Pine Flatwoods

Pine Flatwood - Promo

The major overstory species of the pine forests is the South Florida slash pine (Pinus elliotti var. densa) (Little and Dorman, 1952, 1954).  No other species of pine occurs on the Refuge.  Cabbage palm is abundant and unnaturally dominates the midstory or the overstory in the absence of pines killed by fire (Davis, 1943; Myers, 1977).  Restoration among pine habitat and adjacent cypress domes and hammocks is underway to cut and spray cabbage palms to pre-1950 conditions.  Shortening of the hydroperiod in the last 60+ years has allowed palm seedlings to survive, whereas most would typically drown.  The pine canopy in an unlogged forest, typical of the refuge, is approximately 10-20 percent.  Understory vegetation within the forest is most often dominated by saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), in association with varnish leaf (Dodonea viscosa), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), gallberry (Ilex glabra), staggerbush (Lyonia fruticosa), and sumac (Rhus copallina) (Craighead, 1971).  A total of 303 species of plants have been reported for this association (Long, 1974). On a few smaller sites on the refuge, where pine forests have a somewhat longer hydroperiod, saw palmetto and some of its other associates are less common, and grasses typical of a wet prairie community prevail.  Common species include grasses in the genera Muhlenbergia, Andropogon, Paspalurn, and flowering herbs of the genera Sabatia, Polygala, and Asimina.  Within these wetter pinelands a total of 361 plant species have been reported (Long, 1974).  Much of the pinelands on the refuge include both dryer sites, dominated by a saw palmetto understory, and wetter sites dominated by grasses.  Pine land, although comprising only 21% of the refuge habitats, is vital for the Florida panther and other endangered and threatened species.