Native Plant Communities

Marl Prairie

Synonyms: Everglades, Wetland Glades

Marl Prairie is found is subtropical peninsular Florida.  Marl prairie is characterized by a marl over limestone substrate,  It is seasonally inundated with a 2-4 month hydroperiod (FNAI 2010 and Duever et al. 1986).  The water has little to no perceived flow, but it does move gradually toward the coast and toward the deeper marshes and sloughs.     It has been described as having frequent to no fire with frequent fire likely being the norm.

Marl prairie may contain over 100 species, but most of the plant cover typically comes from only two or three dominant species which vary based on local hydrology. Dominants typicall include one or more of the following: Gulf hairawn muhly,  spreading beaksedge, Florida little bluestem, black bogrush, Elliott’s lovegrass, sand cordgrass, and sawgrass.  In the Big Cypress region, scattered, stunted/hatracked pond cypress is typeically present in the marl prairie (USDA 1986 describes this a "scrub cypress").  For detailed species lists, see FNAI 2010 and  Duever et al. 1986.

One rare South Florida endemic species, few-flowered fingergrass (Digitaria pauciflora) is known from two sites of marl prairie. . Other rare  endemics tinclude meadow jointvetch (Aeschynomene pratensis), narrow-leaved Carolina scalystem (Elytraria caroliniensis var. angustifolia), and Carter’s large-flowered flax (Linum carteri var. smallii) (FNAI 2010). The dwarf cypress supports epiphytes, some of which are rare.  The most iconic photos of cowhorn orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) were of a plant on a dwarf cypress stump which is now gone.

Good examples of Marl Prairie can be found in the Everglades National Park and in parts of the Big Cypress National Preserve and Fakahatchee Strand State Park.


Duever, M. J., J E Carlson, J. F. Meeder, L. C. Duever, L. H. Guderson, L. A. Riopelle, T. R. Alexander, R. L. Myers, and D. P. Spangler.  1986.  The Big Cypress National Preserve.  Research Report 8, National Audubon Society.

Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI). 2010. Guide to the natural communities of Florida: 2010 edition. Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Tallahassee, FL. (especially the section on marl prairie,

Knight, G. R., J. B. Oetting, and L. Cross.  2011.  Atlas of Florida's Natural Heritage - Biodiversity, Landscapes, Stewardship and Opportunities:  Institute of Science and Public Affairs, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL.

Gann, G.D., K.A. Bradley, and S.W. Woodmansee. 2009. Floristic Inventory of South Florida Database. Institute for Regional Conservation.

Gleason, P. 1972. The origin, sedimentation, and stratigraphy of a calcitic mud located in the southern fresh-water Everglades. Ph.D. Dissertation. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Gunderson, L. H. 1994. Vegetation of the Everglades: determinants of community composition. p. 323–340. In S. M. Davis and J. C. Ogden (eds.) Everglades, the Ecosystem and its Restoration. St. Lucie Press, Delray Beach, FL

Gunderson, L. H. and J. R. Snyder. 1994. Fire patterns in the southern Everglades. p. 291–305. In S. M. Davis and J. C. Ogden (eds.) Everglades, the Ecosystem and its Restoration. St. Lucie Press, Delray Beach, FL.

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.

USDA Soil Conservation Service. 1986. 26 Ecological Communities of Florida.

USFWS.  1999.  Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida.

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

Wikipedia.  undated.  Marl prairie.

Date Updated 2020-05-18 11:46:51


Marl prairie in Everglades National Park, Miami-Dade County. Photograph taken on FNPS field trip at 2000 conference by Shirley Denton.


Exposed limestone.  Everglades National Park.