Native Plant Communities

High Pine

Community Variants: Sandhill, Clayhill, Longleaf Pine Savanna

High pine is a temperate to peninsular climate ecosystem on hilltops and gentle slopes. It is characterized by excessively drained soils (if sand, the community is sandhill; if clayey, clayhill).

High pine is a pyrophytic plant community with a natural fire frequency of 2-5 years. It typically has widely spaced longleaf pine and/or turkey oak with wiregrass understory. Absence of pines is usually due to past management, especially logging, and usually results in a sandhill dominated by xeric oaks, especially turkey oak. Fire suppression can result in a shift toward scrubby vegetation - a so-called scrubby sandhill.

Florida high pine is noted for a high level of plant endemism (found only in Florida).  Relatively few rare species are restricted to high pine.  Three that use high pine as habitat include Warea amplexifolia and pigeon wing (Clitoria fragrans) which are found in the sanshills of the central Florida ridges and zigzag silkgrass (Pityopsis flexuosa) found in the eastern panhandle.  All three are endemic.

Longleaf pine once dominated the coastal plain of the southeastern US.  Today, only 2-3 percent, usually highly disturbed, of the original exists.  Florida has most of the high-quality longleaf pine dominated forests that remain and almost all of the old growth forests.   Florida's longleaf pine florests include High Pine and relatively dry Pine Flatwoods.  The longleaf pine dominated in the Blackwater River State Forest and  on Eglin Air Force Base is the biggest High Pine example of old growth remaining.  High Pine in varying degrees of condition occur throughout North Florida and in peninsular Florida down to about Sarasota and Highlands counties.  

Good places to explore high quality High Pine are Blackwater River State Forest, Eglin Air Force Base (permit needed), Gold Head Branch State Park, Ocala National Forest, Wekiva Springs State Park, parts of the Citrus Tract of the Withlacoochee River State Forest, and near Leon Sinks in Apalachicola National Forest.  

References:

Clewell, A.F. 1986. Natural setting and vegetation of the Florida Panhandle - An account of the environments and plant communities of northern Florida west of the Suwannee River. Report No. COESAM/PDEI-86/001. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, Alabama.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 1992. Soil and Water Relationships of Florida's Ecological Communities.   http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wetlands/delineation/docs/soil-and-water.pdf.

Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI). 2010. Guide to the natural communities of Florida: 2010 edition. Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Tallahassee, FL. http://fnai.org/naturalcommguide.cfm.

Laessle, A.M. 1958. The origin and successional relationship of sandhill vegetation and sand-pine scrub. Ecological Monographs 28:361-387.

Myers, R.L. and J.J. Ewel (eds.). 1990. Ecosystems of Florida University of Central Florida Press: Orlando.

Noss, R. F. 2013.  Forgotten Grasslands of the South - Natural History and Conservation.  Island Press, Washington.

Peet, R.K., and D.J. Allard. 1993. Longleaf pine vegetation of the southern Atlantic and eastern Gulf Coast regions: a preliminary classification. Pages 45-82 in S.M. Hermann, editor. The Longleaf Pine Ecosystem: Ecology, Restoration and Management. Proceedings of the Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference, No. 23. Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida.

USDA Soil Conservation Service. 1986. 26 Ecological Communities of Florida. http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00000110/00001

Whitney, E.N., D. B. Means, A. Rudloe. 2004. Priceless Florida: Natural Ecosystems and Native Species. Pineapple Press.

Date Updated 2020-05-18 12:10:43

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Sandhill at Wekiva Springs State Park.  Photo by Shirley Denton.

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A prescribed burn in old growth sandhill.  Photo by Shirley Denton.