The Archbold Biological Station is located near the southern tip of the Lake Wales Ridge. This sandy ridge, a chain of ancient sandy islands, which were formed several million years ago by sediments washed down from coastal regions of Georgia and the Carolina mainland, is a major geological feature of central peninsular Florida. These sand and clay deposits formed a series of islands stretched over 100 miles north to south. One of the southernmost islands, now called Red Hill (elevation 213 ft.) is located on the Archbold Biological Station. These islands were exposed to wave and wind action, thus creating large dunes of fine sand. During the various glacial periods, sea levels rose and fell, periodically isolating the series of islands that we call the Lake Wales Ridge. The plants and animals that lived on these sand dunes were occasionally isolated through time and many became distinct from their mainland relatives. Today we know them collectively as the "Florida Scrub" one of the most endangered natural communities in North America.
Scrub soils are almost completely lacking in nutrients and, even with an average annual rainfall of 54 inches, the plants and animals must be adapted to desert-like conditions. The soil beneath your feet is pure sand 100 to 200 or more feet deep, and the upper surface drains quickly so the plants must have ways to prevent water loss.
Plant adaptations. Notice as you walk along this path that many plants (especially palmettos, oaks, and lyonias) have stiff, leathery leaves due to a layer of wax that coat the leaves. Other leaves are hairy (lupines, and heterotheca) or tiny (blueberry, hypericum, and polygonella). Almost all of them are curled. All of these are adaptations to reduce the loss of water from the leaves.
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