As historian David McCully writes in The Everglades, "Although the surface of south Florida appears monotonously flat to the casual eye, it represents a complex of lilliputian valleys and plateaus to water." These differences in combination with variations in underlying rock and natural fire regimes created a diversity of natural communities within the Everglades ecosystem.

Missy Juntunen

In geologic terms, the Everglades is young, only having formed within the last 5000 years. Rich black soil began forming and accumulating wherever sawgrass became the dominant vegetation. The black color is a product of the charcoal created by frequent lightning-caused fires.


See  Major Natural Communities.



Tree Island
Betsy Purdum
Uniform silhouette indicates tree island
invaded by Brazilian Pepper

tree island restored
Betsy Purdum
Restored tree island

"Currently, the metaphor 'river of grass' and the image of vast stands of saw grass that this metaphor suggests represent the historic Everglades in the minds of most Americans. The dominance of this metaphor is unfortunate and hinders restoration of the complex wetlands system it so imperfectly describes." 
Historian David McCally

The tree islands north of I-75 were damaged during past droughts, when catastrophic wildfires burned native vegetation. Exotic plants, particularly Brazilian pepper, then invaded the sites. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is restoring many of these damaged tree islands by implementing a prescribed burning program to reduce fuel loading around the tree islands to minimize wildfire damage.  The tree islands are also surveyed and treated for exotic vegetation and then planted with native plants. Dahoon holly, sweet bay, elderberry, red maple, pop ash, cocoplum, wild coffee and firebush are among some of the species planted in the interior. Carolina willows and pond apples are planted around the edges of tree islands. The FWC is also providing the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District with hydroperiod recommendations to protect tree islands in the future from excessive floods and droughts.

FWC Facts:
The Wall Street Journal has ranked the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival of Brevard County as the third-best birding festival in the United States.

Learn More at AskFWC