Wildlife and Other Sightings: Dark Night Skies & Sequoia Seedlings
August 25, 2012
The Dark Night Sky
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias
I recently spotted a Giant Sequoia seedling in the Tuolumne Grove of Sequoias. It is growing in an area that is fenced off to protect the shallow roots of a nearby giant. This is the first sequoia sprout I have seen in the Tuolumne Grove. Sequoias rely on fire to open their cones and to clear the forest of "clutter" so that the tiny seeds can fall onto bare mineral soil and root in.
For a long time, we feared fire in our forests and suppressed it. We are now seeing, as a result of this, very few young Sequoias in the groves. Thanks to the fine work of a Yosemite Association volunteer group, I have seen my first sequoia seedling (YA first built the protective split-rail fencing, and most recently aerated the soil in an area that had been severely compacted due to previous human usage). The Park Service has re-introduced fire into the Mariposa grove of Sequoias and has seen positive results. In the future, fire will also be re-introduced in our two other Yosemite groves.
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Did You Know?
In Wawona and downstream, the South Fork Merced River provides habitat for a rare plant, the Sierra sweet bay (Myrica hartwegii). This special status shrub is found in only five Sierra Nevada counties. In Yosemite, it occurs exclusively on sand bars and river banks along the South Fork Merced River downstream from Wawona and on Big Creek.