The Ocala National Forest is noted for its sand pine scrub ecosystem. The rolling hills contain the largest concentration of sand pine in the world and the largest remaining area of the imperiled Florida scrub habitat.
Growing on deep, prehistoric sand dunes, the scrub is a unique plant community that is home to the threatened Florida scrub-jay, sand skink, Florida bonamia plant and many other rare species.
Within this sea of sand pine and scrub oaks, longleaf pine islands provide a different view with open park-like stands of trees over a diverse grassy groundcover. Wildlife species of interest include the bald eagle, Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, indigo snake, and red-cockaded woodpecker.
The forest’s porous sands and largely undeveloped character provide an important recharge for the Floridan aquifer. Freshwater springs produce several hundred million gallons of water each day. Crystal clear springs, pothole marshes, and sinkhole lakes provide year-round recreation opportunities and unique aquatic habitats.
Management of this public resource is the most important role of the National Forests in Florida. Learn more about our stewardship of the land below.
In 1908, when the Ocala National Forest was established, the Forest was comprised mostly of sand pine scrub. This unique ecosystem, referred to as the Big Scrub, is what is left of a chain of islands before the sea retreated 25 million years ago.
Why are fires set intentionally in the Ocala National Forest? It's an important part of managing the land for wildlife and wildflowers. Learn more about our prescribed burn program and how it affects you.