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.