. Soil Sci. 159:363374.
Copeland, T. E., Sluis, W., and Howe, H. F. 2002. Fire season and dominance in an Illinois tallgrass prairie restoration. Restor. Ecol. 10:315323.
DeBano, L. F., Neary, D. G., and Ffolliott, P. F. 2005. Soil physical properties. Pages 2951 in Neary, D. G., Ryan, K. C., and DeBano, L. F., eds. Wildland Fire in Ecosystems—Effects of Fire on Soil and Water. Ogden, UT Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-42-vol.4.
DeBano, L. F., Savage, S. M., and Hamilton, D. A. 1976. The transfer of heat and hydrophobic substances during burning. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 40:779782.
DiTomaso, J. M., Brooks, M. L., Allen, E. B., Minnich, R., Rice, P. M., and Kyser, G. B. 2006. Control of invasive weeds with prescribed burning. Weed Technol. 20:535548.
Drewa, P. B., Platt, W. J., and Moser, E. B. 2002. Fire effects on resprouting of shrubs in southeastern longleaf pine savannas. Ecology 83:755767.
Emery, S. M., Uwimbabazi, J., and Flory, S. L. 2011. Fire intensity effects on seed germination of native and invasive Eastern deciduous forest understory plants. Forest Ecol. Manag. 261:14011408.
Fidelis, A., Delgado-Cartay, M. D., Blanco, C. C., Muller, S. C., Pillar, V. D., and Pfadenhauer, J. 2010. Fire intensity and severity in Brazilian campos grasslands. Interciencia 35:739745.
Friedman, J. M., Auble, G. T., Shafroth, P. B., Scott, M. L., Merigliano, M. F., Freehling, M. D., and Griffin, E. R. 2005. Dominance of non-native riparian trees in western USA. Biol. Invasions 7:747751.
Friedman, J. M., Roelle, J. E., and Cade, B. S. 2011. Genetic and environmental influences on leaf phenology and cold hardiness of native and introduced riparian trees. Int. J. Biometeorol. 55:775787.
Friedman, J. M., Roelle, J. E., Gaskin, J. F., Pepper, A. E., and Manhart, J. R. 2008. Latitudinal variation in cold hardiness in introduced Tamarix and native Populus . Evol. Appl. 1:598607.
Gibson, D. J., Seastedt, T. R., and Briggs, J. M. 1993. Management practices in tallgrass prairie: large- and small-scale experimental effects on species composition. J. Appl. Ecol. 30:247255.
[GISD] Global Invasive Species Database. 2010. Tamarix ramosissima (shrub, tree). Accessed: November 27, 2011.
Hartnett, D. C., Hickman, K. R., and Walter, L. E. F. 1996. Effects of bison grazing, fire, and topography on floristic diversity in tallgrass prairie. J. Range Manag. 49:413420.
Higgins, S. I., Bond, W. J., February, E. C., Bronn, A., Euston-Brown, D. I. W., Enslin, B., Govender, N., Rademan, L., O'Regan, S., Potgieter, A. L. F., Scheiter, S., Sowry, R., Trollope, L., and Trollope, W. S. W. 2007. Effects of four decades of fire manipulation on woody vegetation structure in savanna. Ecology 88:11191125.
Higgins, K. F., Kruse, A. D., and Piehl, J. L. 1989. Effects of fire in the Northern Great Plains. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser. Coop. Ext. Ser., South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota Extension Circular 761. Accessed: March 10, 2011.
Hodgkinson, K. C. 1998. Sprouting success of shrubs after fire: height-dependent relationships for different strategies. Oecologia 115:6472.
Jarnevich, C. S., Evangelista, P., Stohlgren, T. J., and Morisette, J. 2011. Improving national-scale invasion maps: tamarisk in the western United States. West. N. Am. Nat. 71:164175.
Lehnhoff, E. A., Menalled, F. D., and Rew, L. J. 2011. Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) establishment in its most northern range. Invasive Plant Sci. Manag. 4:5865.
Lesica, P. and Miles, S. 2001. Tamarisk growth at the northern margin of its naturalized range in Montana, USA. Wetlands 21:240246.
Little, E. L. Jr. 1968. Two new pinyon varieties from Arizona. Phytologia 17:329342.
MacDonald, N. W., Bosscher, P. J., Mieczkowski, C. A., Sauter, E. M., and Tinsley, B. J. 2001. Pre- and post-germination burning reduces establishment of spotted knapweed seedlings. Ecol. Restor. 19:262263.
McDaniel, K. C. and Taylor, J. P. 2003. Saltcedar recovery after herbicide-burn and mechanical clearing practices. J. Range Manag. 56:439445.
Merkel, D. L. and Hopkins, H. H. 1957. Life history of salt cedar (Tamarix gallica L.). Trans. Kansas Acad. Sci. 60:360369.
Morgan, J. W. 1999. Defining grassland fire events and the response of perennial plants to annual fire in temperate grasslands of south-eastern Australia. Plant Ecol. 144:127144.
Morisette, J. T., Jarnevich, C. S., Ullah, A., Cai, W., Pedelty, J. A., Gentle, J. E., Stohlgren, T. J., and Schnase, J. L. 2006. A tamarisk habitat suitability map for the continental United States. Front. Ecol. Environ. 4:1117.
Ohrtman, M. K., Clay, S. A., Clay, D. E., Mousel, E. M., and Smart, A. J. 2011. Preventing saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) seedling establishment in the Northern Prairie Pothole Region. Invasive Plant Sci. Manag. 4:427436.
Pearce, C. M. and Smith, D. G. 2003. Saltcedar: distribution, abundance, and dispersal mechanisms, northern Montana, USA. Wetlands 23:215228.
Pearce, C. M. and Smith, D. G. 2007. Invasive saltcedar (Tamarix): its spread from the American Southwest to the Northern Great Plains. Phys. Geogr. 28:507530.
Pyke, D. A., Brooks, M. L., and D'Antonio, C. 2010. Fire as a restoration tool: a decision framework for predicting the control or enhancement of plants using fire. Restor. Ecol. 18:274284.
Reyes, O., Casal, M., and Castro Rego, F. 2009. Resprouting ability of six Atlantic shrub species. Folia Geobot 44:1929.
Savadogo, P., Zida, D., Sawadogo, L., Tiveau, D., Tigabu, M., and Odén, P. C. 2007. Fuel and fire characteristics in savanna-woodland of West Africa in relation to grazing and dominant grass type. Int. J. Wildl. Fire 16:531539.
Scotter, D. R. 1970. Soil temperatures under grass fires. Aust. J. Soil Res. 8:273279.
Sexton, J. P., McKay, J. K., and Sala, A. 2002. Plasticity and genetic diversity may allow saltcedar to invade cold climates in North America. Ecol. Appl. 12:16521660.
Sher, A. A., Marshall, D. L., and Gilbert, S. A. 2000. Competition between native Populus deltoides and invasive Tamarix ramosissima and the implications for reestablishing flooding disturbance. Conserv. Biol. 14:17441754.
Sher, A. A., Marshall, D. L., and Taylor, J. P. 2002. Establishment patterns of native Populus and Salix in the presence of invasive non-native Tamarix . Ecol. Appl. 12:760772.
South Dakota Department of Agriculture. 2010. South Dakota Department of Agriculture. 2010. South Dakota Saltcedar Distribution Map. Accessed: September 9, 2011.
Stinson, K. J. and Wright, H. A. 1969. Temperatures of headfires in the southern mixed prairie of Texas. J. Range Manag. 22:169174.
Stocks, B. J., van Wilgen, B. W., Trollope, W. S. W., McRae, D. J., Mason, J. A., Weirich, F., and Potgieter, A. L. F. 1996. Fuels and fire behavior dynamics on large-scale savanna in Kruger National Park, South Africa. J. Geophys. Res. 101:23,54123,550.
Stromberg, J. C. 1997. Growth and survivorship of Fremont cottonwood, Goodding willow, and salt cedar seedlings after large floods in central Arizona. Great Basin Nat. 57:198208.
Stronach, N. R. H. and McNaughton, S. T. 1989. Grassland fire dynamics in the Serengeti ecosystem, and a potential method of retrospectively estimating fire energy. J. Appl. Ecol. 26:10251033.
Towne, E. G. and Kemp, K. E. 2008. Long-term response patterns of tallgrass prairie to frequent summer burning. Rangeland Ecol. Manag. 61:509520.
Tu, M., Hurd, C., and Randall, J. M. 2001. Weed Control Methods Handbook, The Nature Conservancy. Accessed: November 14, 2011.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2002. Southwesternn Willow Flycatcher Recovery Plan. Albuquerque, NM. i–ix + 210 p., Appendices A–O.
Vander Wall, S. B. and Balda, R. P. 1977. Coadaptations of the Clark's nutcracker and the pinyon pine for efficient seed harvest and dispersal. Ecol. Monogr. 47:89111.
Vermeire, L. T. and Rinella, M. J. 2009. Fire alters emergence of invasive plant species from soil surface-deposited seeds. Weed Sci. 57:304310.
Vesk, P. A. 2006. Plant size and resprouting ability: trading tolerance and avoidance of damage? J. Ecol. 94:10271034.
Whelan, R. J. 1995. The Ecology of Fire. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. 346 p.
Wright, B. R. and Clarke, P. J. 2008. Relationships between soil temperatures and properties of fire in feathertop spinifex (Triodia schinzii (Henrard) Lazarides) sandridge desert in central Australia. Rangeland J. 30:317325.
Wright, H. A. and Bailey, A. W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York John Wiley and Sons. 501 p.
Young, J. A., Clements, C. D., and Harmon, D. 2004. Germination of seeds of Tamarix ramosissima . J. Range Manag. 57:475481.
Zaman, S., Padmesh, S., Bhat, N. R., and Tawfiq, H. 2009. Germination characteristics and storage behavior of Tamarix aucheriana (Decne.) seeds. European J. Sci. Res. 26:532538.


Fire as a Tool for Controlling Tamarix spp. Seedlings

  • Michelle K. Ohrtman (a1), Sharon A. Clay (a1), David E. Clay (a1) and Alexander J Smart (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed