In the previous article on the Seminole Indians, it was mentioned that villages consisted of hardwood hammocks or pinelands. Below is an explanation of what both are.
Tropical Hardwood Hammocks
A tropical hardwood is made up of small islands of trees growing on the land raised between one and three foot above sloughs and prairies. They can range from one to ten acres in area. They can appear in freshwater sloughs, sawgrass prairies, or pinelands. Slightly elevated on limestone plateaus and rise several inches above the surrounding peat. They may also grow on land that has been unharmed by deep peat fires.
A hardwood hammock will exhibit a mixture of subtropical and hardwood trees. The mixture can include Southern live oak, gumbo limbo, royal palm and bustic that grow in very dense clumps. Sharp saw palmettos flourish are near the base. This makes it very difficult for people to penetrate, but they are an ideal habitat for small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Moats created by the water in the sloughs flows around the islands and protects the trees.
When there is a fire in a hammock, it may take decades or centuries to recover. Due to weather such as frost, lightning, and wind, the majority of the trees in the hammocks don’t grow above 55 feet.
Pineland (also called pine rockland) is some of the driest land in the Everglades, as it is located in the highest part of the Everglades with little to no hydroperiod. It is possible that flooding may occur in some floors for a few months at a time. The Pineland is the single species of the South Florida slash pine.
Fire is required In order to maintain them Pineland communities. Although the trees have several adaptations that simultaneously promote and resist fire. The sandy floor of the pine forest is covered with dry pine needles and are highly flammable. The trees are insulated by their bark that protects them from heat. A fire will eliminate competing vegetation on the forest floor, and opens the pine cones to germinate seeds. If there are long periods without a fire, pineland can turn into hardwood hammocks as larger trees overtake the slash pine. Saw palmetto, cabbage palm and West Indian lilac are the understory shrubs in pine rocklands and are fire-resistant.
With almost two dozen species, herbs are the most diverse group of plants in the pine community. Due to tubers and other mechanisms, they sprout quickly after being charred.
Before the urban development in South Florida, pine rocklands covered approximately 161,660 acres in Miami-Dade County. Within Everglades National Park, the pine forests are protected. Outside of the park, as of 1990, there were only 1,780 acres of pine communities. Further, the misunderstanding of the role fire played contributed in part to the disappearance of the pine forests. As natural fires were put out and pine rocklands transitioned into hardwood hammocks. There are prescribed fires in Everglades National Park in pine rocklands every three to seven years.