We had the amazing opportunity to watch part of this year’s controlled burn here in High Park. The rare Black Oak Savannah habitat found in the Park was once subject to frequent forest fires. The native plants in the Black Oak Savannah have adapted over thousands of years to survive these regular forest fires. The fires helped to renew the Savannah habitat and encouraged stronger plant growth.
Once the area around High Park was settled forest fires were a thing of the past. For over 100 years the Black Oak Savannah in High Park went without the rejuvenating effects of a forest fire. High Park had become a manicured City Park with lawns and a concrete edge around Grenadier Pond. Over the past few decades naturalization efforts by the Forestry and Natural Environment crews within the City have worked to naturalize certain areas of High Park including Grenadier Pond and the rare Black Oak Savannah.
These efforts include starting a series of controlled burns throughout the Savannah habitat. The areas to be burned rotate each year. Often these areas have a number of invasive plant species that are unable to survive the burn process. The controlled burns are low, controlled fires. Trees supporting local wildlife are given a wide berth and the fire itself isn’t strong enough to damage the larger trees. After a burn the native plants in the area grow stronger and healthier helping to protect this rare habitat for future generations to enjoy!