Scrub

scrub jay, Enchanted Forest Nature Sanctuary, Brevard CountyScrub or sand pine scrub ecosystems occur on well-drained sandy soils and are dominated by a layer of evergreen oaks, Florida rosemary, or both, with or without a pine overstory.

Throughout its range, scrub ecosystems exhibit widely differing structures and species composition depending on soil characteristics, fire history and geographic location. For this reason, there are a number of scrub types: sand pine scrub, oak scrub, scrubby flatwoods, rosemary scrub, coastal scrub, and slash pine scrub.

fire in scrub community, Enchanted Forest Nature Sanctuary, Brevard CountyWith the exception of coastal scrubs, where coastal storms influence the vegetation structure and composition, fire is the key to maintaining the scrub community. More frequent fires support oak scrub and scrubby flatwoods, while a longer period between fires maintains sand pine scrub. A fire return interval of more than 100 years may lead to xeric (dry) hardwood hammocks.

Today, scrubs occur as fragmented relicts that are isolated from a once larger landscape that readily burned. The maintenance of scrub in preserves will require judicious application of prescribed fire. Despite successful fire management programs, some unique scrub species may be lost due to habitat size constraints.

Visit the Discovering Florida Scrub Web site for more information about Florida's scrub ecosystem.

Vegetation

The vegetation of the scrub ecosystem is typically an even-aged overstory of sand pine trees with a dense understory of oaks, saw palmetto, and other shrubs. In other cases sand pines are scattered or absent, with oaks being the dominant vegetation.

Most of the rare endemic vegetation of Florida is associated with scrubs scattered along the central ridges of the Florida peninsula.

Endemic Shrubs Unique to Scrub Ecosystems:

  • scrub holly (Ilex opaca var. arenicola)
  • silk bay (Persea humilis)
  • garberia (Garberia heterophylla)
  • palafoxia (Palafoxia feoyi)
  • wild olive(Osmanthus megacarpa)

Other Shrubs:

  • myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia)
  • sand live oak (Q. geminata)
  • Chapman's oak (Q. chapmanii)
  • Florida rosemary (Ceratoila ericoides)
  • rusty lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea)
  • saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)

Overstory:

The primary diagnostic element of Florida's scrub ecosystems is:

  • sand pine (Pinus clausa)

Sand pine is restricted to well-drained sandy ridges that burn infrequently. Two varieties of sand pine have been recognized:

  • 1. peninsular Ocala sand pine (Pinus clausa var. clausa)
  • 2. Choctawhatchee sand pine of the Panhandle (Pinus clausa var. immuginata)

The primary distinguishing characteristic between the two is that the Ocala variety is predominantly serotinous (closed cones) and the Choctawhatchee variety is predominantly nonserotinous (open cones).

For more information on these and other trees and shrubs, visit our Trees of Florida page.

Threatened or Endangered Plants

Shrubs:

  • four-petal pawpaw (Asimina tetramera)
  • pigmy fringetree (Chionanthus pygmaea)

Herbaceous Plants and Vines:

  • Curtis milkweed (Asclepias curtissii)
  • dancing-lady orchid (Ocidium variegatum)

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Fauna

Animals found in scrub ecosystems are adapted to high temperatures and droughty conditions. Wildlife food production is typically low and dense vegetation provides good escape cover for animals such as white-tailed deer. Saw palmetto and oaks provide sufficient food when they are fruiting.

Animals typically found in scrub ecosystems include:

Mammals:

  • florida mouse (Peromyscus floridanus)
  • white-tailed deer (Odecoileus virginianus)

scrub jay, Enchanted Forest Nature Sanctuary, Brevard CountyBirds:

  • towhee (Pipilo erthrophthalmus)
  • great-crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crintus)
  • scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens coerulescens)
  • Bachman's sparrow (Aimophila aestivalis)

Reptiles:

  • black racer (Caluber constrictor)
  • gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)
  • scrub lizard (Sceloporus woodi)
  • sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi)

Amphibians:

  • gopher frog (Rana areolata aesopus)

Threatened or Endangered Wildlife

Mammals:

  • Florida mouse (Peromyscus floridanus)
  • Goff's pocket gopher (Geomys pinetis goffi)

Birds:

  • Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens coerulescens)

Reptiles:

  • blue-tailed mole skink (Eumeces egregius lividus)
  • sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi)
  • short-tailed snake (Stilosome extenuatum)

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Soils

Practically all scrub soils are entisols derived from quartz sand. These soils are excessively well-drained and practically devoid of silt, clay and organic matter, thus low in nutrients.

The least productive of scrub soils may support a "rosemary scrub" community, which is characterized by a shrub layer of Florida rosemary with a widely scattered sand pine overstory. More productive scrub communities on soils derived from the same parent material as sandhills or high pine.

For more information on soils, visit our Soils page.

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