Tropical Hammocks

Tropical hardwood hammocks occupy elevated, relatively fire-free sites in all three major rockland areas, and are usually small patches of broad-leaved forest surrounded by other vegetation types. 

Vegetation

epiphyte, photo by Julie Anne Ferguson DemersHammocks are broad-leaved, evergreen forests composed primarily of trees common to the Bahamas and Greater Antilles.  These forests have a great diversity of orchids, bromeliads and ferns (tropical epiphytes - plants that grow on trees).  More than 150 species of trees and shrubs are native to the rockland hammocks of Dade, Monroe and Collier counties.

epiphyte on hardwood, photo by Julie Anne Ferguson DemersThe structure and composition of tropical rockland hammocks are variable and are influenced by regional gradients of rainfall, minimum temperature, disturbances (fire and hurricanes), local gradients of saline influence (especially in the Keys), surrounding vegetation types, and the elevation and character of the limestone substrate.

Mr. Bill Casey, a forest scientist who earned his M.S. at the University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation, developed a useful table of the common trees in Florida hardwood forests.  Some of these species are native to the tropical rockland hammocks.  These species are followed by the symbol TH, indicating that they are found in tropical hammocks. View the table of common trees in Florida hardwood forests.

As stated above, there are over 150 species of trees and shrubs native to this ecosystem type and it is beyond the scope of this site to introduce them all.  If you would like more information on the vegetation of this ecosystem, consult the book, Ecosystems of Florida edited by R.L. Myers and J.J. Ewel, or a field guide to the vegetation of the region.

For more information on these and other trees and shrubs, see our Trees of Florida page.

Threatened or Endangered Plants

Trees: 

  • brittle thatch palm (Thrinax morrissii)
  • buccaneer palm (Pseudophoenix sargentii)
  • cupania (Cupania glabra)
  • Florida thatch palm (Thrinax parvitolia)
  • Krug's holly (Ilex krugiana)
  • lignum-vitae (Guaiacum sanctum)
  • manchineel (Hippomane mancinella)
  • silver thatch palm (Coccothrinax argentata)
  • tree cactus (Cereus robinii)

Shrubs: 

  • pride-of-big-pine (Strumpfia martima)

Herbaceous Plants and Vines: 

  • auricled spleenwort (Asplenium auritum)
  • bird's nest spleenwort (Asplenium serratum)
  • slender spleenwort (Asplenium dentatum)
  • cowhorn orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)
  • dollar orchid (Encyclia boothiana)
  • Everglades peperomia (Peperomia floridana)
  • fragrant maidenhair fern (Adiantum melanoleucum)
  • Fuch's bromeliad (Guzmania monostachia)
  • adder's tongue fern (Ophioglossum palmatum)
  • Hattie Bauer halberd fern (Tectaria coriandrifolia)
  • night-scent orchid (Epidendrum nocturnum)
  • narrow strap fern (Campyloneurum angustifolium)
  • powdery catopsis (Catopsis beteroniana)
  • star-scale fern (Pleopeltis revoluta)
  • twisted air plant (Tillandsia flexuosa)
  • worm-vine orchid (Vanilla barbellata)
  • young-palm orchid (Tropidia polystachya)

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Fauna

Tropical hammocks provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species, many of which are unique to this habitat. 

Mammals 

  • Everglades mink (Mustela vison)
  • gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
  • Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium)
  • Key Largo cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus)
  • Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana)
  • marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris)
 

Threatened or Endangered Wildlife

Florida panter, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Mammals: 

  • Florida panther (Felix concolor coryi)
  • Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
  • Key Largo cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus)
  • Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana)
  • Key Vaca raccoon (Procyn lotor auspiciatus)
  • mangrove fox squirrel (Sciurus niger avicennia)

Birds: 

  • bald eagle (Haleaeetis leucocephalus) (currently off the endangered list)
  • white-crowned pigeon (Columba leucocephala)
  • wood stork (Mycteria americana)

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