Of all of Florida’s habitats, the one that truly sings “Florida” is the palm hammock, a richly textured riot of green and fronds, of mosses and lichens, of light and shadow perfectly balanced. While hiking this past week on the Taylor Creek Loop – built long ago by the Florida Trail Association in the south end of Tosohatchee Preserve State Park, now Tosohatchee Reserve – we fully absorbed the meaning of palm hammock, mile after mile.
Dark waters creep across these hammocks at certain times of year, but for now, this outpost along the St. Johns is dry. It is green, green, and relentlessly green, a maze of trunks under a thickly shaded canopy. But in its sameness, there are so many gradients of detail. The limbs of live oaks arc through the vertical lines of cabbage palm trunks, drawing the eye upward. Bright orange fungi rise from the leaf litter of the forest floor, some looking like fingers, others bulbous and squat. The metallic purple of beautyberry stands out against the deep green of palm fronds. Turquoise lichen, splattered like paint across sphagnum moss, outlines the base of a palm tree. There are palms that look dwarf in stature and shape, and others long and slender towering above the rest of the canopy. Yes, it is palms, palms, and palms, but it is an immersion into a wonderland seen by so few, it will take your breath away.