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U.S. Forest Service

Southern Region Viewing Area


White Milkweed. White Milkweed (Asclepias variegata) is found under the sand pine in xeric sandy soils. It is a favorite nectar plant for butterflies. Photo by T.G. Barnes, USGS PLANTS Database.

Wax myrtle. Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) is a common shrub that that can survive the harsh environment of the hot, dry sands in this sand pine scrub. Photo by Larry Allain, USGS PLANTS Database.

one of several Cladina species. One of several Cladina species that will be commonly encountered in the sand pine understory on the Lake Eaton Trail. Photo by Rhonda Stewart.

Soft Greeneyes. Soft Greeneyes (Berlandiera pumila). This member of the sunflower family is an endemic species in the deep sand scrub communities of the Eastern Gulf Coastal Plain. The showy flowers are solitary, and emit a faint scent of chocolate.

Sandhill milkweed. Sandhill milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) is a characteristic wildflower of the xeric white sands of sand pine scrub. c Larry Allain, USGS PLANTS Database.

Lake Eaton Loop Trail

Forest: National Forests in Florida, Ocala National Forest

District: Lake George Ranger District

Description: The Lake Eaton Loop Trail on the Lake George Ranger District wanders through several plant communities as the trail wanders down to Lake Eaton. This two mile trail will take you through fire-dependent sand pine scrub down to the hardwoods found along the lakeshore.

Viewing Information: In the mature sand pine (Pinus clausa) scrub, the shrub layer is characterized by scrubs oaks, including sand live oak (Quercus geminata), myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), and Chapman’s oak (Quercus chapmanii). Also found under the sand pines are rusty lyonia (Lyonia feruginea), shiny blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites) and silk bay (Persea humilis). Many species of reindeer moss (Cladina spp.) are commonly encountered on the dry sands. Wildflowers that may be observed include, soft green eyes (Berlandiera pumilla), prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), several milkweeds including, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), sandhill milkweed, (Asclepias humistrata), and white milkweed (Asclepias variegata), and Queen Anne’s delight (Dicentra linearifolia), Ailicia (Chapmannia floridana), Garberia (garberia heterophylla), Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa) and beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). As the trail comes closer to the lake the community changes to a scrub water oak community. Here laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), red maple (Acer rubrum), cypress (Taxodium distichum) and water oak (Quercus nigra) dominate this community’s overstory. Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) and button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) are among the many shrubs that inhabit the understory. Wildflowers that are commonly encountered include sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and sneeze weed (Helinium autumnale).

Safety First: Be prepared for hot muggy weather (temperatures in the mid to upper 90s and humidity ranging from 80-100%); wear suitable clothing for the conditions, including long pants, hats and sun protection. Drinking water is a must. Insect repellent is preferable, as there is a chance of ticks and chiggers in the area.

Directions: From Silver Springs take highway 40 east until the intersection with route 314; turn on to 314 and continue until you come to route 314a; turn left on to 314a and continue until you come to the sign for Lake Eaton. Enter the recreation and park at the trailhead for the Lake Eaton trail.

Ownership: United States Forest Service, Lake George Ranger District, National Forests in Florida.

Closest town: Silver Springs, Florida.