Throwback Thursday: Hurricanes & Hammocks

Hammocks & all habitats in Florida are hurricane-adapted. The plants at Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) weathered Hurricane Matthew in 2016 with little damage, save the loss of leaves & small limbs on live oaks (Quercus virginiana), the time-tested hurricane adaption of these iconic hammock trees.

The story was quite different in 2004 when ORCA was battered by a succession of storms: Hurricane Frances (September  5), Tropical Storm Ivan, and Hurricane Jeanne (September 24).

Gayle Peters (Class of Winter 1999) smiles above when a small group made the first visit to ORCA after the devastating trio of storms. All of the habitats saw significant impacts. Live oaks, cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto), and other vegetation was uprooted and twisted.

Without canopy shade, many plants suffered sunburn like the butterfly orchid (Encyclia tampensis) below or the wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) pictured at the top of the post.

Slash pines (Pinus elliottii var. densa) were snapped apart.

Fallen mangroves blocked the wetland crossover bridges …

The resilience and repair of these habitats has been amazing. Like fire, hurricanes are part & parcel of Florida’s ecosystems.

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