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Marsh Lake

Flatwoods/Prairie/Marsh Lake - (synonyms: Flatwoods pond, ephemeral pond, grass
pond, St. John's wort pond, freshwater lake, pineland depression, swale, prairie pond).

The distinctions between these communities, and from Depression Marsh, are often quite subtle, because of their successional interrelationships. Depression Marsh is characterized as a shallow, generally round or elliptical depression vegetated with concentric bands of hydrophytic herbaceous plants. Depending upon the depth and slope of the depression, an open water zone with or without floating plants may occur at the center. The open water zone is considered to be a Marsh Lake if it is small in comparison to the surrounding marsh. Otherwise, the system is considered to be a Flatwoods Lake or a Prairie Lake, depending upon the surrounding community.

Both Flatwoods Lake and Prairie Lake are surrounded by either a sparse, Wet Prairie-like zone or a dense ring of saw palmetto and other shrubs. Typical plants include spikerush, yelloweyed grasses, St. John's wort, chain fern, coastal plain willow, maidencane, wax myrtle, water primrose, floating heart, buttonbush, fire flag, pickerelweed, arrowhead, bladderworts, bottlebrush threeawn, toothache grass, star rush, bulrushes, sawgrass, and nut sedge. Many animals utilize marshes primarily for feeding and breeding areas but spend most of their time in other habitats. Other animals are more dependent on marshes, spending most of their time within them. Typical animals include amphiuma, lesser siren, greater siren, cricket frog, green treefrog, bullfrog, pig frog, leopard frog, alligator, eastern mud snake, banded water snake, green water snake, striped crayfish snake, black swamp snake, American bittern, least bittern, great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, little blue heron, tricolored heron, green-backed heron, black-crowned night-heron, white ibis, glossy ibis, bald eagle, northern harrier, king rail, Virginia rail, sora, limpkin, long-billed marsh wren, yellowthroat, red-winged blackbird, boat- tailed grackle, and Florida water rat.

The depressions in which these communities develop are typically formed by one of two
geological processes: (1) solution holes form in the underlying limestone, causing surface sands to slump into a circular depression; or (2) during higher sea levels, offshore currents, waves, and winds scoured depressions that became seasonally or permanently inundated after the seas regressed. Soils in these depressions generally consist of acidic sands with some peat and occasionally a clay lens. Water is derived mostly from runoff from the immediately surrounding uplands. These NC's function as aquifer recharge areas by acting as reservoirs which release groundwater when adjacent water tables drop during drought periods. Water generally remains throughout the year in a Flatwoods/Prairie Lake or a Marsh Lake, although water levels may fluctuate substantially.

  • Source: Florida Natural Areas Inventory and Florida Dept. of Natural Resources. 1990. Guide to the natural communities of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory and Florida Dept. of Natural Resources, Tallahassee, FL. iv, 111 p.

Copyright 2000-2009, Ordway-Swisher Biological Station
Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, University of Florida
 Gainesville, FL 32611