Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. A drive down U.S. Highway 27 near Lake Placid, Florida reveals mile after mile of citrus groves, small communities, and occasional patches of scrub. Immediate impression is all too often that it's unproductive land that needs improvement. Little pure scrub is left. Indeed, because it's high and dry, it's prime land for housing developments. By 1990, more than 83% of Lake Wales Ridge scrub had been converted to agriculture or residential development. Today, more than 30% of remaining scrub habitat is in residential areas. The scrub of a Lake Wales Ridge is an arid, desert-like environment. It's desert-like because of the course sugar sand of the old dunes that form the ridge. Water drains through the sand quickly and those creatures that live in this harsh environment have developed unique characteristics that help them survive. Although harsh, the Lake Wales Ridge is also the oldest land around. Many of the plants and animals that live there have become scrub specialists. They have not only learned to cope with the dry sand, the intense summer sun, and frequent lightning-started fires, they have come to depend on them.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.