A Walk along a Longleaf Pine Trail
If you haven’t explored the Longleaf Ecology and Forestry Society’s (LEAFS) trails in eastern Alachua County near Waldo consider doing so next time you are in the area. This private demonstration project has been designed to show small private landowners (100 acres or less) how to “harmoniously and profitably” restore and sustain a longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) habitat using fire, selective harvesting, and replanting of desired species. Once reestablished, the habitat can be “maintained and utilized for the production of forestry products (LEAFS brochure).” Fire is a major part of the restoration efforts, and it is used in ways that mimic how these habitats would have naturally burned prior to human intervention. LEAFS proposes a sensible balance for sustaining conservation lands without stripping owners of value and income from their properties.
|Vanillaleaf (Carphephorus spp)|
My husband Paul and I and our neighbor Joni Ellis recently strolled through the short (1/2 mile) self-guided interpretive trail off County Road 1471 just northeast of Highway 301. Although it was obvious that Florida is suffering severe drought conditions, we enjoyed identifying late fall seed heads and finding the occasional flower still in bloom. We saw ghostly patches of goldenrods (Solidago spp), blazing start (Liatris spp), deer tongue and vanillaleaf plant (Carphephorus paniculatas and C. odaratissimus), and silk grass (Pityopsis graminilfolia), as well as graceful Andropogon species swaying in the breeze and floating seeds into the midday sun. Some gallberries (Ilex glabra) remained on the bushes awaiting the interest of a passing animal or birds. We did not see much wildlife although several nut hatches called to us from atop the pine trees.
|Young longleaf pines don't produce|
branches until they are taller. This way
they have more fire resistance.
Unfortunately, the usefulness of the Pinus palustris contributed to the demise of hundreds of thousands of acres of arresting habit. Fortunately, many state and private organizations are attempting to reestablish these native environments. LEAFS is doing so in practical ways that allow owners as well ecosystems to benefit. For more information about LEAFS go to http://longleafs.info/. The LEAFS tracts, each of about 90 acres, are located in northeastern Alachua County, Florida, on County Road 1471. The nearest town is Waldo, midway between Starke and Gainesville. The turnoff onto County Road 1471 from U. S. Highway 301 is about 2 1/2 miles southeast of Waldo.
Eleanor K. Sommer
Paynes Prairie Chapter