Have you ever wondered what lives in the Florida scrub? It looks harsh and barren. Like a desert, its wildlife has been crafted by poor soil, fire, and our challenging weather including the withering Florida summer heat. These extreme environmental conditions have created a habitat unique not just to the state but to the planet. They are responsible for some of our most iconic animals – gopher tortoise, indigo snake, and Florida Scrub Jay.

The scrub is among Central Florida’s many upland habitats, which include hammocks and pine woods. All grow on sandy soil, but beyond that their characteristics depend on the availability of water and frequency of fire. In addition to unique animal species, the uplands are surprisingly rich in plant life. Sand pine cones are “serotinous” – they open and release seeds in response to heat (i.e., fire). Florida rosemary is “allelopathic” – it releases a chemical that suppresses growth of adjacent plants, including its own seedlings in order to reduce competition for resources. Saw palmettos provide cover, nesting sites, and food for animals including the black bear and are considered a “keystone species”.

If you are curious about our unique Florida habitats, then a Florida Master Naturalist course might be just for you. The Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) is an adult education UF/IFAS Extension program developed by the University of Florida. You don’t need a college degree, just enthusiasm and interest in our natural systems. Students learn about Florida’s habitats, the plants and animals, and the role of humans in these environments. There are three core courses – uplands, freshwater, and coastal – each 40 hours long. The courses offer an intimate view of the habitats through classroom teaching, guest speakers, and field trips. Each course costs $275 and includes a course book with colored pictures. Persons who complete all three modules become certified Florida Master Naturalists. In addition to the core courses, there are four specialty courses which are shorter in duration. Further information on the FMNP program is available online at


The Uplands Systems course will be offered this fall at Trout Lake Nature Center, located at 520 East CR 44, Eustis. Classes will be held on Mondays from 9:00am-4:00pmSeptember 25 through October 30, 2017. For more information about the course, contact Pat Larson at 352-685-0727. To register for the course, go to the FMNP website. For more information about Trout Lake, call 352-357-7536 or go to

Photo:  Scrub jay on feeder.


About Trout Lake Nature Center

Trout Lake Nature Center, a 230-acre preserve in Eustis, is an independent, non-profit corporation established in 1988. TLNC’s mission is to conserve and protect the natural environment and educate the public about its importance. For further information, visit us or call 352-357-7536.

Join Us At Trout Lake Nature Center For A Course On Florida Uplands- Sept 25-Oct 30, 2017

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