Pyrophiles: 5 Plants & Trees That Require Fire To Reproduce


While active pyrophytes encourage wildfire, pyrophiles require wildfire to prompt reproduction. Pyrophiles typically require wildfires and smoke to start or complete their cycle of reproduction. They do not only adapt to tolerate fire but also use the flame to their advantage. In fact, there are many plants that begin to abundantly flower once they experience damage from a wildfire. There are a few good examples of this type of plant, and you will find the most common ones below.


image: pixabay

Banksia contain serotinous cones or fruits that are covered in resin which can only be melted by the fire. The resin will release the seeds when it melts, and this is why it needs fire. As the temperature increases, the seed germination is also more favorable. Some banksia species have either swollen stem bases or underground woody organs known as lignotubers from which new shoots can emerge. Meanwhile, some other species have seeders that die during fires and rely on a new generation to replace them. There are also banksia species that have flowers that form a cone with a low number of seed follicles (fruit). Fire will trigger these follicles to split and expose the seeds within while a seed separator prevents them from boiling.

2Fire Lily

image: pixabay

This genus is the only flower that is entirely dependent on fire to flower, and the genus has several members. With an extremely fast flowering response to natural bush fires, the flowers typically appear within a week to ten days after the fire. Fire lily has pale to dark crimson or salmon flowers with a contrasting darker crimson band on the midrib of tepals. There are 6 stems arranged in two whorls in which the outer filaments are somewhat longer than the inner. This flower is native to South Africa, and you can find them along the Cape Fold Mountains. People use these active pyrophytes for floral displays during their brief flowering period after summer fires.

3Fire Poppy

image: Pete

While the cold never bothers Elsa, the fire never these beautiful golden flowers here. After an area is hit hard by intense fires, fire poppies start popping up by rising from the ash. The perfect example of that was when wildfires swept through southern California in 2018, causing great destruction. The Woolsey fire scorched historic Hollywood sets, leveling houses, and sites of biodiversity. However, something magnificent happened when the rare and elusive fire poppies grew on the trails of the fires. Santa Monica Mountains were hit very hard, and those were where the flowers were growing the most.

These pyrophyles use charred soils, heat, or smoke as signals to sprout. Their seeds can lie dormant for years waiting for the opportunity to bloom their brick red, orange, and red beauty. Once the fire hits, it sends a message to begin germination through the smoke for the flowers to get ready. The heat of a blaze cracks open the hard coating on a seed, allowing the flowers to sprout. If there is rain, the condition will be even more favorable for fire poppies to grow. These flowers provide vegetative cover that helps to reduce erosion on steep slopes after the protective cover has been burnt.

4Giant Sequoias

Giant sequoias are the largest trees in the world, growing and living for up to 3,000 years. But without fires, these trees cannot reproduce. Fires help giant sequoias in so many ways when it comes to growth and reproduction. One of those is the reduction of competition from other species such as incense cedar and white fir. These two species compete with giant sequoias for nutrients and water. With the natural fire cycle, these competing species won’t stand a chance to cause a problem anymore.

The main benefit, of course, is to aid the growth of the trees because giant sequoias depend on fire for reproduction. The small green cones full of seeds of this tree species wait near the crown for germination in order to grow. Those cones need fire or insects to crack them open or the seeds remain trapped inside. Fire can dry out the cones, enabling them to open and deposit their seeds on the forest floor. Fire also exposes bare mineral soil so that seedlings can take root, recycles nutrients, and open holes in the forest canopy.

Around the base of giant sequoias are usually small shrubs and trees that prevent the seeds to survive. This is when fires come to eradicate such problems while loosening the soil to allow the seeds to grow underground. The problem is that only a small percentage of seeds get to germinate and grow to adulthood. There are obstacles such as lack of moisture, too much sun, or unexpected fire that kill the young seedlings. Without perfect balance, trees that are two or three years old can also die.

5Lodgepole Pine

Lodgepole pines are one of the pyrophyles that regenerate on burned sites after a fire. Although the trees die easily when a fire passes through, their seeds live on to grow for the next generation. This species requires full sunlight to thrive, and it adapts really well to landscapes where fires regularly occur. Lodgepole pines have serotinous cones that require the heat of the fire to release their seeds. At the same time, fire also produces favorable conditions for their seeds to germinate. Fires help to eliminate competing species, expose mineral soil, increase the amount of sunlight on the forest floor, and release nutrients in the soil. These are the main reasons why lodgepole pines depend entirely on fire in order to regenerate.

Related Post: Active Pyrophytes The Plants That Trigger Fire