Dry prairie is a fast disappearing community
occuring 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
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
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.
Open overstory of longleaf or slash pine;
understory of low saw palmetto and gallberry, fetterbush and wax
myrtle, grasses include wiregrass and various bluestems.
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
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 Domes and Strands
Domes and Strands
Occuring 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.