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2017 update: Cirsium hillii fire & fitness

This year we monitored the original 28 C. hillii rosettes at Hegg Lake WMA to check the fitness and persistence of our original individuals/population. Presently, 10/28 rosettes remain, all as non-flowering basal rosettes. For each rosette, we measured the length of the longest axis and the corresponding perpendicular axis. No burns were conducted this year.

This experiment assesses effects of fire on the fitness of Cirsium hillii (Hill’s thistle) plants at Hegg Lake WMA. Like EchinaceaC. hillii inhabits dry prairies, but Hill’s thistle is listed as a Species of Special Concern in Minnesota and little is known about how it responds to fire. Burn and non-burn units were created prior to an experimental fall burn conducted by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in 2014. That year, we mapped 28 C. hillii rosettes (basal and flowering).

The distribution of Cirsium hillii, a rare endemic to the Great Lakes region.

Last year was also a non-burn year, although of rosettes found, there were three flowering rosettes. It’s challenging to determine cases of mortality with this species, since C. hillii is clonal, and it’s possible that each rosette is not a unique individual.

In 2015, Abbey White found that there was only one or two individuals in our C. hillii “population!” We don’t know of any other C. hillii populations in Douglas County. We are possibly monitoring the last individual in the area.

You can find out more about Cirsium hillii fire & fitness and read previous flog posts about it on the experiment background page.

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