Sunday, May 31, 2009

ocala national forest part 2

This ecosystem happens to be one of my personal favorites, and has been for some time now.  Yet, it is highly endangered due to fire suppression, over grazing, urban sprawl, and timbering.  It is actually one of the most endangered ecosystems on Earth.  Florida is a very unique place not only for the Everglades in the Southern portion of the state, but also because of these Longleaf pine sandhills, which were once very prevalent in North/Central Florida.  These communities have been reduced to 3% of their original range.
Sandhills occur on hilltops and slopes of gently rolling hills of sand.  The soil is very sandy, dry, and nutrient poor.  These soils are composed of deep, marine deposited yellowish sand which is well drained and relatively sterile.  The leached nutrients are brought back to the surface by the burrowing habits of some animals.  Fires is a dominant factor in the ecology of this community.  They are a fire climax community, being dependent on frequent low-intensity ground fires to reduce hardwood competition and to perpetuate pines and grasses dominant in these habitats.  The dominant plant species in this community are dependent on fire every 2-8 years to induce flowering, such as in wire grass (Aristida stricta).  Without frequent fires, sandhills may eventually succeed to xeric hammock (dry, hardwood forests), and dominated by turkey oak (Quercus laevis).

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) Sandhill ecosystem

Longleaf pine Sandhill

Stylisma abdita (Showy dawn flower), Convolvulaceae (Morning glory Family)
This plant is extremely difficult to see if not in flower due to its thin, inconspicuous leaves.  It is also extremely rare due to habitat destruction.

Stillingia sylvatica (Queen's delight)

Croton argyranthemus (Healing croton)
*This plant exudes a clearish/yellow sap which can be used as an antiseptic on wounds.

Yucca flaccida (Adam's needle)

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