Pine flatwoods represent the most extensive type of terrestrial ecosystem in Florida, covering approximately 50% of the natural land area. These forests are dominated by Southern Slash Pine (Pinus elliotti var. densa) and interspersed Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto), with an understory of mostly Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) and mixed grasses.
Pine flatwoods typically grow on low, flat land with poorly drained sandy soils, and are a fire-dependent ecosystem since regular burning is required to maintain an open plant community. Frequent fires help many plants to germinate and flower and if fire is suppressed for long periods of time oaks and palmettos will establish and crowd out the pines, eventually converting the ecosystem into a hardwood hammock.
Pine flatwoods provide important habitat for many wildlife species. Between twenty and thirty species of reptiles and amphibians may be found in these ecosystems. Mammals that use pine flatwoods include Black Bears (Ursus americanus), Florida Panthers (Puma concolor), White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Fox Squirrels (Sciurus niger), and Cottontail Rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus). Pines and palms provide nesting and foraging habitat for a number of birds such as Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus), Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (Picoides borealis), Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus), and Great-crested Flycatchers (Myiarchus crinitus).
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