It’s “The Land of Little Giants,” according to American Forests magazine, and we can be thankful it was preserved in the 11th hour. Once slated for clear-cutting to build oceanfront condos, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park has the highest concentration of National Champion trees in one place in the United States.
Location: Key Largo
Fees: $2.50 per person
Open: 8 AM until sunset daily
Leashed pets welcome
Most incredibly, none of the National Champion trees in this park are over 45 feet tall. This dense tropical hammock is full of trees common in the Caribbean, but this is the northernmost spot that many of these trees can tolerate in the wild. Some of the current and prior national champions found in this forest include crabwood, blolly, wild cinnamon, and wild tamarind.
A paved trail – once planned to be the grand entrance to a condo development – enables the wheelchair-bound to enjoy this shady spot. Ask at nearby John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (managers of this park) for a backcountry pass if you want to get deep into the hammock on miles of forest roads to see botanical treasures like wild cotton and wild allamanda.
In all, 84 listed plant and animal species are protected here, including the liguus tree snails seen on smooth-barked tree trunks. But if you head off the beaten path, know your species: two of the most poisonous trees in the United States – manchineel and poisonwood – are quite common here, and you don’t want to brush into one.
Explore the park
- Florida’s toxic trees - Southeast Florida is home to two poisonous trees, the poisonwood and the manchineel. Learn how to recognize them so you don't get too close, and find out how truly dangerous they are.
- Key Largo Hammock Nature Trail - Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is truly a botanical treasure, with the highest concentration of champion trees in one place in the United States