The Coastal Hammock (Maritime) Forest
The oldest and highest part of the barrier island is covered with a forest called a hammock ("shady place") -- an ancient dune on which larger plant species have taken root in the thin layer of decayed remains from pioneer species. Cabbage palm, red bay, magnolia, and live oak provide a canopy under which diverse animal species can thrive.
Spiders, lizards, snakes, great horned owls, cardinals and Carolina wrens, raccoons, opossum, and even a bobcat all live here. A small herd of white tail deer finds shelter in the forest on Rattlesnake Island. Understory plants such as wax myrtle, saw palmetto, yaupon holly, beauty berry, and grape vines provide food for some of these animals as well as for migrating birds who stop for a rest in the maritime forest.
If you visit Fort Matanzas, pick up a free trail guide in the Visitor Center and walk the half-mile boardwalk nature trail through the hammock and scrub.