• Miles of uncrowded white sandy beaches extend to the horizon, separating the clear blue ocean and undulating grass-covered dunes.

    Fire Island

    National Seashore New York

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  • Pet Restrictions in Effect March 15 through Labor Day

    Dogs/other pets (except for service animals) are not allowed in the wilderness or on any of Fire Island's federally owned oceanfront beaches from March 15 through Labor Day to help protect threatened and endangered beach-nesting shorebirds. More »

  • Backcountry Camping Permit and Access Procedures

    Reservations for required permits must be obtained through www.recreation.gov. Due to the breach at Old Inlet, access to both east and west wilderness camping zones must now be from Watch Hill or points west, and involve a 1½ to 8 mile hike. More »

  • Attention Watch Hill Ferry Passengers

    Due to channel conditions, delay or cancellation of ferry service between Patchogue and Watch Hill may occur. For updated ferry schedule information, please call 631-475-1665.

Life in the Sunken Forest: American Holly

Holly with berries

The female American holly produces red berries.

Perhaps the most interesting and beautiful tree of the maritime forest is the American holly (Ilex opaca). It is an evergreen tree and retains its leaves year-round. These leaves are very pointy and waxy, which helps defend them from both animal browsers and the damaging salt carried by ocean breezes. Its berries, which turn red in early winter, are found only on female trees.

Holly forest understory

The hollies are the oldest known trees in the Sunken Forest, some having begun growing around the time of the American revolution. Holly is not found growing naturally much farther north of here, but on Fire Island the moderating effects of a maritime climate have enabled the tree to survive.

As you can see from this photo, the dense canopy formed by mature holly trees does not permit much sunlight to reach the forest floor, and this--combined with intensive browsing by white-tailed deer--has resulted in very few plants at ground level--the so-called understory.


Did You Know?

Aerial view of small community, Kismet, looking from the southwest, bay to the upper left and sandy beach to the lower right.

Seventeen pre-existing communities remain inside the boundaries of Fire Island National Seashore. Some early supporters of the national seashore were interested in its establishment to ensure that a proposed parkway down the middle of Fire Island would not be constructed. More...