Many factors affect the formation of soil, including the parent material, how long the parent material has been breaking down, the topography of the area and the climate during soil development. The presence and activities of microorganisms, plants, animals and humans also affect soil formation. Florida has seven types, or orders, of soil, according to the soil classification system developed from 1951 to 1975 for the United States. Each order is determined by the properties of the soil, such as its color, the amount of organic material and minerals it contains and the size of the particles. Orders are further separated into suborders, great groups, subgroups, families, and series.
Alfisols are productive soils that occur to a moderate extent in Florida. They are formed under mixed vegetative cover or forests, in semi-arid to moist areas. The weathering process leaches clay minerals and other elements out of the surface layers into the subsoil, where they hold and supply water and nutrients to plants.
Entisols occur in areas of recently deposited materials or where the rate of erosion is faster than the formation of soil. The shallow sandy areas are found extensively in Florida, especially in dunes, steep slopes, flood plains, sandhills and rock lands.
Histosols contain mostly organic materials, such as bogs, moors, and areas of muck or peat. The organic matter is more than twice as thick as any of the mineral soils above the bedrock in that location. Histosols develop in the decomposed remains of plants in water, moss or forest litter, and occur extensively in Florida.
Inceptisols develop in semi-arid to humid climates and occur to a minor extent in Florida. They have a wide range of characteristics and show only a moderate amount of weathering or development.
Mollisols are dark colored soils that are relatively high in organic matter and very fertile. They form under grass in areas that have moderate to seasonal moisture deficits. They are found to a minor extent in Florida.
Spodisols are found within 2 m of the top of the soil in large areas of Florida. They develop in coarse-textured materials under coniferous trees in humid areas. They contain organic matter, aluminum and possibly lead, and tend to be acidic and infertile.
Ultisols are formed from intense weathering and leaching processes in humid areas. The clay rich soil contains large amounts of iron, oxides, kaolinite and quartz. Ultisols are typically acid, and have a low capacity for retaining lime and fertilizers. They are found extensively in Florida.