Flatwoods, dominated by longleaf pines, slash pines, and low-growing saw palmettos, are more common in Florida than any other plant community. Flatwoods usually contain 50 to 75 species of plants per acre. They are often interrupted by cypress swamps and hardwood hammocks. The majority of Florida’s wildlife that live in swamps and hammocks also use Flatwoods at least part of the year.
Flatwoods often are temporarily flooded by summer rains. Lightning normally starts low-burning fires every few years during the spring and summer season; the fires quickly burn through and the ash fertilizes new growth. Pines are spared because of their thick bark; shrubs and herbs resprout from their roots. Most native animals know how to avoid flames ant thrive on the fresh, tender plants that sprout after fires.
Fire is still used to manage
commercial pine forests, but those fires are usually started during
cooler weather. Cool weather burns encourage the growth of palmettos
and shrubs that have taken over much of the land once blanketed by
Pine Flatwoods along the lower east coast grow on rough limestone called rocklands. Very little of this habitat is left because most has been cleared and crushed for farming or house lots except in a few parks and in Everglades National Park.