This Friday, July 22, is #NationalHammockDay.
While it turns out the day was established to celebrate the swinging fabric hammocks that are usually suspended between trees, when I heard about the day, I immediately thought it was to celebrate hammock forests.
You see, hammock forests are incredibly rich ecosystems. Indeed, according to the University of Florida, “North Florida hammocks have the greatest variety of trees and shrubs per acre of all temperate forests in the United States,” while the University also notes that the tropical hammocks of South Florida contain “plants and animals that live in no other place in the United States.”
Closer to home, a 1978 survey of Hillsborough County detailed the plant communities of two types of hardwood hammocks (xeric hardwood hammocks and mesic hardwood hammocks) and the hydric hammocks that were historically found in the county. More specifically:
Hillsborough County’s xeric hardwood hammocks were dominated by Sand Live oaks (Quercus geminata) with Bluejack Oaks (Quercus incana), Laurel Oaks (Quercus laurifolia), and Cabbage Palms (Sabal palmetto). Although the report simply says shrubs were abundant, the Florida Native Plant Community notes that the typical xeric hammocks have a sparse understory of Sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) and Rusty Lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea).
The county’s mesic hardwood hammocks typically had closed canopies dominated by Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) with subcanopies comprising Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia), Red Bay (Persea borbonia), Pignut (Carya glabra), Water Oak (Quercus nigra), and Black Cherry (Prunus serotina).
The county’s hydric hammocks included Cabbage Palms (Sabal palmetto), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Water Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), water ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), and Florida elm (Ulmus floridana).
While much of our historical hammocks have been lost to development, Hillsborough County has been able to preserve some at the Alalfia Scrub Nature Preserve, Violet Cury Nature Preserve, Alderman’s Ford Preserve, and Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve.
Why not explore and let us know what you see?