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Sandhill - (synonyms: longleaf pine - turkey oak, longleaf pine - xerophytic oak, longleaf
pine - deciduous oak, high pine).

Sandhills are characterized as a forest of widely spaced pine trees with a sparse understory of deciduous oaks and a fairly dense ground cover of grasses and herbs on rolling hills of sand. The most typical associations are dominated by longleaf pine, turkey oak, and wiregrass. Other typical plants include bluejack oak, sand post oak, sparkleberry, persimmon, winged sumac, pinewoods dropseed, Indian grass, wild buckwheat, queen's delight, yellow foxglove, bracken fern, runner oak, goats rue, partridge pea, milk pea, dollarweeds, wild indigo, gopher apple, and golden-aster. Typical animals include tiger salamander, barking treefrog, spadefoot toad, gopher frog, gopher tortoise, worm lizard, fence lizard, mole skink, indigo snake, coachwhip snake, pine snake, short-tailed snake, crowned snake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, bobwhite, ground dove, red-headed woodpecker, rufous-sided towhee, fox squirrel and pocket gopher.

Sandhills occur on hilltops and slopes of gently rolling hills. Their soils are composed of
deep, marine-deposited, yellowish sands that are well-drained and relatively sterile. The easily leached soil nutrients are brought back to the surface by the burrowing habits of some sandhill animals. Sandhills are important aquifer recharge areas because the porous sands allow water to move rapidly through with little runoff and minimal evaporation. The deep sandy soils help create a xeric environment that is accentuated by the scattered overstory, which allows more sunlight to penetrate and warm the ground. The absence of a closed canopy also allows Sandhills to cool more rapidly at night and to retain less air moisture. Thus, temperature and humidity fluctuations are generally greater in Sandhills than in nearby closed canopy forests.

Fire is a dominant factor in the ecology of this community. Sandhills are a fire climax
community, being dependent on frequent ground fires to reduce hardwood competition and to perpetuate pines and grasses. The natural fire frequency appears to be every 2 to 5 years. Without frequent fires, Sandhills may eventually succeed to Xeric Hammock. Unburned or cutover Sandhills may be dominated by turkey oak.

Sandhills are often associated with and grade into Scrub, Scrubby Flatwoods, Mesic Flatwoods, Upland Pine Forest, or Xeric Hammock. Sandhills were widespread throughout the Coastal Plain, but most have been degraded by timbering, overgrazing, plowing, fire exclusion, and other disturbances. Much of Florida's Sandhill communities have been converted to citrus groves, pastures, pine plantations, or residential and commercial developments. Thus, the importance of properly managing the remaining tracts is accentuated.

  • 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