Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Southern pines dominate Florida landscapes in a complex dance with fire. They not only survive fire, but promote it and depend on it. Some seedlings remain at ground level for nearly ten years developing strong roots, safe from fire. Pine stem tips are protected by a whirl of long needles. When the needles burn, they may release moisture, cooling the growing tip, allowing it to survive. After a fire, southern pines may grow several feet in a year. Fertilized by ashes of neighbors, they thrive in sunlight. Bark of older pines resists fire if it doesn't burn in one spot for long. Pine needles are high in resins and dried needles are highly flammable. In a loose duff on the forest floor, they ignite easily and burn quickly, ensuring the lightning-started fires race through pinelands. A moving fire is a cool fire, an effect like the trick of passing one's finger through a candle flame. There is no pain if you keep the finger moving; no damage to pines if the fire moves. A passing fire kills less fire-tolerant plants, fertilizes soil with their ashes, heats cones, causing them to open, and pine seeds fall to the ground under optimum conditions for survival.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Science at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.