Christmas is in the air, so why not take a holly hike? Florida has several species of holly you’ll catch with red berries this time of year, and they grow in a variety of habitats. Dahoon holly is found in the floodplain forests and marshes of the Florida peninsula; scrub holly in the high,dry scrub ridges of the central peninsula, especially on ancient sands like the Lake Wales Ridge and the Big Scrub; yaupon holly in coastal forests and dense hammocks; and American holly, the showiest and most “holly-like” of them all, in bluff forests and shady live oak hammocks throughout Florida.
A trail I had the pleasure of helping to route – the Holly Hammock Hiking Trail – is a neat introduction to a shady forest filled with American holly. It’s right off the Ross Prairie trailhead of the Cross Florida Greenway, along SR 200 south of Ocala, and a bonus is the creeping myrtle with its little red berries. So for a touch of natural Christmas color between the mad dashes to the stores, slow down a little and enjoy Holly Hammock at Ross Prairie State Forest.
The sand pines look like little Christmas trees, too … and this is a fabulous place to take your youngsters on a very short backpacking trip. It’s a little more than a mile to the designated primitive campsite along the trail.