photo sawgrass marsh

Sawgrass Marsh

The most extensive natural community in the management area is sawgrass marsh. The dominant species sawgrass, which reaches heights of 10 feet high or more, thrived in the low-nutrient and fluctuating water conditions of the historic Everglades. The black peat of the Everglades valued for agriculture, especially sugar cane, formed over thousands of years from decaying sawgrass and charcoal from frequent light ground fires. Today water levels in the marsh are regulated by water control structures as well as by rainfall and vary from an average of 2 feet deep at the peak of the wet season in October to below ground level at the end of the dry season in May. Sawgrass is important to ground nesting birds such as the American and least bitterns, which build elevated mound nests out of dead vegetation and use the thick growth of sawgrass for cover.

Fires every 1 to 5 years are typical and result from lightning in the late spring when the ground surface is dry, although sawgrass will carry a fire over water. When the peat dries out in extreme droughts, muck fires may consume the soil and lower the ground surface converting the sawgrass marsh to a slough.


photo tree island

Tree Islands

Tree islands comprise less than two percent of the area but are an integral part of the Everglades ecosystem. These islands vary in size from less than an acre to several hundred acres. Eighty percent of Everglades plant diversity is found on tree islands. They are also critical habitat for deer, Florida panther, bobcat, raccoon, marsh rabbit, river otter, snakes, migratory songbirds, small mammals, and butterflies, and nesting sites for wading birds, alligators, turtles, and raptors. Dominant species are maple, dahoon holly, wax myrtle, elderberry, and willow.

FWC Facts:
Like all North American terns, the least tern has long, pointed wings and a deeply forked tail. It is the smallest of Florida's terns.

Learn More at AskFWC