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Updated: 03/02/2018 08:30:03AM

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MELISSA MAIN/CORRESPONDENT

Eric Menges identified a sky blue lupen for the group. This plant grows better in areas that have frequent fires.

MELISSA MAIN/CORRESPONDENT

Kevin Main displayed a tropical soda apple for the group to examine. This exotic plant invades areas that have been disturbed and can crowd out native plants.

MELISSA MAIN/CORRESPONDENT

Land on Red Hill that has not been burned frequently has more trees and fewer open areas. This type of land is not well suited for native plants and animals.

MELISSA MAIN/CORRESPONDENT

Land on Red Hill that has been burned frequently is more open and inviting to native plant and animal species. Gopher tortoises and Florida scrub-jays require open land.

BY MELISSA MAIN

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If the native plants and animals could sing, they would sing, “Keep the home fires burning,” a line from the old World War I song by Ivor Novello. Without fires lighting their home, or their habitat, native plants and animals can’t survive and thrive.

Fires in scrub habitat keep sand pines from crowding out endangered plants such as the federally threatened scrub buckwheat. In addition, gopher tortoises build their extensive burrows in open areas, and the Florida scrub-jays won’t live in an area that has tall, dense vegetation because they can’t see their predators.

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