Scrub areas usually have a heavy growth of sand pine and a thick undergrowth of bushes, mostly small oaks. Scrub areas dry out quickly after rainfall because of their deep, sandy soils, and become very hot. Conditions are therefore similar to a desert much of the time, so most of the plants have small, tough leaves to conserve water, or they are without leaves as in the case of native cactus.
Scrubs are maintained by severe fires that burn them to the ground every 20 to 60 years. Pines then grow up from seeds and oak shrubs resprout from their undamaged roots. Animals living in our scrub, such as scrub jays, gopher tortoises, and scrub lizards, are similar to those we find in western deserts. In ancient times, deserts must have extended across the country but in recent geological times Florida’s scrubs were cut off, so Florida’s scrub species are different from their western relatives.
Some of Florida’s rarest plants and animals live only in scrubs and only in Florida. Also, Scrub areas are often “recharge areas” where rainfall can refill underground aquifers from which we get most of our drinking water. For this reason alone our scrubs deserve protection.