Mahogany Hammock

Everglades National Park, Fl
Ernie Ostuno

Well I am leaving Thursday on what I hope is an excellent adventure with
the family to south Florida the next few days. Among the highlights
should be a visit to the Everglades and a place called "Mahogany
Hammock" which is home to the largest mahogany tree in the U.S.:

This will be the second time I have visited this place. The first was in
1993, a few months after Hurricane Andrew roared through the area. This
tree, the largest of a couple dozen in the grove of mahogany trees,
survived a direct hit from that monster storm as well as from Hurricane
Donna three decades earlier. It probably has survived a few other bad
'canes as well since it is estimated to be over 500 years old. Several
of the grove members had been felled by Andrew and the victims from
Hurricane Donna could still be seen underneath them. The older downed
trees did not show much in the way of decay. In fact, the best way to
differentiate what storm knocked down which tree was to note that the
victims of Donna had fallen pointing north while those downed by Andrew
were pointing east.

I don't recall the size dimensions of the champion tree except to say it
was "pretty big". I'll try to get more accurate dimensions this time
around as well as some photos.

Mahogany Hammock Report   Ernie Ostuno
  Apr 10, 2005 08:46 PDT 

Fortunately, an elevated boardwalk makes it easy to get around the
jumble of fallen trees. The boardwalk was changed slightly since the
last time I was there due to the effects of Andrew. Between Donna and
Andrew, I estimate about 80 percent blowdown of the original stand of
old mahogany trees. This is unfortunate because it does not appear that
the old trees are reproducing, and there are less than a dozen left. I
asked a park ranger if there were any young mahogany trees in the
hammock and she could not identify any. I was reminded of the old cedar
trees on South Manitou island, a relatively even-aged stand of ancient
trees with no younger trees of the same species within the stand.

Virtually all of the mahogany trees in the Everglades as well as the
Florida Keys were logged long ago.

I took several photos of the area and will send them to Ed to put on the
web page. The old champion tree was about 3.75 feet dbh and I would
estimate between 70 and 80 feet tall. It is still alive (and producing
nuts) although a large lightning scar was evident. Most of the mahogany
trees (both standing and fallen) are covered with epiphytes. I would
guess the Rucker Index of the hammock to be pretty low given that many
of the other species besides mahogany (mostly native palm species)
rarely exceed 40 to 50 feet in height.

mh01.JPG (66910 bytes)

mh01.jpg: Interpretive sign at the parking lot trailhead. Barred owls have been noted nesting in the hammock recently.

mh02.JPG (36941 bytes)

mh02.jpg: View from the air of Mahogany Hammock.

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mh03.jpg: View from the boardwalk approaching the trees. The biggest of the mahogany trees can be seen at center right of the photo.

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mh04.jpg: One of the dozen or so large mahogany trees left standing. This one was at the edge of the stand and seemed to have a more "open grown" form than the other large trees there.

mh05.JPG (88365 bytes)

mh05.jpg: Another of the big mahogany trees. Note the many epiphytes or "air plants: growing on the trunk and limbs.

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mh06.jpg: The grand old tree. Veteran of perhaps 500 south Florida hurricane seasons.

mh07.JPG (90810 bytes)

mh07.jpg: The crown of the champion mahogany. Again note the epiphytes attached to the tree.

mh08.JPG (88534 bytes)

mh08.jpg: A blue-tailed skink on a palm tree.

mh09.JPG (86035 bytes)

mh09.jpg: One of the dozens of victims of Hurricanes Donna and Andrew. Apparently the root system of these trees was wide but shallow, making them susceptible to strong winds.

mh10.JPG (80197 bytes)

mh10.jpg: The fallen trees have become nurse logs and are covered with even more plants than the standing trees.

RE: Swietenia mahogani   Ernie Ostuno
  Apr 20, 2005 15:28 PDT 


The term "hammock" is a variation of "hummock" which may be more
commonly used to describe a slight rise in elevation.
The dictionaries I have seen list the origin of "hummock" as unknown but
some books and interpretive signs I came across in the Keys and the
Everglades had contradictory info on the origin, one suggesting it was
Spanish and another the Seminole Indian word for "home".

One interesting factoid is that the hammocks are surrounded by very
narrow, shallow moats as the rotting vegetation from the trees and
shrubs helps erode a small section of the limestone bordering them.
Check out these references: