Dry Prairie

Florida dry prairie is a natural landscape that is endemic (Fitzgerald and Tanner 1992, Bridges 1997) to the state, with no similar communities found in adjacent states. It is geographically restricted to the interior of central, southcentral and west-central peninsular Florida. Dry prairie is often (but not exclusively) found on the same soil series, topographic positions, and moisture regimes as mesic flatwoods, with dry prairie being the essentially treeless endpoint of a continuum of variation in canopy cover across pine flatwoods landscapes in central Florida. Extensive areas of dry prairie vegetation once occurred in the Gulf coastal lowlands, Atlantic coastal lowlands, and intermediate coastal lowlands physiographic regions of peninsular Florida, as defined by Schmidt (1997). Within the Gulf coastal lowlands physiographic region, extensive areas of dry prairie occurred on the Desoto Plain (in most of Desoto, southern Hardee, western Highlands, northeastern Charlotte, southern Manatee, and part of Glades counties) and within the Gulf coastal lowlands (in parts of Sarasota and southern Manatee counties). In the Atlantic coastal lowlands, prairie occurred on the Osceola Plain (in parts of Okeechobee, northern Highlands, southeastern Polk, and Osceola counties), and perhaps in the Eastern Valley (in parts of St. Lucie, Indian River, Brevard, and Volusia counties). Prairie also occurred on the intermediate coastal lowlands on the Okeechobee Plain (in northeastern Glades, southeastern Highlands, and southwestern Okeechobee counties) and the Immokalee Rise (in part of Hendry County and northern Collier County [Harper 1927]).

In each of these Florida physiographic regions, dry prairie occurs on nearly level, poorly to somewhat poorly drained, interdrainage flatlands above major river/stream floodplain valleys. Typically, the flatlands characteristic of the Osceola Plain are dotted with numerous small shallow depressions (with ephemeral ponds and marshes), but have very few surface drainage features. Developed on flat plains, the dry prairies at Avon Park AFR are generally below the 19.6 m (65 ft) contour (Bridges 1998b). It is unclear why the dry prairie landscape at Avon Park AFR is lower in elevation than the other landscape associations on the Osceola Plain at this site, but it seems to be correlated with the proximity of major drainages such as Arbuckle Creek, Arbuckle Marsh, and the Kissimmee River (Bridges 1998b). At Myakka State Park, in Sarasota and Manatee counties, dry prairie occurs from 10.7 to 12.2 m (35 to 40 ft) in elevation (Fitzgerald and Tanner 1992). Dry prairies centered on Desoto and Glades counties on the Desoto Plain are above 12.7 m (42 ft) in elevation (Davis 1943, Harper 1927).

Taken from: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1999. South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan.   Atlanta, Georgia. Pp.3:284-285.

Listed Species Occurring in Dry Prairie Habitat

  • Florida Panther
  • Bald Eagle
  • Florida Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Eastern Indigo Snake
  • Audubon's Crested Caracara