Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Baby!

Pictured at right is something we don't have very many of in our area: baby manzanita. This particular one appears to be about three years old, and is perhaps 3 inches (8 cm) tall. It's growing in a bare, sunny patch along the side of a seldom-used footpath. Compare it to the big one that's in my back yard.

The reason that we don't have many baby manzanitas is that normally their seeds only germinate after a fire has burned over an area. The heat and smoke of the fire are a trigger to the seed, telling it that now is a good opportunity – lots of sunshine, very little competition, so go!

I have just five young manzanitas (their age varies) on 3.5 acres of cleared area on my property. Apparently a few seeds germinate even without a fire, though the rate must be very low. There are several dozen adult manzanitas in that same cleared area, each producing thousands upon thousands of berries each year. All those seeds, accumulated for the past 35 years, are in the topsoil of my yard. Sometimes I think about starting a small fire somewhere in my yard, just to see if a bazillion manzanitas pop up afterward!

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