publications > paper > PP 1011 > ecosystems > freshwater and terrestrial > palmetto and dry prairies
Ecosystems of south Florida
Freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems
Palmetto and dry prairies
Palmetto and dry prairies occur on relatively high, well-drained, sandy soil that is seldom flooded. Depressions or potholes are common, and these hold water seasonally. Characteristic plants are saw palmetto, beardgrass, gallberry, wiregrass, and carpetgrass. Pine trees and cabbage palms are sometimes widely scattered. However, cabbage-palm hammocks occur where sands are underlain by calcareous materials that tend to make soils neutral or alkaline. Cabbage palms are not common in acidic sandy soil (Davis, 1943).
Animals of the palmetto and dry prairies are similar to those of the pine lands. A few notable exceptions specifically characteristic of the dry prairies are the Florida burrowing owl, Audubon's caracara, and the Florida grasshopper sparrow (Rodgers and Crowder, 1974).
Palmetto and dry prairies are used as pasture and farmland and more recently for residential development. About 50 percent of these systems have been destroyed (Birnhak and Crowder, 1974). Although the vegetational features of the flatlands are still recognizable, as described by Davis (1943), they are frequently marked by levees and drainage ditches, farm and pasture land, and citrus groves (Alexander and Crook, 1973). Exotic plants are a threat to the remaining dry prairie system. Cajeput, in particular, is invading the Eastern and Western Flatlands (fig. 14), encroaching into dry prairies as well as the associated pine forests, marshes, and swamps (Alexander and Crook, 1973).
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:04 PM (KP)