Lafayette Forest- More About Habitats
Prior to state acquisition, slash pine and some sand pine were planted in areas that were historically sandhill, mesic flatwoods and wet flatwoods communities. Within these areas of planted pine, a sparse understory of oaks, gallberry, American holly, sweetgum, staggerbush, fetterbush, wax myrtle and sparkleberry grow beneath the dense pine canopy.
The natural functions of most dome swamps were severely disturbed by logging operations. Some areas that weren’t logged contain a canopy of pond cypress with a dense understory of red maple, Carolina ash, swamp tupelo and a variety of ferns. Epiphytes include Spanish moss and Bartram’s air plant.
Ruderal areas represent natural plant communities altered by human activities such as clearing and ditch/canal construction. This includes habitats that were cleared and planted with pasture grasses or established as pine plantations. Over time, trees and shrubs such as live oak, swamp laurel oak, sweetgum, wax myrtle, gallberry and saw palmetto have become established in some of these altered areas. Today, most ruderal areas are undergoing restoration back to the native plant communities that historically occurred on the area.
Historically, depression marshes at Lafayette Forest occurred in low-lying areas within the sandhill habitats. Many of these were converted to pine plantations. The exclusion of fire allowed woody vegetation such as red maple, swamp tupelo, pond cypress, swamp laurel oak, gallberry, staggerbush and fetterbush to become established.
Some of the floodplain swamp growing along the small stream that bisects Lafayette Forest escaped the logging activity that occurred on site. These areas contain red maple, swamp tupelo, slash pine, pond cypress, Carolina ash and swamp laurel oak. Growing beneath this canopy are shrubs such as dahoon holly and wax myrtle and a sparse herbaceous layer of sedges and lizard’s tail.