Bud damage from controlled heat treatments in Quercus garryana

Quercus garryana habitats are increasingly being managed with prescribed fire, but acorn dependent wildlife might be adversely affected if fires damage acorn crops. We examined one way that fire might affect subsequent acorn crops: through direct heating and damage of buds containing the following year’s floral organs. We measured internal bud temperatures during controlled time and temperature treatments, described damage to heated buds at the tissue and cellular levels and quantified spring flowering to assess the consequences of the treatments. We found that internal bud temperature was logarithmically related to exposure time and linearly related to treatment temperature. Tissue damage was more common in bud scales, staminate and bud scale scar primordia than in leaf, pistillate, leaf axillary primordia and apical meristems. Damaged tissues were sequestered by cells with thickened cell walls. A 133C treatment applied for 60 s produced minimal damage or mortality, but damage increased rapidly in hotter or longer treatments, culminating in 100% mortality at 273C for 60 s. Our experiments account only for radiative, not convective heating, but suggest that fires might produce sublethal effects that affect flowering and acorn crops. Q. garryana’s large buds possess an internal organ arrangement well suited to minimizing heat damage.