Months after the Soldier Basin Fire scorched the Patagonia Mountains of Southern Arizona in May 2013, I was lucky enough to pass through the aftermath while scouting out plants and collecting seeds with Steve, a skilled botanist and ecologist, and Gooch, a tracker and guide. While this mid-December walk was certainly a successful trip in terms of scouting and collecting from one of the major preserved canyons and intact drainages of the watershed, we also got to explore post-burn habitat.
As I peaked a ridge, the first observation that stunned me was the sea of crisp trees, covered with charcoal. They were in patchy patterns, with clumps of live trees, shrubs, grass and ground cover intermixed with armies of tombstones on bare soil.
Drainages were generally less scorched than mesas and open flats. While there were many plants that had been dislodged, namely succulents, many of the shrubs and trees were still rooted, holding back soil.
Most impressively to me, Manzanita shrubs were not only still rooted, but many were still alive when half of their branches had been burned off. Perennial grasses that had been burned down to the soil in the inferno were some of the most productive plants after a relative dry spell. Like the phoenix – out of death comes life.
Desert Spoon fire bomb
Steve and Gooch explore a burned landscape