An open grassland at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Sonoma County, CA, was burned during three consecutive summers (1993–1995) to control yellow starthistle. By 1996, the yellow starthistle seedbank, seedling density, and mature vegetative cover were reduced by 99, 99, and 91%, respectively, and the plant community had greater diversity and species richness, particularly of native forbs. After the cessation of the prescribed burning after 1995, the community was monitored for 4 yr to determine if the reduced yellow starthistle population represented a stable state or if the population would quickly recover. The yellow starthistle seedbank rose dramatically over 4 yr. Seedling counts and summer vegetative cover also rose, though less rapidly. Total forb cover, particularly native species, total plant cover, and plant diversity decreased significantly after cessation of the burning. Grass cover did not show any strong trends, and year-to-year variation in the grass cover appeared to be more important than the treatment effects. In the absence of some overall changes in management, e.g., periodic prescribed burning, herbicide treatments, or revegetation, it may not be possible to establish and maintain a stable state with a low population of yellow starthistle in annual grasslands in California.
Nomenclature: Yellow starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis L. CENSO.