Florida Guide > Places to Visit
Historic Bok Sanctuary – Pine Ridge Nature Preserve
Formerly known as the Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower, Historic Bok Sanctuary is about an hour’s drive from downtown Orlando and is well signposted from the US27 near Lakes Wales.
The Sanctuary offer the visitor a surprising amount of diversity with the Omsted Gardens and Carillon Bell Tower probably being the most frequented. There is also the Pinewood Estate, which has been part of the Sanctuary since 1970 and is, in itself, an National Historic Landmark.
However, there are numerous trails off the beaten track, which provide an insight into the flora and fauna on the Lake Wales Ridge, and this article focuses on the Pine Ridge Nature Preserve Trail.
By way of background, the nature trail sits on the highest point in Florida at 298 feet, and many thousands of years ago when the sea level was much higher; the Lake Wales Ridge remained above water. As a result, many unique plants evolved which are found nowhere else on earth, and today there are nineteen species on the endangered list, most of which are grown in the Sanctuary’s Endangered Plant Garden.
Also the savannah like ecosystem made up, primarily, of longleaf pine and perennial grasses relied on lightning strikes to induce fire which ensured that area was not invaded by evergreen oak trees which would have shaded out and eventually killed off these unique plants. Today the Sanctuary runs its own Fire Management Plan to ensure the survival of this unique habitat.
The trail is three quarters of a mile long and begins at the Window by the Pond which can be described as a typical Florida wetland with an abundance of bog plants including the yellow tickseed, which is the State wildflower.
The Preserve then opens up into a glade where the prickly pear cactus, a favourite food of the gopher tortoise is prevalent. Within the glade are sand pine and evergreen oaks.
A little further on the visitor enters areas of sand hill forest, which are described as one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. The main species to be found include the longleaf pine, the sap of which was once used in turpentine production (the trunk scarring is still evident today) and the turkey oak.
At numerous points along the trail there is a thick ground cover made up of wiregrass. This is considered to be one of the more important grass species because it is very flammable, allowing the fires to spread through the Preserve, (albeit well controlled in today’s environment), and it is also responds quickly after a burn producing new growth almost immediately.
There is a plethora of other wild plants and flowers along the way, far too many to mention here, but this really is a very interesting and informative trail and well worth an hour of your time.
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