I regularly visit my burned parcel in Bonny Doon to monitor progress of the redwoods and understory plants. It will take 30-50 years for the forest to regenerate but it’s trying.
Amazing how Mother Nature takes advantage of a void. Succession plants like native Yerba Santa are everywhere. I don’t mean just a few. I mean hundreds of thousands all blooming and attracting butterflies and bees. Also Bicolor lupine are flowering in huge numbers along with California poppies all over Bonny Doon. Lupine roots or rather nitrogen-fixing bacteria on the roots take nitrogen from the air and so are useful to restore the soil. Birds eat the seed and butterflies and bees are attracted to lupine. The Arrowhead Blue butterfly uses this plant as a host.
On my property, ceanothus thrysiflorus (Blueblossom ceanothus) has sprouted in huge numbers. They used to regularly self seed but this crop is all from seed. None of the original plants survived the fire. They are everywhere. Bluewitch nightshade has appeared in large numbers also. I had never seen this plant on my property before the fire. Insects love it including bees, butterflies and moths.
There are other plants that are growing up there on their own since the fire. Without irrigation for over a year and a half, Hummingbird sage (salvia spathacea) is blooming and spreading again. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies are attracted to this plant. California fuchsia (epilobium canam) never skipped a beat after the fire and has self seeded and spread also. Hummingbirds, butterflies and moths frequent these plants also.
Cultivated plants that have come back include smoke bush (cotinus coggygria) Bear’s breeches (acanthus mollis and a very old New Zealand tree fern.
Of the burned plants that I brought back in melted pots many of them are staging a comeback. I had to cut off all of the burned woody trunks of Pink Flowering current but it has sprouted from the roots and regrowing. Hellebore, bleeding heart, calla lily, liriope, Japanese forest grass, a couple flowering maple, bletilla and cymbidium orchids are making a valiant effort.
My favorite comeback story is the foxglove that sprouted last year in a couple of my pots. The seed must have come from one plant up on the hillside above my burn property. They are the perfect flower for hummingbirds. Each flower produces a large amount of nectar and they offer the supply that hummingbirds need to support their high energy needs.
All Gardners are optimists. We just need to be very, very patient with Mother Nature.