Pine high ground

High and dry in the pines
September is (usually) peak season in the swamp

You know we’ve finally hit the heart of the wet season …

When the pinelands are shallowly flooded.

Bar chart showing hydroperiod (i.e. duration of flooding) in the pines of Big Cypress National Preserve over the past 30 years.

Over the course of an average year, we can usually count on the hydric pines going under for a good 4 months of the summer/fall period and the higher-perched mesic pines getting inundated for about a month.

And usually September is reliably our peak water season.

Except this year.

The water table is inching up but still below the pine trunks.

Hydric pines during wetter times

That makes this year drier (i.e. less wet) than the drought summer of 2000

flood and fire

Mosaic on mosaic
And how fire shapes it

The term swamp is a bit of a misnomer.

Mosaic is probably the better term.

Green within the black

It applies to both its maze of plant communities …

And the patchy pattern by which it burns.

Black within the green

And the variable nature of water …

In terms of both duration and depth.

So go flood and fire, so go the swamp … I mean mosaic!

Read more

Revealing water

Water both covers …

And reveals the landscape.

The pine islands really pop out

That’s especially the case with a winter high stand of water where the needle-free cypress make the copious cover of water easier to see.

Real pine island
Not to be confused with an island with pines

Shown below is an island full of pine trees …

In the middle of a pond.

Water surrounding this pine island
in Everglades Nat’l Park was too deep to walk to
even in the dry season, February 2015

But don’t be confused with the real thing:

Proper pine islands in the swamp are surrounded by a sea of marl prairie and cypress, the depth of which are usually a few inches to a foot.

Pine islands and hammocks
are ephemeral islands
in the swamp

The pine islands are still dry in Big Cypress National Preserve

strands and sloughs

“Flat swamp” theory

Everyone thinks the swamp is flat.

But is it really?

Surrounding this tiny island
is 2 feet deep slough

Even in the deepest slough …

I was surprised to find tiny hills of dry land.

The source?

Overturned trees cause roots and peat to locally pop up.

Can you see how this uprooted tree
created both hills and trenches?

Meanwhile, that same effect also causes deeper trenches to form.

Or in other words, better watch where you step!

There’s nothing flat about slogging in a water-filled swamp.