Pinelands

South Florida pinelands, or everglades flatwoods as designated by the USDA Soil Conservation Service, occur on locally elevated areas of the limestone bedrock bordered primarily by wet prairies and mangroves. Pinelands a meter or more above the surrounding glades flood only during extreme weather events. Lower pinelands flood regularly during the wet season and may remain flooded for several months.

Vegetation

Canopy

The single canopy species in the rockland pinelands is the south Florida variety of slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa), which is closely related to longleaf pine(Pinus palustris) and Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea). 

Subcanopy

Subcanopy development is rare in most rockland pinelands.  Only occasional hardwoods growing on sites protected from fire reach tree size.  In some of the lower Florida Keys there is a well-developed subcanopy of palms.

Shrubs

  • pond cypress(Taxodium ascedens)
  • pond apple(Annona glabra)
  • buttonbush(Cephalanthus occidentalis)
  • willow(Salix caroliniana)
  • elderberry(Sambucus canadensis)
  • buckthorn(Bumelia reclinata)
  • beauty berry(Callicarpa americana)
  • varnish leaf(Dodonaea viscosa)
  • locust berry(Byrsonima lucida)
  • pineland croton(Croton linearis)
  • staggerbush (Lyonia fruticosa)
  • dwarf live oak (Quercus minima)
  • running oak(Q. pumila)
  • shiny blueberry(Vaccinium myrsinites)

For more information about these and other trees and shrubs, see our Trees of Florida page.

Threatened or Endangered Plants

Trees: 

  • silver thatch palm (Coccothrinax argentata)

Shrubs: 

  • big pine partridge pea (Cassia keyensis)
  • pride-of-big-pine (Strumpfia maritima)

Herbaceous Plants and Vines: 

  • night scent orchid (Epidendrum nocturnum)
  • pineland clustervine (Jacquemontia curtissii)
  • tiny milkwort (Polygala smallii)

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Fauna

The rockland pinelands are home to a variety of wildlife species, including:  

Mammals 

  • bobcat (Lynx rufus)
  • cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus)
  • marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris)
  • opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
  • raccoon (Procyon lotor)
  • white-tailed deer (Odecoileus virginianus)

Birds

  • pine warbler (Dendroica pinus)
  • red-shoulder hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Reptiles

  • pygmy rattlesnake (Sisturus militarius)
  • five-lined skink (Eumeces inexpectatus)

Threatened or Endangered WildlifeFlorida panther, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Mammals:  

  • Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi)
  • mangrove fox squirrel (Sciurus niger avicennia)

Birds: 

  • red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis)

Reptiles: 

  • eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon coaris couperi)
  • Miami black-headed snake (Tantilla oolitica)

Fire Ecology

photo by Mike JacobsonFire is required for maintenance of rockland pine forests and partially controls the relative dominance of upland habitats by pinelands or hammocks. 

Fire in rockland pine forests are surface fires that consume only litter and some understory vegetation. Pine canopies are usually too open to support a crown fire. Fires usually extinguish when they reach hammock margins, but soil fires can occur in hammocks during severe droughts. 

South Florida slash pine is adapted to fire in the following ways:

  • This tree has long needles that shield vulnerable apical buds.
  • It also has a thick, insulating bark that protects the living inner bark and cambium.
  • Seedlings have thicker stems and are more fire-resistant than typical slash pine seedlings.

As the time between fires lengthens, the development of larger hardwoods and the accumulation of litter shift the balance in favor of hardwoods.  Within 2 to 3 decades of fire exclusion, rockland pinelands become tropical hammocks with a relict overstory of pines.

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