A Tour Through A Coastal Scrub Habitat

This photo essay is about the coastal scrub of Palm Beach County — specifically, the Hypoluxo Scrub Preserve.  However, much of the material here is applicable to other scrub remnants around the state.  You can click on the photos for larger images.

Scrub in Florida is composed of remnants of a huge semi-arid scrub habitat that reached all the way around the Gulf coast to northern Mexico a couple of million years ago. The contiguity of the habitat has long since been interrupted by rising sea levels that produced, among other things, the bayou country. What remains are islands of similar plants and animals that have been separated from their brethren for a long time. The independent changes that have occurred in the fragmented plant and animal species are of tremendous interest to biologists and zoologists, and the information they have gained about mutations and short-term evolutionary changes could (and does) fill numerous books.

For example: The courting rituals of  the Scrub Jay, a bird genetically identical to its relatives elsewhere, have changed to the point that they no longer breed with birds from outside their own area. They could make babies, but instead they ignore each other’s courting displays. They just don’t get the message. This discovery alone has altered the definition of “species” throughout zoology.]

The scrub is home to more rare and endangered plants and animals in one area than anywhere else in the continental US. These include tortoises, lizards and — among the plants — the only known flowering plant in the world that spends its entire life underground, facilitated by the translucent quartz sand that allows light to penetrate the few centimeters to where the plant lives. Only the blossom of the tiny plant protrudes above the surface for a short time each year to allow pollination. … MORE…

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