In the watershed’s flatwoods and sandhills — in fact, just about anywhere it’s sunny and the sandy soil is well-drained — saw palmetto thrives, forming dense colonies with ground-hugging, serpentine trunks and clusters of green, fanlike fronds.

A variety of trees also make their homes here, including sweet gum, water locust, laurel oak and slash pine. Despite decades of commercial logging in the early 1900s, the majestic bald cypress is once again a common sight, forming cypress bayheads in nearby wetlands.

But along the river, and throughout the surrounding lowlands, two tree species dominate: the live oak and Florida’s state tree, the sabal palm.

slider turtle sunning on a log A turtle catches some sun on a log; photo by Richard Gant


Possums, raccoons, grey foxes and white-tailed deer are the watershed’s most common larger mammals. Skunks, otters and fox squirrels are sometimes seen as well.

Numerous reptile species also inhabit the watershed, including the American alligator and Eastern indigo snake. Gopher tortoises feast on herbaceous plants and the fruit and flowers of the prickly pear cactus (a favorite snack) and burrow in the loose, sandy soil.

Young Screech Owl A young screech owl sits perched in a tree;
photo by Jim Phillips

→ Onward: Live Oak