The pygmy fringe tree is a rare species protected by the Endangered Species Act. It grows
naturally in the wild in only a small area of Florida scrubland. The tree depends on fire to
maintain the open conditions it requires for healthy growth, but encroaching development and the
clearing of land for citrus production have threatened its survival.
Fires in the Southeast are often caused by lightning strikes in the summer months. The grasses in
these habitats burn very quickly, sustaining fires that kill competing seedlings and plants not
adapted to fire. Like some other plants in this habitat, the pygmy fringe tree has evolved the
ability to re-sprout from its roots after periodic burns.