Tree Tuesday: Oaks of the Hammock
There was some synchronous discussion during a *hammock* ecosystem reference in one of my recent posts … I’m so accustomed to these habitats, that I forget to detail their wonderful qualities!
From the National Park Service’s perfectly phrased definition of a hardwood hammock on their Everglades page:
A hardwood hammock is a dense stand of broad-leafed trees that grow on a natural rise of only a few inches in elevation. Hammocks can be found nestled in most all other Everglades ecosystems. In the deeper sloughs and marshes, the seasonal flow of water helps give these hammocks a distinct aerial teardrop shape.
Many tropical species such as mahogany (Swietenia mahogoni), gumbo limbo (Bursera simaruba), and cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco) grow alongside the more familiar temperate species of live oak (Quercus virginiana), red maple (Acer rubum), and hackberry (Celtis laevigata). This diverse assemblage of plant life supports an equally diverse array of wildlife.
Because of their slight elevation, hammocks rarely flood. Acids from decaying plants dissolve the limestone around each tree island, creating a natural moat that protects the hammock plants from fire. Shaded from the sun by the tall trees, ferns and airplants thrive in the moisture-laden air of these hammocks.
Here’s one of my favorite hammocks — an oak hammock of the Florida Trail, leading towards Jonathan Dickinson State Park from Indiantown Road in Jupiter. There are several types of hammock ecosystems in Florida — hardwood, palm, tropical hardwood — but this is a live oak (hardwood) hammock, more common inland.
To say it’s incredibly lovely does not do it justice — how can you not feel protected by, and protective towards, these ancient, sheltering giants?