What is the Lake Wales Ridge and what makes it special?
- 1 million years ago, the ocean levels were much higher than they are today and the only land were small islands of sand. When the water levels dropped Florida was formed. The prior islands were then ridges that stood above sea level. The Lake Wales Ridge along with others is a ridge that to this day is standing and full of life with its own unique ecosystem.
- The Lake Wales Ridge is the oldest of Floridas ancient islands. It stretches 150 miles from Lake to Highlands County.
- It is home to many native plants and animals.
As shown here the ridge has unique geographical characteristics
The Florida Scrub
Florida scrub is an endangered subtropical forest ecoregion found on coastal and inland sand ridges and is characterized by a evergreen xeromorphic plant community dominated by shrubs and dwarf oaks.
Gopher Turtles dig burrows up to 10 feet deep and 30 feet long. Up to 360 different species can share the burrow.
These relic sand dunes created over thousands of years by the dynamic movements of sea, ice and wind now provide refuge for rare and endangered plants and animals. Although consisting of a variety of habitats from low and wet bayheads to high and dry sandhills, the ridge is most famous for its scrub habitat. Wildlife and plants once isolated on these islands evolved extremely unique characteristics. This forest in miniature consists of clusters of shrubs scattered between patches of open sand. The lack of canopy cover and very deep porous sands create a hot, dry, desert like habitat. Due primarily to a long period of isolation, plants and animals that live on the Ridge have developed ways to deal with their harsh environment.
Most of the vegetation in the Lake Wales Sand Ridge consists of scrub plants with thick waxy coated leaves that are drought tolerant. The leaves of the sand live oak are thick and leathery, rolled in at the edges to help retain as much water as possible during the blazing hot days of summer. Species of Opuntia, Yucca, and scrub Serenoa repens palm dot the landscape and are well adapted to the hot sun and fast draining soils.
The Saw Palmetto is endemic to the lowlands and savanna scrubs of the subtropical Southeastern United States. Saw palmetto is a fan palm, with the leaves that have a bare petiole terminating in a rounded fan of about 20 leaflets. The petiole is armed with fine, sharp teeth or spines that give the species its common name.The plant is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species such as Batrachedra decoctor, which feeds exclusively on the plant.
Florida scrubs typically are dominated by one or more of four oak species. These oaks are not trees, but shrubs, rarely exceeding 8' in height.
The blossom of the orange tree is one of the most fragrant flowers in Florida. Millions of white flowers from orange trees perfume the air in central and southern Florida during orange blossom time.
Bonamia grandiflora is a member of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), and is the only species of its genus in the continental Unitd States. This endemic scrub, with its large, attractive flower, is found only on scrub areas of central and south Florida.
The Florida sand skink is a species of lizard in the family Scincidae, the skinks. The sole member of the monotypic genus Neoseps, it is endemic to Florida in the United States.
The Florida scrub jay is one of the species of scrub jay native to North America. It is the only species of bird endemic to the U.S. state of Florida and one of only 15 species endemic to the continental United States.
The short-tailed snake is a small harmless colubrid snake. Fossorial and seldom seen, it is found only in sandy, upland parts of Florida where it is listed as Threatened and is protected by state law.
The Florida black bear is a subspecies of the American black bear that has historically ranged throughout most of Florida and southern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.