Red maple, sweetgum, red bay, bay magnolia, loblolly bay, and water oak are common residents of the floodplain forest, created by rivers that seasonally overflow their banks, scouring adjoining channels higher than the normal river level.
Thick with bald cypress, pond cypress, and cabbage palms, the low-lying hydric hammock occurs along river and lake floodplains, experiencing flooding whenever water levels are slightly above normal. Palm hammocks provide slight elevation over the surrounding marshes.
Bayheads receive their watery base from seepage, encouraging dahoon holly, bay magnolia, and loblolly bay to grow.
Looking like a dome from a distance, the cypress dome forms in a low depression in a prairie, fed by seeping water. In South Florida, cypresses also grow in sloughs – long linear depressions in the limestone bedrock into which surrounding water flows – and strands, shallow depressions which cover broad swaths of land. Low spots in the bedrock collect water as it drains off the rock, forming deeper spots where bald and pond cypress trees grow.
In the Big Cypress Swamp, you’ll wade through many sloughs and strands, where the high humidity encourages air plants such as orchids and bromeliads to thrive, especially the colorful wild pine with its yellow and red blooms.
Cypress domes are found all the way north into Tate’s Hell near Apalachicola, and floodplain forests of cypress extend throughout the state, along the edges of major rivers and in the lowlands of Northwest Florida.
In addition to coastal marshes, mangrove swamps, and swamp forests, Florida’s moist habitats include freshwater marshes, which form along lake and river drainages; ephemeral ponds, occuring in low spots during the rainy season; flatwoods ponds, created from the trickling runoff in the pine flatwoods; and wetlands, shallow grassy basins in pine flatwoods, scrub, and prairies.
Look for flag ponds in the sloughs and strands of South Florida, where the presence of tall alligator flag delineates a particularly deep depression in the swamp. Some swamps are unique to a specific region, like the black gum-titi swamps of Northwest Florida, but they all have one thing in common: they’re wet.