Fire in Stillwater Swamps

Fire is rarest in the driest swamps where rapid decomposition and occasional floods prevent organic matter accumulation.

No swamps appear to be entirely free from burning. Among groundwater swamps, bay swamps seldom burn.

The waxy cuticles of the understory vegetation in swamps, including many species of the Ericaceae (heath) family, are particularly flammable.

Cypress swamps may burn several times each century in north Florida. Pond cypress have been shown to survive fire more readily than hardwoods in these swamps.

The nature of fires in all parts of Florida have changed dramatically within the last century:

  • Severe burning after logging or drainage may destroy both seeds and roots in the soil. This favors replacement by willows and, subsequently, succession to mixed hardwoods.
  • In south Florida, Melaleuca quinquenervia rapidly invades cypress swamps that have been drained and burned.