Located at the confluence of temperate North America and the tropical Caribbean, Everglades National Park is home to representative flora from both climes. The optimal growing conditions that are prevalent throughout south Florida foster a lush growth of plant life that sustains a diverse complex of flora. The Everglades serve as important habitat for a number of endemic and legally protected species. Although nine distinct ecosystems have been identified within Everglades National Park, their boundaries overlap within the dynamic landscape, which is subject to the elements of south Florida.
Another major factor that controls the distribution of vegetation within the Everglades is the hydrologic pattern, which is defined by the depth, timing, and duration of inundation (flooding) as well as the quality and salinity of the source water. The flat topography, temporal distribution of rainfall, and proximity to the coast all interact to determine the hydrologic regime. Surficial geology and overlying soil type also influence the composition and abundance of plant species. Disturbances, both natural (including fire, freezes, hurricanes, etc.) and human-caused (such as altered fire regimes, drainage, development, and introduction of exotic pest plants), also impact vegetation patterns.
The indelible footprint left behind in Everglades history by early colonial settlers, farmers, and developers is visible throughout the landscape. Wetlands were drained to create arable and developable land suited for agriculture and human habitation and growth. With the support of many early conservationists and advocates, Everglades National Park was established in 1947 to conserve the natural landscape and prevent further degradation of a portion of the Greater Everglades. By that date, however, the established assemblage of plants had already been transformed forever. Native plant species were gradually disappearing and being replaced by exotic plants, some of which were formerly cultivated and used for landscaping or in the nursery trade. Other factors, such as climate change, also stress the ecosystem. The resulting ever-adapting assemblage of plants makes up the mosaic of vegetation that we see today.