Natural Communities of Letchworth-Love Mounds

Scattered pine trees with low understory growth.

Resource management measures in Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park are low impact, and sensitive to known cultural resources and the potential for undiscovered resources. Natural community restoration efforts are limited to non-ground disturbing measures such as mechanical treatment of early successional woody species and prescribed burning.

  • The first natural community is the hardwood forest which is a mature forest with mesic conditions. Overstory tree species consist of southern magnolia, sweetgum, live oak, laurel oak and white oak. Scattered loblolly pine and spruce pine may also occur. Understory species include trees and shrubs such as American holly, flowering dogwood, eastern redbud, horse sugar and beautyberry. Ground cover is comprised of shade tolerant herbaceous species, sedges and vines.
  • Next, there is a mixed woodland with dominant tree species of shortleaf pine, southern red oak, live oak, laurel oak, post oak, mockernut hickory, bitternut hickory and white oak. Hardwood tree species are frequently dominant or co-dominant here with pines. Flowering dogwoods, hop-hornbeam, cherry laurel and blackjack oak are also present. Typical ground layer species includes New Jersey tea, yellow Indiangrass, silver plumegrass and broomsedge. While all of this natural community has been altered by at least 2,000 years of human occupation, key vegetative components have persisted.
  • The third community consists of three small wetlands located within the park’s management zone and together they are referred to as a depression marsh. These oval or elliptic-shaped wetlands are rimmed by hydrophytic shrubs such as St. John’s-wort or mature hardwoods such as live oak. The interior consists of either standing water or herbaceous growth such as water-tolerant sedges and grasses. Smaller shrubs or trees such as buttonbush, Carolina willow and swamp cyrilla may also be present. The southernmost depression is ringed by mature live oaks with buttonbush at the deep-water center. Mosquito fish, cricket frogs and spring peepers have been observed here. St. John’s-wort and sedges occur at the south end. The two northernmost wetlands are rimmed by St. John’s-wort with more open, herbaceous growth towards the interiors. Plant species observed include: sedges, mermaid weed, maidencane, soft rush, primrose, smartweed, Carolina willow and scattered sweetgum trees.
  • The park’s basin swamp is the fourth of its natural communities and is a mostly forested wetland with some areas holding water most days of the year. The dominant tree is swamp tupelo. Other canopy species can include bald cypress, slash pine, red maple and sweetgum. Depending upon fire history and hydroperiod, the understory is open with just a few scattered woody shrubs. Shrub species found along the ecotonal periphery can include Virginia willow, swamp dogwood, wax myrtle and titi. Herbaceous growth within the forested areas is limited by the extended hydroperiod. In other more open portions herbaceous growth may consist of a wide variety of species such as maidencane, ferns, arrowheads, lizard’s tail, false nettle and sphagnum moss. The soil is typically acidic, nutrient-poor peat often overlying a clay lens or other impervious layer. 
  • The last community is the bottomland forest which is a fairly low-lying, mesic to hydric community prone to periodic flooding. Vegetation consists of a mature closed canopy of deciduous and evergreen trees. Overstory may consist of species such as sweetgum, swamp laurel oak, water oak, live oak, loblolly pine and spruce pine. Red maple and bald cypress will also be present but are generally restricted to the portion of bottomland forest nearer the Lake Miccosukee Drain. The understory is largely void of groundcover except for occasional sedges which may occur on slightly elevated ground that has been raised up around the buttressed bases of large trees. The forest floor is open and covered with deciduous leaf litter.