Hammock Ecosystem

Hammock ecosystems are among Florida's most diverse and are characterized by thick stands of shade-tolerant hardwoods and few pines. Understory vegetation may be quite sparse. Hammocks occur on rolling terrain. The soils vary from somewhat poorly to well drained, are high in nutrients, and contain more organic material and litter than drier sites. Hammocks occur commonly in north central Florida and sparingly elsewhere in Florida. The largest historic hammock areas are near Brooksville, Ocala, and Gainesville.

Some of the most common plants in this community are black cherry, flowering dogwood, laurel oak, live oak, pignut hickory, American beautyberry, sparkleberry, common greenbriar, wild grape, and blackberry. Animal species include spring peeper, broadhead skink, Florida box turtle, pileated woodpecker, tufted titmouse, cardinal, carolina wren, and gray squirrel.

By suppressing naturally occurring fires, humans have caused many natural upland pine communities to be succeeded by hammock-like communities. Normally, hammock plants that invade adjacent upland pine are killed by fire. If fire is suppressed, the hammock vegetation continues to grow and eventually shades out and replaces the plants characteristic of upland pine.


Unlike the old-field successional plots, which must be cleared and tilled at predetermined intervals, and the upland pine, which must be restored after decades of fire exclusion, NATL's hammocks need little active management. The chief exception is that NATL's hammocks contain a number of species of alien plants that, unless controlled, are likely to become superabundant and drastically alter the hammocks' species composition.

The four that seem particularly threatening are Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium japonicum), air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata), and skunk vine (Paederia foetida).

Other Resources

Photo Gallery of Hammock Ecosystem

Hammock Nature Trail

History of NATL's Hammock

Management of NATL's Hammock Ecosystem: 1994 to date

Hardwood Maps -NATL-east