Flatwoods are widespread throughout Pensacola and the surrounding areas and are distinguished by their open, longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and/or slash pine (Pinus elliottii) canopy, minimal topography, and diverse groundcover. Flatwoods communities are maintained by frequent (every few years) low-intensity groundfires that promote an exceptionally diverse groundcover layer. Additionally, flatwoods have acidic, sandy soils. Many of the flatwoods in Pensacola and the surrounding areas are fire-suppressed with minimal groundcover that is shaded out due to a mid-story composed of shrubs. In areas with prolonged (several decades) fire suppression encroached woody plants may reach the canopy. Here we describe scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, and wet flatwoods.
Scrubby flatwoods are xeric, sandy soils, that are distinguished by the presence of scrub oaks including sand live oak (Quercus geminata), myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), and Chapman’s oak (Quercus chapmanii); in conjuction with an overstory of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) or slash pine (Pinus elliottii). The groundcover includes wiregrass (Aristida beyrichiana), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), gopher apple (Geobalanus oblongifolius), wicky (Kalmia hirsuta), dwarf live oak (Quercus minima) and/or runner oak (Quercus pumila).
Mesic flatwoods are mesic, sandy soils comprised of a longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) or slash pine (Pinus elliottii) canopy, and a midstory of wiregrass (Aristida beyrichiana), Florida dropseed (Sporobolus floridanus), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), shiny blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites), and wicky (Kalmia hirsuta). They are distinguished by their dominance of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) in the understory, the presence of groundcover oaks including dwarf live oak (Quercus minima) and runner oak (Quercus pumila), and the occurrence of deer tongue (Carphephorus odoratissimus).
Wet flatwoods are hydric, sandy soils with a dominant overstory of slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and scattered bay trees, including sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and swamp bay (Persea palustris). A variety of hydrophytic shrubs and groundcovers include inkberry (Ilex glabra), wiregrass (Aristida beyrichiana), Curtis' sandgrass (Calamovilfa curtissi), Chapman’s beakrush (Rhynchospora chapmanii), toothache grass (Ctenium aromaticum). Wet flatwoods are distinguished by the dominance of slash pine and hydrophytic vegetation.