Pine Flatwoods and dry prairies

😂By Karina Espada😂

Where is a pine flatwood located

Pine flatwoods are the "high and dry" ecosystem in Southwest Florida, referring to their relatively high elevation and the fact that these systems are less likely to be inundated than other area ecosystems.

What is it like in a pine flatwood area

The most extensive terrestrial ecosystem in Florida is the pine flatwoods. This community evolved under frequent lightning and human-caused fire, and seasonal drought and flooded soil conditions.ABIOTIC FACTORS: Natural fires tend to maintain relatively stable stands of pine flatwoods and dry prairies Pine flatwoods are characterized by:

  • low, flat topography
  • relatively poorly drained, acidic, sandy soil
  • and in the past, by open pine woodlands with frequent fires.

What is a dry prairie

Dry prairie is a natural plant community of low shrubs and grasses occupying vast, level expanses of land. This community type is unique to Florida and is restricted to three major areas north and west of Lake Okeechobee. Dry prairies are notable for their lack of trees, although they are otherwise similar to pine flatwoods communities.

What plants are located in the pine flatwoods

Herbaceous Plants

These plants provide appreciable cover only when fire is frequent)

  • wiregrass
  • beard grasses
  • white topped aster
  • Catesby's lily

Minor or Infrequent Hardwoods

  • live oak
  • water oak
  • sweet gum
  • red maple
  • ash

Understory Shrubs

  • saw palmetto
  • gallberry
  • fetterbush
  • wax myrtle
  • dwarf live oak
  • tarflower
  • blueberries / heath

Pine flatwoods are characterized by:

  • an open overstory of pines
  • an extensive shrub layer
  • and a variable and often sparse herbaceous layer

Four Dominant Trees Characteristic of Flatwoods

  • slash pine
  • south Florida slash pine
  • pond pine
  • longleaf pine


  • bobcat
  • fox squirrel
  • gray fox
  • armadillo
  • eastern cottontail rabbit
  • cotton rat
  • white-tailed deer
  • skunk
  • raccoon
  • opossum


  • red-shouldered hawk
  • Bachman's sparrow
  • Bobwhite quail
  • brown-headed nuthatch
  • meadowlark
  • piliated woodpecker
  • pine warbler
  • red-bellied woodpecker
  • rufus-sided towhee
  • yellow-throated warbler


  • eastern diamondback rattlesnake
  • pygmy rattlesnake
  • yellow rattlesnake



  • Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus)
  • Florida panther (Felix concolor coryi)


  • Southeastern kestrel (Falco sparverius paulus)
  • red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis)
  • Florida sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pratensis)
  • bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) (currently off the list)


  • eastern indigo snake (Drymarshon corais couperi)

Florida Ecosystems & their Endangered Animals: Wildlife Matters by Nature Wise

Soil type

Typical flatwoods soils are moderate to poorly drained, fine sands which:

  • are generally acidic and have low reserves of available nutrients
  • have low organic matter content
  • have low clay content (often less than 2%)
  • contain a spodic (organic) horizon: formed when organic matter is translocated downward by water percolation

Clay hardpans may result from transport and accumulation of clays. Many of the soils supporting flatwoods are spodosols but much variation exists


Rainy Season - minimal water runoff results in waterlogged and poorly aerated (not exposed to air) soils during the rainy season and there may be standing water for varying periods of time.

Dry season

Dry Season - high evapotranspiration draws much water from upper soil horizons. Water often cannot move upward from lower horizons where there is an impermeable hardpan - therefore, droughty conditions result.


SUBSTRATE: Relatively poorly drained, acidic, sandy soils.


VEGETATION: Pine flatwoods—overstory of longleaf, slash, or pond pine dominates; shrub understory contains species such as saw palmetto, wax myrtle, gallberry, and wiregrass. Dry prairies—similar to pine flatwoods but lacking pine overstory.


Flatwoods and dry prairies combine to produce the most extensive type of major terrestial ecosystem in Florida; they are now being converted to many uses, including agriculture, pasture for livestock, and urbanization; alteration of natural fire regimes can cause major changes in species composition, even when not accompanied by land-use conversions.

Pileated woodpecker classification

Scientific classification







Species:D. pileatus