About the Pine Ridge Trail
The Pine Ridge Preserve at Bok Tower Gardens is a longleaf pine-turkey oak habitat. This type of habitat once covered millions of acres of the Southeastern United States. The longleaf pine forest is now in danger of disappearing. Fortunately, we have been able to preserve a small portion of this habitat.
What makes this habitat so unique?
Bok Tower Gardens is located on the Lake Wales Ridge, 298 feet above sea level. In ancient times when ocean levels were higher, the Lake Wales Ridge was above water and formed a chain of islands. Many plants and animals unique to the Ridge evolved on these ancient islands. The upland habitat of the Lake Wales Ridge has many rare plant species found nowhere else in the world. Nineteen species are on the federal endangered list. Many of these rare plants are grown in our Endangered Plant Garden.
A Delicate Ecosystem Dependent on Fire
Katrina Noland, land steward, discusses the necessity of prescribed fire on the Pine Ridge Preserve.
The Preserve is an upland savanna-like ecosystem typified by an overstory of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and a dense ground cover of perennial grasses, primarily wiregrass (Aristida stricta). The plants and animals have adapted to and depend on periodic fires to exist.
In earlier times, lightning-induced fires could burn thousands of acres before being stopped by natural barriers such as lakes, streams or swamps. Today, there are barriers such as roads, cities and agricultural lands that prevent naturally occurring fires from spreading widely. Without fire, the pinelands are invaded by evergreen oaks that eventually shade out and kill the sun-loving sand hill plants.
Bok Tower Gardens has developed a burn program to maintain the habitat. By timing the fire and knowing the variables that may affect it (humidity, wind, ground moisture and vegetation), a burn prescription helps predict how the fire will behave. Prescribed fires simulate the natural cycles that prevailed before man.
Bok Tower Gardens’ prescribed fire management plan for the Pine Ridge Preserve ensures the survival of this fascinating, diverse community. The more we understand natural habitats, the better insight we have into how to protect and preserve their natural diversity.
On Your Next Visit
During your next visit to Bok Tower Gardens don’t miss these interesting points of interest on the Pine Ridge Nature Trail.
After crossing the road, you enter a forest that is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Once covering 60 million acres in the prehistoric South, sandhill forests have been reduced by 98 percent. The dominant tree species of the sandhill are the longleaf pine and the turkey oak (Quercus laevis).
Kissimmee River Plain
Looking out east over the orange groves that surround this sandhill habitat you’ll see Lake Pierce in the distance. The waters of this area flow to the Kissimmee River and on to the Everglades.
Enjoy a grand view of the countryside. The majestic snag was planted as a raptor perch, and visitors often can see a raptor searching for prey. This 27-acre tract of land is currently being restored to its native sandhill forest state through grant funding.