Coastal communities

The coastal landscape is compose of a matrix of interrelated plant communties distinguished by their proxomity to the coast. Here we describe natural uplands (beach primary dune, backdune, coastal grassland and coastal scrub) interdunal swale) and wetlands (interdunal swale and salt marsh) and a novel human created system (contruscted berms). All but communities except coastal scrub are not maintined by fire. Coatal scrub has a long fire fire interval with very intense burns that consume the canopy. Below is more information on each community type. 


Dry (xeric) sandy soils in active sand and sediment exchange with the Gulf of Mexico. Characterized by little to no vegetation and wave deposited wrack (organic matter from Gulf), though many public access beaches have wrack removed, disturbing natrual dune building processes.

Primary Dune

 Xeric sandy soils composed of  dune building grasses inluding sea oats (Uniola paniculata), bitter panicgrass (Panicum amarum), and gulf bluestem (Schizachyrium maritimum) and early pioneer species including seacoast marshelder (Iva imbricata), gulf croton (Croton punctatus), beach morning-glory (Ipomoea imperati) and seabeach evening primrose (Oenothera humifusa). Area of dune formation occuring between the beach and/or contructed berm and back dune field.

*Constructed berm 

Xeric soils of various composition, may include shells and other foreign dredge material. Few to several foot tall constructed dune line parallel to the coast running almost entirely the length of our coastline. The only berm free areas are located in areas with blowous since berm contsruction or on protected lands. Built to protect coastal infrastructure though data is inconclusive as to its efficacy. Typically planted with a monoculture of seaoats (Uniola paniculata) and sometimes passed off as "coastal restoration" though only the toughest coastal plants and urban weeds persist on this inhospitable area of little to medicore ecological value. 


Xeric sandy soils with little sand or sediment exchange landward of primary dunes. A mix of shrubby and herbaceous species including false rosemary (Conradina canescens), woody goldenrod (Chrysoma pausciflosculosa), Florida rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides), sandhill milkweed (Asclepias humistrata),  coastalplain honeycombhead (Balduina angustifolia), 

Coastal Grassland

Xeric sandy soils. Gently undulating grassland within coastal dunefields distinguished by dominance of (Schizachyrium maritimum).

Coastal Scrub

Xeric sandy soils. Closed canopy of stunted sand pine (Pinus clausa) and scrub oaks including sand live oak (Quercus geminata), myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia) and Chapmanā€™s oak (Quercus chapmanii). Midstory of beach rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides) and false rosemary (Conradina canescens) and groundcover of bare sand and lichens withing gaps of shrubs.

Interdunal Swale

Wet sandy soils of variable hydroperiods on the low points within coastal dune fields. Diverese herbacous groundcover of variable composition with mininal to moderate wetland shrubs. Species include hay cordgrass, (Spartina patens) umbrella-sedge (Fuirena scirpoidea), Flatsedge (Cyperus), yellow-eyed grass (Xyris) red-root (Lachnanthes caroliniana), and rush (Juncus). 

Salt Marsh

Hydric mucky soils, often flooded and bridging the land/salt water divide. Distinct zones (from Gulf inland) of salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus), and sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense).