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Historic Ecosystems

Pine Island Ridge hammock

The historic ecosystems of Broward County have been shaped by minor changes in elevation, the presence – or more recently the absence – of fire; hydric factors which include the depth and length of inundation by water; as well as the salinity of the water present on or immediately under the native vegetative community. The major native vegetative communities identified in Broward County are: 

1.  Beach and dune community: A community composed of unconsolidated sand facing the ocean and shaped by the wind, waves, currents, and tides. Sand may be piled up by the wind forming dunes. Characteristic plant species include sea oats, sea grape, beach sunflower, beach star, beach creeper, Spanish bayonet, cocoplum, railroad vine, beach peanut, beach croton, beach bean, saw palmetto, prickly pear and nickerbean;

2.  Coastal strand forest community: A community consisting of tropical hardwood hammock found just landward of the beach and dunes. Soils contain limestone substrate, sand and organic material. Characteristic plant species include sea grape, poisonwood, mastic, black ironwood, paradise tree, torchwood, Spanish stopper, silver palm, inkwood, gumbo limbo, sabal palm, live oak, strangler fig, marlberry, white stopper, wild coffee and snowberry;

3.  Mangrove community (saltwater swamp): A community occurring primarily along saltwater shorelines. Soils are very poorly drained peat or fine sand underlaid by sands or clay. The most frequent tree species found in this community are red, black and white mangroves, buttonwood and pond apple. Plants found in mangrove swamp include leather fern, sea oxeye, coin vine and rubber vine;

4.  Scrub community: An inland community that occurs on nearly level to sloping land. Soils are deep, acid, somewhat poorly to excessively-drained and coarse textured. Trees found in such communities include sand pine, Chapman oak, sand live oak and myrtle oak. Shrubs include saw palmetto, scrub palmetto, gopher apple, prickly pear, shiny blueberry, staggerbush, fetterbush and palafoxia. Ground cover is scattered and large areas of light-colored sand are often noticeable;

5.  Pine flatwoods community: This community is identified by flat topography and pine and palmetto vegetation with an understory of grasses and herbs. Trees found in such communities include slash pine and occasional oaks. Shrubs include saw palmetto, shiny blueberry, gallberry, tarflower and wax myrtle. Flatwood communities have a high water table during the rainy season;

6.  High hammock community: This community develops slowly as organic materials accumulate creating a favorable land elevation. The presence of a high hammock indicates that the site has been undisturbed for a period of time. High hammocks are among the most diverse systems in South Florida containing more than one hundred (100) species of trees and shrubs. Characteristic tree species include live oak, pigeon plum, paradise tree, gumbo limbo, willow bustic, lancewood, mastic, strangler fig, satinleaf, mulberry, Simpson stopper. Shrubs include marlberry and wild coffee and such communities include a variety of ferns;

7.  Low hammock community: Low hammocks are areas of dense forest vegetation dominated by tree species, such as laurel oak, strangler fig, cabbage palm, dahoon holly, scattered cypress trees and wax myrtle. Low hammocks develop on land that is of sufficient elevation to be seldom flooded, but in close proximity to water environments, and protected from fire. They frequently occur in transitional areas between drier upland communities and lowland vegetation types, such as marsh, wet prairie, cypress swamp or mangrove;

8.  Cypress wetland community (freshwater swamp): Cypress wetlands occupy some portions of the freshwater lowlands of the Atlantic Coastal Plain in Florida. Temperate deciduous trees dominate, and the areas are often seasonally flooded. Soils are nearly level or depressional, poorly drained and have a loamy top layer and sandy subsoils. Characteristic trees include bald cypress, red maple, cocoplum, dahoon holly, strangler fig and pond apple. Leather fern, royal fern and other fern species are found in cypress wetland communities;

9.   Everglades community (freshwater marsh): The Everglades is a flat expanse of freshwater wetlands dominated by sawgrass and dotted with tree islands. The dominant plant species include sawgrass, coastal plain willow, wax myrtle, elderberry, cattail, spike-rush, pickerelweed, waterlily and periphyton. The vegetation found in the tree islands is determined by elevation, fire history and hydric factors, and varies from low willow heads to bay heads to tropical hardwood hammocks.


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