Maritime Forest



Crossing into the back dunes and beyond of the barrier islands, you will enter the realm of the maritime forest. The maritime forests of the southern coast are as unique and enchanting as any other forest in the United States. The intricately gnarled Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) cloaked in Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and Resurrection Fern (Polypodium polypodioidies) and surrounded by Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) seem to be relics of a slower and quieter past.

The spreading canopy of Live Oak, Southern Pine (Pinus sp.), Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandifolia) and Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto) temper the harsh forces of wind and water that assault the dunes and beaches. Temperatures and winds are moderated under the tree canopy, which increases moisture levels and allows a dense understory of herbs and shrubs to develop.

Spanish Moss and Resurrection Fern are both epiphytes, plants that live on other plants entirely independent of the soil. Typically epiphytes require humid environments where they can absorb moisture directly from the atmosphere, so they are more common in the humid tropics than temperate regions.

In the understory dense clusters of Saw Palmetto provide excellent hiding places for Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes (Crotalus adamanteus), a shy and elusive predator vital to the maritime forest ecosystem.