One of a string of scrub preserves that sprinkle the Space Coast between Titusville and Fellsmere, Dicerandra Scrub protects a sliver of scrub – only 44 acres – atop the Atlantic Coastal Ridge in an area otherwise fully surrounded by subdivisions. It is home to the rare Dicerandra Thinicola, also known as Titusville balm, a scrub mint found nowhere else in the world but Titusville and nearby Mims. Blooming in the fall, there are nearly 1,000 growing inside the sanctuary. The trail system loops the preserve to showcase the botanical wonders within.
Length: 1 mile
Lat-Long: 28.551738, -80.810806
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Bug factor: Low
Parking is limited to street parking outside the gate of the preserve in a residential neighborhood. Take care not to block any driveways.
From the junction of US 1 and SR 50 in Titusville, drive west 0.7 mile to Key Largo Drive. Turn south and continue through the neighborhood to the first right, Karen Drive. Make the next right onto Melissa Drive, which dead-ends at the gate to the preserve.
Your hike starts at the entrance gate, where you’ll find a kiosk with a trail map. While there are several options for walking around the preserve along firelines and old forest roads, the primary trail is blazed all along its length with square brown markers with white directional arrows. The trail immediately descends through scrubby flatwoods past the kiosk; you see a large depression marsh off to your right. The trail curves around a small stand of saw palmetto that have lifted off the ground on lengthy trunks, looking like miniature cabbage palms. Off to the right, a side trail leads down to the marsh. Take a moment to wander down it and enjoy the sweeping view of the wetlands, framed by wax myrtle and loblolly bay, in the midst of this scrubby area
Walking atop pine duff, you encounter many slash pine cones on the forest floor. The trail emerges on a sand road, and although it seems to cross the road, a trail marker points you to the right. Turn right to follow the sand road. The sounds of Titusville pulsate around you as you walk along the edge of the large needlerush marsh. This is not a quiet sanctuary, but an important one. Slash pines rise well above you.
At not quite a quarter mile, a marker points you to the left off the sand road and into crunchy hollows beneath the pines. Beware of fallen greenbrier as the trail leads you into the heart of the scrub. Around you are Chapman oak, myrtle oak, more greenbrier, and the larger pine cones of longleaf pines overhead. The plants are especially diminutive here, with the exception of the pines. The Titusville mint blooms in the fall, and it is most easily spotted at that time.
An unmarked junction has a spur trail to the right that leads to the top of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, worth the short ramble for the extra elevation and the view back across the scrub near a stand of sand live oaks. A fence marks the boundary of the preserve. The trail to the right goes to an exit out of the preserve, and the trail to the left follows the fenceline, so return back down the small rise to the junction.
As you gain elevation along the main trail, the Titusville water tower peeks over the ridge ahead. Due to prescribed burns that keep the scrub – and the namesake mints – healthy, you may encounter a fair amount of blackened wood and deadfall. At 0.4 mile there is a bench along the trail at a tiny cove in the forest, a place to sit and listen carefully for the Eastern towhees that scurry, rustle, and tweep throughout the underbrush. Chapman oak dominates the understory. You continue to walk towards the water tower for nearly another quarter mile as the habitat transitions into taller pines and scrubby flatwoods.
Sand pine scrub tops the next high point on the ridge, where you can look back across the preserve. A cluster of sand pines sits off in a depression to the left as you draw close to the residential boundary on the right. Ducking under a fallen sand pine loaded with tightly closed pine cones, shield lichen, and wisps of old man’s beard, the trail flattens out and heads towards a towering stand of longleaf pines. You pass a silk bay on the right, the “aromatherapy tree” of the scrub– crush a leaf and it emits an aroma like eucalyptus oil.
At 0.8 mile, there is another bench off to the right as the trail heads to the left, passing beneath the tall longleaf pines as it draws close to the neighborhood; you can now see the backs of houses along the property line on the right. Saw palmetto becomes more prevalent in the understory. Returning to the sand road after 0.9 mile, cross it and head uphill past the depression marsh and stand of tall saw palmetto before you scramble up the rise to exit.
For excellent images of Dicerandra Thinicola, see photographer Vince Lamb’s website