Controlled burn on Co-Lin's nature trail aims to spark new growth

If you were near the Wesson Campus on October 3, 2020, you might have noticed a controlled burn on the Oswalt Nature Trail, specifically the pine savanna wildflower planting on the trail. The burn was conducted to keep the savanna planting healthy for years to come.

Five years ago, members of the Co-Lin Naturalist’s Club prepared and planted a section of the nature trail with a variety of native plant seeds harvested from remnants from South Mississippi. In the five years since planting, the savanna garden has made tremendous progress. Many plants have established and matured and are even setting seeds of their own, and pollinators and other insects now rely on this patch. Rabbits and many species of songbird have also been observed feeding and sheltering here. It feels alive and busy with activity in the growing season. However, like most grasslands that go too long without grazing or burning, it was beginning to become dense and crowded with dead stems of previous seasons’ growth and of young tree saplings and shrubs. With no intervention, this planting would revert to a shady forest, which is generally not as biodiverse (species-rich) in our region of the world. To encourage an explosion of growth and color, we burned the savanna with careful supervision. The burn will be wonderfully beneficial to the Oswalt Nature Trail planting.

In keeping with the historical occurrence of fire in the southern pine savannas, we hope to burn the planting every three years. This will help the planting to mature and stay attractive to both the wildlife and the visitors of the Oswalt Nature Trail.

Written by: Brady Dunaway, Co-Lin alum and former member of the Co-Lin Naturalist’s Club.