Upland Pine, Blackwater River State Forest. Photo by Gary Knight

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Notable Natural Areas: Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area

In the heart of central Florida’s big sky country in Osceola County lies Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area, a 16,000 acre expanse of exquisite natural beauty and open park-like scenes reminiscent of those depicted in writings of Florida’s early settlers.  Acquired in 1996 with Preservation 2000 funds and managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), this property’s extensive mosaic of flatwoods and prairies exemplifies central Florida’s natural heritage.  Intermingled within these vast uplands of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and wiregrass (Aristida stricta) are ribbons of wet prairies, often connecting to circular depression marshes with rings of grasses and wildflowers; each tied to a specific hydroperiod.  Wet prairies are home to a diverse assemblage of herbaceous plants including the carnivorous hooded pitcherplant (Sarracenia minor) and blueflower butterwort (Pinguicula caerulea).  Also among these wetland communities are dome swamps, characterized by their domed shape of pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens) trees and inhabited by animals such as the ever-vocal pine woods treefrog (Hyla femoralis).

Reference mesic flatwoods at Triple N Ranch WMA.     Photo by Gary Knight

Wildflowers are abundant at Triple N. Ranch WMA, including largeflower rosegentian (Sabatia grandiflora) and the endemic yellow milkwort (Polygala rugelii).  Photo by Gary Knight
For more than a decade, FNAI has worked extensively on Triple N Ranch, creating a present day and historic vegetation map while monitoring community structure and species composition across the property to aid the FFWCC in adaptive land management.  FNAI recognizes three reference natural communities at Triple N Ranch: one each for mesic flatwoods, wet flatwoods, and wet prairie.  These are among the best examples in the central Florida region.  These high quality communities are a product of good land management practices, including frequent prescribed fire application and good invasive species control.  Triple N Ranch also boasts a suite of rarities including many-flowered grass pink (Calopogon multiflorus), celestial lily (Nemastylis floridana), and gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus).  It is the perfect spot for your next central Florida adventure. 

Many-flowered grass pink (Calopogon multiflorus) is an extreme fire-follower, it only blooms in the few weeks following fire. Photo by Ann Johnson

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