dry prairie
Dry prairie

Dry Prairie

Dry prairie is a fast disappearing community occurring only in central Florida. "Dry" prairie does not describe a permanent condition: portions of "dry" prairies are often "wet." During the summer rainy season, standing water may drain as overland sheet flow, and even in the winter during El Nino years, dry prairies may be wet for a month or more. Dry prairies are dry only in relation to marshes, the other major treeless community in central Florida.

Dry prairies often share soil types, topography, and hydrologic regimes with neighboring mesic flatwoods. Their distinguishing characteristic is absence of trees, most likely the result of more intense and more frequent fires historically caused by lightning.

mesic flatwoods
Mesic flatwoods

Central Florida has more thunderstorm days and lightning strikes than any place in the United States. The largest, most intense burns historically occurred in late spring and early summer when conditions were relatively dry and fuel abundant. Fires later in the summer were probably smaller and less intense because of wetter conditions. In frequently burned dry prairies, the understory is diverse although wiregrass, sparse stunted palmetto, and low-growing runner oak commonly dominate.


Mesic Flatwoods

Open overstory of longleaf or slash pine; understory of low saw palmetto and gallberry, fetterbush and wax myrtle, grasses include wiregrass and various bluestems.


prairie hammock
Prairie hammock

Prairie Hammock

Occurs along the edges of the three lakes on dunes formed by wind and water. Live oak and cabbage palm dominate the overstories of prairie hammocks; understories are either absent or consist of scattered clumps to dense stands of saw palmetto. Extensive areas of sparser oaks link hammocks and form a more or less continuous band around the lakes.








Ephemeral Ponds and Depression Marshes

depression marshes
Depression marshes

Found primarily within prairies, depression marshes have groundwater at or above the surface during 6 months or more throughout the year. Marshes are found along the margins of the three lakes. The most extensive marsh is at the south end of Lake Jackson. Small marshes are also found within natural and man-made depressions. Maidencane, St. Johns wort, and sand cordgrass are the dominant marsh plants.

cypress dome with rainbow
Cypress Domes and Strands


Cypress Domes and Strands

Occurring in the wettest areas within the flatwoods; swamps form domes in circular depressions and strands in linear depressions (sloughs). Epiphytes are common, and aquatic plants include arrrowhead, pickerelweed, and floating hearts.





Scrub communities occur on well-drained soils on higher elevations in two areas: between the Florida Turnpike and Hwy 441 and along major drainageways between Lakes Marian and Kissimmee. Overstory trees are sparse or absent in xeric oak scrub and palmetto scrub, whereas the sand pine scrub has a dense sand pine canopy. In 1995, a small population of the threatened Florida scrub-jay was discovered on Three Lakes.

FWC Facts:
The oystercatcher is one of the largest and heaviest of Florida's shorebirds. It is striking in appearance: dark brown, black and white, with a bright red bill.

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