But Grace has found that fire may still play a role in halting the tallow invasion. The key, he says, is to apply fire early in the colonization process, before the tallow stands are dense enough to eliminate all the ground vegetation. With a sufficient supply of dry fuel underneath, Grace says, Chinese tallow can be controlled by fire. Though tallow stands can't be eradicated by burning, with careful monitoring and fire management the species can be prevented from taking over new areas of coastal prairie habitat.
Grace says burns conducted during the growing season may be the most effective way to combat tallow and to restore the natural fire dynamics of the coastal prairie. Dormant season prescribed fires are easier to conduct, and they have less impact on some wildlife species, he says. But the natural fire regime was, by and large, one of growing season fires. "These fires," says Grace, "have a much stronger impact on woody plants. A lot of what we are trying to do is re-establish the natural processes and see if native plants can then have some success in competing with exotics."