Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Palm Hammock Is Not A Hammock Under The Palms

In Florida, "Hammock" is the word we use to describe a shady forest of mixed hardwoods and palms. My sources say that the term comes from the Creek people's word "Hamaca" which meant "shady place". Hammocks tend to be in areas that are less frequently burned as the pines excell in those drier, more volatile habitats.

Hammocks can be dry, medium dry, or wet and they are wonderfully diverse places with a beauty that is subtropically sensational.

Sometimes you can find hammocks where cabbage (sabal) palms dominate. This might be because the hardwoods were logged out years ago and the palms kicked in to overdrive. Cabbage palms are very prolific even if they are slow growing, so if you remove the shady competition, they will sprout all over the place.
Often palm hammocks are found in salt marsh boundary communities.
I would assume the cabbage palms have a higher salt tolerance than the hardwoods, so they become the dominate tree. However it happens, a forest of palms is pretty unique.

The Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge protects some of the most beautiful palm hammocks in Florida.

It was late in the day when I got to this palm hammock near Barnett Creek in the refuge. I had to be out at sundown, so I didn't bushwack very far from the dirt road that crosses the creek.

Looking up at a bright winter sky and fronds.
Forest grown palms get really, really tall.
It's always sad to me to see remnant towering palms standing in a brushy field, because I know that when they started growing there, a dense forest existed which forced them to shoot up above the canopy, seeking light.
The valuable hardwoods get logged, the tall palms stay as a reminder of what was.

It's lumpy, but very open walking through one of these palm hammocks. The palms grow close together and drop a lot of dead fronds that act as a mulch.

Animals in a palm hammock feed on the plentiful black berries they produce and the many buggy critters that inhabit the older frondy material clinging to the trunk. Bats roost under the fronds and every dead palm seems to sport a woodpecker hole or two.

A mixed hardwood hammock will have a greater diversity of animal species, but for a pure Florida feeling, it's hard to beat a forest of cabbage palms.


The Troll said...

Hmmmmm. This could be a good Mute Monday Post for this week even though it contains a lot of informative verbiage.

The theme is "Dixie". Of which I feel most of Florida remains a part. Certainly from a Historical Perspective.

pablo said...

Perfect post for the Festival of the Trees.

Hurricane Teen said...

mmmm I wouldn't mind stringing a hammock between a couple trees in that hammock. I just might be passing through that place this year on a 200-mile Suwannee kayak trip I have planned. Beauty!

Floridacracker said...

Sorry about all that verbiage. I may have something.


Do that trip. I wanted to do the App. River when I was in college and put it off. Still haven't done it.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't even bring myself to comment on yesterday's post. Some of us are past Kevin by at least half a decade and just starting our movie careers. Shame on you- picking on old folks. On the other hand, I was happy that it seemed to be vulture day in the hood- between you and Wayne I got my fix- I'm missing the two Cinereous vultures at LPZ. (Oh, I wasn't going to comment.)
Anyway, moving on to today- this was a good little lesson that some of us newbies need on Florida flora. Thank you for that and the mighty fine photos.

Floridacracker said...

This must mean that the Friday night teaser post has been supplemented.
Off to see ...

Anonymous said...

Your new banner photo is just gorgeous to a winter weary South Dakota dweller. It'll be months before we see green like that again.
Thanks for the reminder.
Caroline in the Black Hills of SD

Meems said...

Pure Florida its best. Palms, hammocks, trees, crystal blue skies, plenty of sunshine! It's why I'm still here after all these years of enduring the summers. Thanks for the tour.

Floridacracker said...

We deserve more chilly weather before the heat begins again too!

Floridacracker said...

Glad it brighted your wintry day!

Ol' Lurker said...

Very purty, but it shore do look mighty snaky.

Floridacracker said...

Ol lurker,
Let's hope so!