South Florida Slash Pine - Florida Trees


South Florida Slash Pine

The dominant pine tree of the Everglades

 

 

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South Florida Slash Pine

The South Florida Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa), also called Caribbean or Dade County pines, are the dominant pine species of the Florida Everglades

They grow on the highest points in the Everglades (highest point is 8 feet above sea level) they are rooted in tiny cracks and crevices of the underlying limestone ridges with its thin layer of soil.

Thus uneven, karst terrain is pocked with numerous solution holes. The hollows were created by hard, frequent rains dissolving the porous limestone rock. Technically, this is known as a rocklands environment.

The trees are able to grow in such harsh conditions by setting their roots on a key, a Florida term for both hammocks and pinelands where the limestone rock rises above the surrounding wetlands. The pinelands have some of the highest and driest elevation in the park: three to seven feet above sea level.

Slash pines also require very little soil. In many places, the pines are rooted in the potholes that pock the limestone bedrock. Not much space for most trees, but these openings hold a rich combination of peat and marl.

Pinelands gradually evolve into a hardwood hammock if the area is not periodically burned. Young pine seedlings require plenty of sun to grow, and an unchecked understory of hardwoods will shade them out. Slash pines are a fire tolerant species, with a layered bark that helps protect it from flames.

Controlled burning, which removes young hardwoods, leaves the pines sooty but undamaged. The Park Service has used fire since the 1950s to sustain the pinelands.

The Indians practiced the first fire management. They burned the pinelands to ensure that hardwoods did not replace the saw palmetto, which was important in their diet. The palmetto’s starchy roots provided their source of flour.

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