Chassahowitzka - Natural Communities

"The topography…is greatly diversified, and the eye is not wearied by monotonous stretches of low lands and lonely pine forests." Hernando County Real Estate promotion, 1885

Within Chassahowitzka an extensive expanse of hardwood swamp is punctuated with creeks, marshes, scrub islands, and springs. Tidal marsh is found directly along the coast in the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Farther inland are flatwoods and sandhill interspersed with wet prairies, freshwater marshes, and cypress domes. Running north-south about 3 to 4 miles from the coast on historic sand dunes are remnants of the rare scrub community.


See  Major Natural Communities.



Plant and animal communities at Chassahowitzka WMA have been modified by past human activities. These included logging (pines, cypress, and red cedar trees), constructing associated roads and railroad trams, converting native habitats to pine plantations, pasture, and citrus groves, and suppressing fires. Through a contract with the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), the Commission mapped the current plant communities; in the future, historic plant communities will also be mapped. This information guides habitat management and restoration.

Photo of a prescribed burn
Diane Donahy

Commercial stands of planted slash and sand pines are cleared or thinned and replanted with longleaf pine seedlings. Pastures may be treated with herbicide and reseeded with native grasses and pines. When necessary, overgrown scrub habitat is first chopped and then burned. Periodic fire will replenish and maintain scrub habitat that may one day be home to the threatened scrub-jay. 

Thousands of acres of Chassahowitzka WMA are covered by hardwood swamps and forests, and punctuated by creeks, marshes, and springs. These wetlands work hard, providing flood protection and storm buffering to nearby communities; replenishing the drinking water aquifer below the land's surface; sheltering wildlife such as the Florida black bear; and providing clean, fresh water to the productive coastal marshes. To protect these functions, managers are working with the Florida Springs Initiative to locate and map springs and other sensitive wetlands and limit public access, when necessary. 

Invasive nonnative plants such as skunk vine, cogongrass, and air potato are controlled through chemical or mechanical means. Recreational hunting keeps the population of nonnative feral hogs in check. They cause great harm when they uproot plants and historical artifacts as they search for food.

FWC Facts:
Burrowing owls live as single breeding pairs or in loose colonies consisting of two or more families. Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are active during both day and night.

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