Please Note: At this time the FAU Walking Trails and Nature Playscape are closed until further notice.
The 135 acre site located in West Palm Beach is open to the public 9:00am -4:30pm, Monday through Friday. Over three miles of walking trails which include an informational kiosk and boardwalk around the pond are available for public use. Pick up a trail map in the main office.
The Pine Jog property is representative of the natural communities of South Florida and of the changes which have taken place in these communities over time. The biotic communities located at Pine Jog include several acres of pine flatwoods, a pond with a surrounding wetland, an early successional field, and five acres of upland hammock.
The pine flatwoods ecosystem is the dominant, most sizeable terrestrial ecosystem in Florida. Pine flatwoods are characterized by moderate levels of moisture which fluctuate from very dry during the winter months to very saturated during the summer months. The terrain is predominantly flat, and soils are typically sandy. The poor soil drainage often leads to inundation during the wet season. Open woodlands of slash pines and cabbage palms create the canopy level of this ecosystem, which saw palmettos, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers occupy the understory. Fire caused by dryness and lightning strikes is endemic to this ecosystem. Therefore many of the plants in pine flatwoods have developed special adaptations to protect them from fire. Dry and Wet prairies occur within this ecosystem as well. Across Florida, pine flatwoods provide forested habitat for many wildlife species, including Florida panthers and Florida black bears.
Pine Flatwoods cover a majority of the 135 acres at Pine Jog. South Florida slash pines are prevalent and occur in much greater density than in a typical pine flatwoods. There is also a higher frequency of cabbage palms than usual. This is because controlled burns at Pine Jog are limited due to the proximity of inhabited structures. Cocoplum tower much higher than they would in pristine circumstances for the same reason. The Blue, Green, Brown, Red, Yellow, and White trails meander through the pine flatwoods ecosystem. As Palm Beach County was once submerged in water, the Pine Flatwoods at Pine Jog also have several sandy clearings that are actually ancient pond bottoms. In these pond bottoms, one might find an assortment of buried treasures!
In Florida, hammocks occur as ecological islands where land is slightly elevated from surrounding wetlands. Hardwood trees thrive in such habitats, and soils supporting these trees can be hydric (wet), mesic (moist) or even xeric (dry). Hammocks are noticeable by the shade gradient created by a broad-leaf canopy. Due to their elevation, hammocks rarely flood. Evergreen oaks such as Live oaks, Chapman oaks and Laurel oaks are trademark of hammocks in Florida. Cabbage palms and various pine species about in this habitat as well. The shade of the canopy in a hammock allows for many fern and epiphyte species to thrive amid the hammock’s moist microclimate. The diversity of plant life in hammocks provides a wealth of habitat potential for animal life. However, because of the elevated topography of hammocks, they are often targeted for commercial and residential development. This development, including the construction of roads, currently poses the greatest threat to hammocks in Florida.
To the south of the Pine Jog property, a lush hammock flourishes adjacent to wetlands. Thus the hammock at Pine Jog demonstrates how a few inches in elevation can completely transform the progression of an ecosystem. The Orange trail meanders through the Oak Hammock at Pine Jog, providing a cool respite from the more exposed Upland Pine Flatwoods that dominate the property. Vegetation in the hammock is much denser than elsewhere on the property, so all sorts of hidden life are waiting to be discovered. Stroll through the hammock at Pine Jog and find yourself transported away from the density of urban life, into the density of nature’s therapeutic embrace.
Prairies are found throughout Florida, most often toward the center of the peninsula. Prairies are generally treeless lowlands littered with grasses, wildflowers and creeping palms such as silver thatch palm and saw palmetto. Prairies host an abundance of insects, small mammals and birds. Depending on the topography of the Prairie and if depressions are present in the land, Prairies can occur along a spectrum form dry (sub-mesic) to wet-mesic (alfic, spodic), with wet Prairies flooding seasonally. Along a spectrum of forested lands to savannah lands, Prairies appear at the far end of the spectrum due to the absence of trees. Fire is endemic to the ecosystem, operating to regenerate the ecosystem annually or biannually. Prairies are generally decreasing throughout Florida due to fragmentation, a decrease in high-quality Prairies, and a reduction in the frequency of fires due to expanding residential areas.
Pine Jog is dotted with small Prairies throughout its stretches of Upland Pine Flatwoods. However, the largest prairie is adjacent to the demonstration gardens and contains a host of hallmark Prairie species, including Muhly grass, Sensitive vine/Sunshine mimosa, Southern wiregrass, and Chalky bluestem. The stalks and leaves from these species provide a large surface area for insects to abound throughout the Prairie. Due to this, the Pine Jog Prairie is often used as a site for field-netting with students. There’s no knowing what might get scooped up in one of these field-netting sessions, so come visit the Prairie in any season to see what is hiding there!
Wetlands are essentially a hybrid between land and water, including swamps, marshes and bogs. Although wetlands must be covered by water for parts of the year in order to be classified as such, they can also be dry throughout much of the year. Because of the prevalence of water and vegetation, wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world for filtering and purifying water. They provide habitats for terrestrial and aquatic species of plants and animals alike. Wetlands function to collect and hold flood waters, a critically important feature for dealing with Florida’s high precipitation. Wetlands also absorb wind and tidal forces, protecting coastal and inland ecosystems from threats like erosion - whether natural or artificial. Unfortunately, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that approximately 44% of total wetland area has been lost since Florida became a state in 1845.
The wetlands at Pine Jog are found toward the south of the property, around and east of the Pine Jog pond. However, most of the property could be considered wetland because of its capacity to flood during Florida’s subtropical rainy season. Some ridges and hills are scattered throughout the property, providing space for animals to relocate when the pine flatwoods flood. Wetlands like those at Pine Jog are essential for recharging Florida’s underground aquifers. Wetlands are also critical for the economy, as they foster hunting, fishing, agriculture, and recreation.