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Posts tagged ‘tree tuesday’

A Heavenly Hardwood Swamp

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. —
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In honor of the Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, who met after a long correspondence on May 20, 1845…and began one of the most celebrated love affairs in history. After much wooing, Browning finally convinced a shy and skeptical Barrett that he loved her “for naught except for love’s sake only.”

* * *

I readily admit that my sense of direction is horrible. Which makes wanting to explore the more off-beaten trails a bit…difficult, to my family’s tremendous concern. There’s a lot of backtracking! But in visiting these places, a vision of natural Florida is allowed — and it’s divine.

Outside of the *ridiculous* number of gargantuan mosquitoes that swarmed as I carefully crept into this lovely swamp, it was a treat. I only hope that any human male who shows an interest in me in the future, will also understand my occasional mosquito attacks (not pretty). And the spider bites. And occasional wasp stings. I should seriously consider paramedics or forest rangers as potential dating material.

Cypress Swamp, Cypress Creek Natural Area, Florida

A still-dry cypress swamp in the Cypress Creek Natural Area

I recently hiked through one of my favorite habitats, a hardwood swamp. Various hardwood trees and a mixture of hardwoods and Cypress can be found here, including Water hickory, Holly, Maples, Oaks, Cabbage palms and Bay trees, accompanied by a dense understory of vines, ferns and herbaceous plants. Hardwood swamps occur on floodplains or upland areas that are lower than the surrounding area. And it’s home to so much life — the sounds coming from the trees were just lovely.

Hardwood Swamp, Cypress Creek Natural Area, Florida

Looking up into the canopy of the hardwood swamp

Yet another breathtakingly beautiful Florida habitat to witness and love — and above all else, protect and preserve.

Tree Tuesday: Flatwoods to Swamp

Often on hikes through the South Florida pine flatwoods, you’ll stumble across other ecosytems. The flatwood environment itself is layered, with high canopies of pines, a lower shrubby layer, and an herbaceous layer — but it’s dotted with cypress domes (a cypress swamp in the shape of a dome), prairies, marshes, and other habitats. Truly a fascinating ecosystem.

Unfortunately, developers continue to find flatwoods attractive for development: the vast expanses of flat land are too tempting, as is the ease in cutting and clearing its enormous swaths. But it’s critical to remember all the life this land supports — as well as the various other habitats that are intricately woven together here.

Pine Flatwoods of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Florida

Pine flatwoods vista

Slash Pine of the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park, Florida

Slash Pine: Ready for my close-up

Flatwoods to Swamp Along the Florida Trail, Florida

Heading from the flatwoods into the swamp, along the Florida Trail

Cypress Trees in the Swamp, Florida Everglades

Ever-lovely cypress of the swamp

A New Trail, Seabranch Preserve State Park, Florida

From flatwood, to prairie, to….

And an extra for Tree Tuesday — I can’t get enough of this cartoon….


Tree Tuesday: The Palm, in Retro

Palm and coconut trees have surrounded me throughout my life — first in Florida, then overseas in the South Pacific, and then again in Florida. As children, my brother and I took hammers and screwdrivers to coconuts we’d salvage from the trees on the island, in a valiant effort to break them open. It’s a wonder that more serious injuries weren’t committed. My poor mother.

So in honor of the ever-flexible and almighty palm, bending amid hurricane-force winds and not just surviving, but thriving…. Here are a few retro images. I blew one up for my mother, another military (Navy) brat who spent time at Punahou School on Oahu as a child.

Retro Palm Tree, Florida

Retro Palm Tree, Florida

Retro Palm Tree, Florida

Retro Palm Tree, Florida

Tree Tuesday: Cypress of the Marsh

A snapshot of cypress trees lining a beautiful marsh along the Owahee Trail of Grassy Waters Preserve.

Now protected by various federal and state agencies, these amazing trees were completely logged out in the 1930s and ’40s in Florida — only a scant few original trees survived the logging operations of this time. Most seen today are 7th- or 8th-generation cypress. But if untouched, they could live to 500 years.

Cypress Trees Along the Owahee Trail in Grassy Waters Preserve, FL

The Gentlemen

Tree Tuesday: Fairy’s Staircase

Walking the Malachite Trail in the SWA portion of the most wonderfully pristine Everglades watershed of the Grassy Waters Preserve, an old tree displayed new life with a whimsical fungi arrangement — a fairy staircase!

fairy tree

2013-01-13 14.51.23 copy


Tree Tuesday: Slash Pines of the Pine Flatwoods

Many of my hikes and images are shot in this ecosystem, and I adore these trees — but in all honesty, show me a tree I don’t love!

Pine flatwoods represent the most extensive ecosystem in Florida, and are distributed over 50% of the state’s land area. As their name implies, flatwoods have a low and flat topography, punctuated by differing kinds of pine, depending where  you are in the state. I’m in the south, so it’s the slash pine that dominates this habitat!

Slash Pines of the Pine Flatwoods, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park, Florida

Slash Pines and Saw Palmetto of the Pine Flatwoods in Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

These flatwoods, or pine barrens, were created by changes in the sea level during glacial times — as the sea levels increased, expanses of land flooded, and sand was deposited. As the waters receded, early species such as pine trees were able to establish themselves in the sandy soil.

Pine flatwoods are consistent: Layered, with high canopies of pines, a lower shrubby layer, and an herbaceous layer. They’re dotted with cypress domes (a cypress swamp in the shape of a dome), cabbage palm flatwoods, marshes, and other habitats. This is truly a fascinating ecosystem, and one that weaves so many others together.

And while today’s flatwoods are less extensive, with more shrubby groundcover than in times past, they continue to be a vital ecosystem in Florida, covering vast expanses of land. Beginning in the 1950s, developers here discovered that this land was easy to cut and clear in enormous swaths — sadly, they haven’t forgotten. Doesn’t the world needs another empty strip mall and golf course?

Flatwoods rely on controlled, or prescribed burning to maintain its community of pines, grasses, and herbs — and to prevent the forest from being overgrown. Controlled burns are vital to new growth, as well. Pine flatwoods continue to be fascinating areas to hike, each one being new; you never knows when you’ll encounter a swamp, open flatwood, or more of these beautiful trees — or the wonderful wildlife this ecosystem supports….

Controlled Burned and Thriving Slash Pines at Bluefield Ranch Natural Area

Controlled Burned and Thriving Slash Pines at Bluefield Ranch Natural Area

To learn more about the Pine flatwoods, visit:

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 Floridahardwood, 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?

Oak Trees of the Florida Trail, Jonathan Dickinson

Oak Trees / Hammock of the Florida Trail


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