Tropical Hardwood Hammocks

Posted by Dominique Mitchell on March 8, 2012 4:35 PM.

Dr. George Wilder is a Botanist, Professor and our Herbarium Curator here at the Garden. We are extremely lucky to have him, especially since he shares his knowledge during our bimonthly staff meetings with his amazing and sometimes humorous presentations. We thought it was time to share these reports with our readers. Enjoy!


For the most part, tropical hardwood hammocks today are mere remnants of much larger hammocks that have been destroyed. Brickell Hammock, in Miami, is a case in point. While it was once the largest and most diverse rockland hammock on the South Florida mainland, it was mostly destroyed by the end of the 20th Century. Many plants now listed as extirpated in South Florida were collected there.

As one proceeds southward in Florida, you can notice conspicuous changes in the species composition of hardwood hammocks. For example, many woody species that grow within Simpson Hammock Park and in the Key Largo preserves are absent from hammocks near Naples, Fla. Conspicuous examples include Canella winterana (Wild Cinnamon), Guaiacum sanctum (Lignum Vitae) and Gymnanthes lucida (Crabwood).

I was recently most pleased to meet Juan Fernandez, Senior Miami Parks Naturalist at Simpson Hammock Park. Juan received botanical training in Cuba, and he emigrated from there to the United States, approximately 16 years ago. Juan took me and Brian Bovard on a botanical tour of the Park. Below are five species he showed us which are absent from the Naples area. All of the species are listed as "endangerd" within Florida.

1. Licaria triandra (Gulf Licaria) - This ranks among the rarest of species within Florida. It now grows wild in the state and solely within the three acres of Simpson Hammock Park.

2. Calyptranthes pallens (Spicewood) - This shrubby species is characterized by an (apparently) forking branching system.

3. Colubrina arborescens (Coffee Colubrina) - A species of Rhamnaceae (a family including buckthorn (Rhamnus) species in the northern United States.

4. Eugenia confusa (Redberry Stopper) - Although, two Eugenia species grow wild in Collier County, this species is not among them.

5. Picramnia pentandra (Bitterbush) - This is the lone one of the five species that has compound leaves (pinnately compound).

To read George's full report, visit this link.


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