Story and Photographs by Paul Marcellini
When most people imagine the Everglades, they probably picture large swaths of grass or some deep dark swamp loaded with alligators. In reality, it is a very complex ecosystem with a diverse landscape that includes pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress swamps, fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove forests, and beach dunes.
One of my favorite habitats is the rocky pinelands of the southern Everglades. Considered a globally imperiled habitat, the rocky pinelands are the most floristically diverse habitat in Florida. Historically covering more than 186,000 acres, there is now somewhere around 22,000 acres left, in part because it was the “high ground” and fell victim to urbanization and agriculture. Fortunately, most is now protected and Long Pine Key is a perfect place to explore this unique habitat. Occurring on the fringe of tropical and temperate zones, the range of plants found together is unique to South Florida.