Historically, pine savanas characterized landscapes across the Gulf Coastal Region, including most of Florida. Treeless habitats (historically called 'prairies') also occurred as lowland inclusions in savanna landscapes. What restricted trees from prairies? We develop a conceptual model that is based on prior models of prairie-forest landscapes. We use predicted relationships between trees and graminoids to explore how fire and seasonal flooding might influence the continuum from closed-canapy forests to open-canopied savannas to treeless prairies. The starting model predicts community position along this continuum as a function of fire frequency. We then modify this conceptual model to include evolutionary adaptations of trees that result in survival of frequent, low-intensity fires. Finally, we modify it to incorporate postulated interactive effects of fire and seasonal flooding on trees and graminoids. This model may be useful in predicting characteristics of savanna-prairie mosaics in the southeastern United States. We apply this model to the dry prairie landscape of central Florida. We examine two regions with pine flatwoods and dry prairies: Myakka River State Park (Sarasota and Manatee Counties) close to the Gulf coast and Avon Park Air Force Range (Polk and Highlands Counties) in the interior of the peninsula. For these two regions we compare local climatic conconditions likely to regult in lightning fires in the two regions and compare those with the likelihood of post-fire flooding in pine flatwoods and dry prairies in each of the two regions. These climatic patterns indicate a close temporal association of fires and flooding during the summer growing season at both sites. The increase in frequency of lightning strikes in April-June occurs at the same time that the mean rain-free interval reaches a maximum and the mean ground water levels reach a minimum. Thus, large fires in the landscape are expected at this time. Within a few weeks the frequency of thunderstorms increases, resulting in frequent rains. Rapid increases in mean water levels saturate the soil. Consequently, early lightning season fires are followed soon by flooding. Thus, environmental conditions predicted not to favor trees occur seasonally in dry prairie landscapes. We anticipate that subtle differences in the likelihood of surface soil saturation will influence survival of trees, resulting in prairie inclusions in the pine flatwoods landscapes of central Florida.