The pine forest across the street beckons us. Crisp, sunny winter mornings are the perfect time to enjoy the early morning sunlight as it shines majestically through the tall trees. The forest is a mix of state park and state forest that spans miles and encompasses thousands of acres in some of Florida’s most prime real estate.
The protected land ensures that we can walk in tranquil silence hearing only the melodic sounds of rustling grasses and winter migrants. The sandy soil and shed pine needles offer a pillow-like feeling married with a soft crunch under foot.
The myriad of trails bisect one of our favorite ecosystems – the pine flatwoods. What historically was a longleaf pine habitat has been transformed by man’s desire for timber. Longleaf pine forests are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States. The slow-growing longleaf has been replaced by faster growing species such as slash and loblolly pines.
The forest bears the charred scars of fire. Fire is as vital to the trees as water and sunlight. Pine flatwoods ecosystems more than just tolerate fire they are highly dependent on it. Lightning and fire excite the forest and bring about change and natural progression.
Fire stimulates growth of young trees, releases seeds from pine cones, encourages herbaceous (grassy) vegetation and a plethora of other benefits that rejuvenate the ecosystem. Fire also sets the stage for longleaf restoration.
It’s clear to us why protection of this ecosystem is so important. Habitat destruction has plagued millions of acres and transformed the landscape forever. It is a hard fight back but persistence will pay off. Evidence of regeneration is scattered throughout the forest and young longleaf have a fighting chance.
We joy in having the forest in our backyard. It is where we go to exercise, admire, rejuvenate, and appreciate.