The plant pioneers are species that do well in the earliest stage of succession – for instance when lava from an eruption has hardened into rock. A Hawaiian plant called sword fern grows in cracks soon after the lava has cooled. From the ashes of newly scorched earth, spring the beautiful blossoms of willow herb or fireweed. In other lands the deep pink blossoms of fireweed, or willow herb blanket the earth after forest fires have denuded the soil.
Pioneer species are hardy species that set right the previously damaged eco system finally leading to a more diverse eco system. Like human pioneers, the plant pioneers must withstand the harshest of conditions. The conditions include intense sunlight, scarcity or infertile soil. The growing conditions are not suitable for most other species, and pioneer plants have the field essentially to themselves.
Few competitors will challenge their existence until the pioneers have done enough to change their accommodation fit for survival. Plant pioneers normally have rapid growth, produce small and easily dispensable seeds having the ability to germinate and establish themselves on open sites.
Examples of pioneer species include lyme grass, cord grass, algae, mosses, ferns, wild flowers and many others that reproduce by spores. Numerous minute spores travel far and wide on the wind forming a huge colony of plant pioneers on an otherwise barren land. Another factor which helps is the very little competition for space and resources.