Prescription for Health: Burning Woods and Prairie

The weather was perfect, so Matt Barnes gathered a crew to carefully burn our prairies and woods on Wednesday and Friday this week. The weather has been so wet this year that we couldn’t burn in late August or September as we had hoped to do. (Burning then would zap/set back the big warm season grasses and favor some of the wildflowers.) Tomorrow they’ll burn a big field I planted to flowers and warm season grasses maybe a decade or more ago. The burning fits with what I mentioned in the last blog post about how so much of our landscape was adapted to pretty regular fires (initally by Native Americans).

A giant mass of white smoke today rose high into the air. Although we called to let local emergency people know we were doing controlled burns today, there was a miscommunication and local fire volunteers came out to be sure all was safe. We’re lucky to have to great people looking out for us. Fortunately we’re careful about creating cleared lines so fire will be contained, not burning when the ratio of wind to humidity is bad, and having enough people to work the edges.
It’s exciting to see the big changes. Now there is so much blackened landscape, but in the spring wildflowers and other plants will put on a great show as they’re released from the overburden of dead grasses and leaves. Life renewal and healthy nature is what it’s all about.


About Lorna Domke

Since 1981, I've lived on the land that surrounds, and will eventually be integrated into, the Prairie Garden Trust with my husband, Henry. Our long-term goal is to build on what Henry's parents began and create a nature garden of sorts for others to enjoy. Over the years I've planted prairie, mowed trails, created a website and done whatever I could to enhance what's here. For a few years I served on the board of the Missouri Prairie Foundation. Since I retired from my role as Outreach & Education Division Chief at the Missouri Dept. of Conservation in 2010, I've started to put more time into the PGT. The PGT Nature Garden blog is one result.
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3 Responses to Prescription for Health: Burning Woods and Prairie

  1. Joyce says:

    This is really interesting to me. My dad never burned any fields and I always wondered why some people did. How many people do you need to watch the fire and how wide are the cleared lines so the fire stays contained? Thanks for sharing this information. I really enjoy your blog.

    • Lorna Domke says:

      The Missouri Department of Conservation has lots of information on how to conduct prescribed burns. Check their website at: for burning information. The specifics about how to do burns vary on whether it’s a field or forest, what the fire lines are (sometimes tightly mowed grass, sometimes disked earth, or leaves brushed away from a mowed path through woods, water sprayed on any of the above etc. There are tools to use, too. There is a handy chart you can also get from MDC about what humidity levels and what wind speeds you need to work within to be safe. MDC also offers classes for landowners now and then to give you some basics.

  2. Marty says:

    Dear Lorna and Henry:

    Your very noble educational and preservation efforts are most commendable ! You obviously bring much “light” to each of us. Might we be able to use a few of your forest/fire scenes in our film, “Embracing Plants and Cures–from Seedlings to Remedies”?
    Credits will be obviously incorporated.Let us know your preferred title(s) should you agree. With admiration,

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