In order to develop a model of the carbon cycle for mature slash pine (Pinus elliottii) stands in north Florida, we studied seasonal variation in leaf area index (LAI, allsided), aboveground biomass increment and litterfall, and light penetration through the forest canopy, over a 3—yr period. The primary approach to establishing monthly LAI included annual destructive analyses and monthly measurements of needle fall and elongation. Imagery from the Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and pattern of light penetration were also used in attempts to derive less ardouous estimates; the TM imagery was most promising. LAIs ranged from 3.0 to 6.5 on control plots over the 3 yr, with repeated fertilization increasing maximum LAI by >40%. Seasonal variation was high (40%), as was variation from year to year. An average of 31% of the incident photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) penetrated the canopies annually, ranging from 18 to 42% seasonally. Seasonal light penetration could not be described using a simple application of the Beer—Lambert law, perhaps due to the highly aggregated nature of the canopies. Models incorporating more information on canopy structure are necessary to predict light penetration through slash pine stands accurately. A model of needle litterfall was derived that could account for much of the seasonal and annual variation using stand basal area and climate conditions from the spring of the previous year; this model may be useful for developing climate—driven predictions of LAI. Efficiencies of use of incoming and intercepted PAR were low compared to other forest types. Low light interception and high nutrient—use efficiencies (demonstrated in earlier studies) are important adaptive characteristics of slash pine stands to these relatively warm and nutrient—poor sites.