The Vegetation History of Fort Frederica, Saint Simons Island, Georgia


Susan P. Bratton

Additional Authors:


September – 1985


Fort Frederica, Saint Simons Island, Georgia, Pinus, taeda, Quercus, laurifolia, nigra, virginiana

Fort Frederica, Saint Simons Island, Georgia was settled by English colonists in 1736. The fort and surrounding lands have undergone nine major phases of disturbance and regrowth since pre-colonial times. Written descriptions by colonial observers document the original predominance of evergreen oak-mixed hardwood forests on the upland portion of Saint Simons, instead of the contemporary successional pine forest. They also document the presence of extensive marshes and ponds, and many of which, including a pond outside the walls of the fort, are smaller or are no longer present. Records indicate the Indians, settlers, and slaves used fire for clearing dense vegetation. As a result of human activities, the fire regime on the island has probably changed from aboriginal times to the present, including a possible increase in large forest fires during the 19th century. The present vegetation consists of loblolly pine (<em>Pinus taeda</em>) with an understory of laurel oak (<em>Quercus lauiifolia</em>) and water oak (<em>Q. nigra</em>) and other hardwoods on old field sites. Older stands are dominated by hardwoods, particularly live oak (<em>Q. virginiana</em>).