Learn more about the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission's Mitigation Park Program and Division of
Habitat and Species Conservation's efforts at groundcover
restoration. Watermelon Pond is a case study in restoration.
Based on historical photographs, sandhill habitat dominated the
uplands at Watermelon Pond and was interspersed with xeric hammock,
depression and basin marshes, and small sinkholes. Naturally
occurring fire stimulated the seed production of longleaf pine,
wiregrass and other vegetation, and limited the growth of oaks and
woody vegetation. Prior to its purchase by the state, much of
Watermelon Pond was used for cattle grazing and row crop and timber
production. To accommodate these industries, parts of the WEA were
stripped of most or all native vegetation and replanted with
pasture grasses, fast-growing slash pines and agricultural crops.
Fires were suppressed in the sandhills, allowing oaks to flourish
and ultimately shading out low-growing grasses and pine seedlings.
Without an open tree canopy and a diverse groundcover of grasses,
herbs, flowers and fruit, the population of gopher tortoises
Regular burning promotes healthy groundcover
Restoration of these natural communities is a high
priority for land managers. Sandhills that were clear cut will be
planted with wiregrass and longleaf pine and managed with
prescribed fire. Bermuda grass and bahia grass fields will be
treated with herbicides, followed by reseeding with native
groundcover and maintenance with regular controlled burns. Longleaf
pine seedlings will be planted once the groundcover has become
established. Planted pines will be thinned and burned regularly.
Basin marshes will be regularly burned.
Invasive nonnative vegetation such as tropical soda
apple, mimosa and Chinese tallow are controlled with herbicides as
As management efforts restore native plant
communities, wildlife found on adjacent areas that are in public
ownership will begin to repopulate the habitats in the WEA.