Hammock Trail Guide

 

 

The hammock trail introduces visitors to three Southwest Florida ecosystems ... 1) the mangrove estuary, 2) the hardwood hammock, and 3) the pine flatwoods. Each ecosystem is unique. To learn about the distinguishing characteristics of these ecosystems, click here.

Within each ecosystem, a community of plants, animals, and microbes interact with one another and with the water, air, and soil. Along this trail, you will be able to observe some of these interactions.

Begin your trail walk at the base of the stairs near the bridge to the dock. (See map) Each number on the map corresponds to a plant's location. Photographs and brief descriptions of each plant are below. For more information, click on the photographs.

 

1) WILD COFFEE
• Shrub in the shady understory
growth
• Flowers are white, berries are
red and turn black with age
• Leaves are glossy green with
deep veins

 

 

2) GIANT LEATHER FERN
• Largest North American Fern
• Leaves are tough like leather
• Underside of leaves may have
brown spores that look like suede

 

 

3) RED MANGROVE
•Shrub to small tree supported by
tangle of prop roots
•Seeds (propagules) are cigar-shaped
•Roots and branches provide
shelter and prevent erosion

 

 

4) COCO PLUM
•Shrub to small tree—often used
in landscaping
•Sweet fruit (resembles black
olive) - used to make jam
•New leaves are red

 

 

5) POND APPLE
•Rounded, spreading tree
• Leathery leaves are elliptical and
evergreen
• Edible fruit (apple) is favored by bears and raccoons.

 

 

6) GUMBO LIMBO
• Large tree with crooked, stout trunk and branches
• Bark is reddish-brown to green— trunk is cool to the touch
•Nicknamed the “tourist tree” since the bark peels like sunburned skin

 

 

7) CABBAGE PALM
•State tree of Florida
•Leaf stems (boot jacks) remain
when leaf falls
•Plants and animals live in boot jacks
•Strangler figs often live on these
palms
•Chickee roofs made from leaves

 

 

8) GOLDEN POLYPODY
•Epiphyte fern with golden, root-like structures
•Often found growing in "boot jacks" of sabal palms
• Two rows of spore clusters on bottom of fronds

 

 

9) LICHENS
•Come in variety of colors,
shapes and textures
•Consists of algae and fungus cells
•Removes pollutants from air, high lichen diversity indicates clean air

 

 

 

10) FLORIDA ROYAL PALM
•Largest palm in Florida
•Trunk is smooth
• Royal Palms often line streets in South Florida

 

 

 

11) WHITE STOPPER
• Tree with thin, white bark
• Leaves used in tea to prevent
diarrhea
• Berries are important bird food
• From a distance, this tree has a
skunk-like odor

 

 

12) WILD LIME
Small tree with compound leaves with tiny oval leaflets
•Stems are flared between leaflets
•Fruit is eaten by wildlife
•Twigs armed with sharp, reverse-pointed thorns

 

13) SATINLEAF
• Small tree with purple berries eaten by birds
• Leaf bottom is copper-colored and feels like velvet
•Tree is endangered because of habitat destruction

 

 

14) SWAMP FERN
• Common plant to swamps and upland hammocks
•Two long linear lines of spore casings on underside of leaf
•Fronds have serrations

 

 

15) STRANGLER FIG
•Multi trunks with broadly rounded crown of shiny leaves
•Often twisted around sabal palms, but they can live independently
•Aerial roots sent down to secure life line to rich soil and water
•Does not get nutrients from tree on which it grows

 

 

16) VANILLA ORCHID
•Vine, with many species leafless
•Each bloom lasts for one day
•Source of vanilla beans

 

 

 

 

17) SAW PALMETTO
•Fire resistant—much of trunk is often underground
•May live 700 years
•Berries used in treating some prostate disorders
•Leaves are fan shaped

 

 

18) SLASH PINE
•Corky, chunky bark
•Drought tolerant and fire resistant
•May live 200 years
•Two varieties in Florida
• Wood used for lumber and pulp

 

 

 

19) RESURRECTION FERN
•Epiphyte that carpets large tree branches
• Looks dead during drought
• "Resurrects" with moisture

 

 

 

20) POISON IVY
• Florida native plant
• Leaves of three “let them be” – oils from this plant can cause skin irritation
• May be climbing vine, erect or trailing shrub

 

 

 

21) SWORD FERN
•Leaflets have rounded edges and resembles Boston Ferns
•Habitat is the shade of oak hammocks

 

 

 

22) SHOESTRING FERN
• Epiphyte that looks like green
shoelaces
• Often found growing in the “boot jacks” of sabal palms

 

 

 

23 ) BROMELIAD
Related to domestic pineapple
Are epiphytes, not parasites
Nutrients are derived from organic debris and water trapped by leaves

 

 

 

24) LAUREL OAK
• Member of the Red Oak family
• Acorns take two years to mature
• Not salt tolerant
• Grows everywhere in Florida
except the keys

 

 

 

25) LIVE OAK
•Member of the White Oak family
• Acorns mature each year
• Salt tolerant
• One of the most abundant trees in Florida
• Lives over 300 years

 

 

26) REDBAY
•Small tree or large shrub
•Lance-shaped evergreen leaves
•Dried leaves emit spicy smell when crushed
•Leaves often have insect galls

 

 

 

27) MUSCADINE GRAPE
•Climbing vine
• Heart-shaped leaves
• Provides habitat and food for animals


 

 

© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer).

Please report errors to Susan Snyder @ ssnyder2@columbus.rr.com

LINKS:

Conservancy of Southwest Florida Home Page