Ecosystems: Hardwood Hammock
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.
Did You Know?
Many of the orchids found within the Everglades are "epiphytic," growing on host trees that are used for support. This adaptation allows a variety of plants to grow in an otherwise harsh environment.