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Ecosystems of south Florida

Freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems

Bay heads

History of the Study
Regional System
- Freshwater
and Terrestrial

  -  System relations
  -  Effects of man
  -  Canals & lakes
  -  Ponds & sloughs
  -  Sawgrass marsh
  -  Wet prairies
  -  Pine forests
  -  Cypress forests
  -  Mixed swamp forests
  >  Bay heads
  -  Hardwood hammocks
  -  Palmetto & dry prairies
- Coastal
- Man-dominated
Hydrologic Systems
Final Word
PDF version
Bay heads are tree islands with broad-leaved, evergreen, and swamp hardwoods. These heads are common through much of the Everglades where they occur on peat that is several feet higher than the surrounding marsh. Bay heads are a particular type of mixed swamp forest, distinguished from that described earlier by the predominance of bay trees and their relatively small areas. These heads also commonly have coco plum, pigeon plum, buttonwood, dahoon, and a variety of other swamp trees. Bromeliads, orchids, and ferns are often abundant. Red mangrove and paurotis palm are common near the coast (Craighead, 1971).

aerial photograph of bay heads
Bay heads are tree islands. [larger image]
Bay heads often develop at solution holes or depressions in the bedrock. The accumulation of peat in depressions may allow trees to colonize the sites, and these trees, in turn, contribute to further peat buildup. Willows are one of the first colonizers; they may in time be replaced by other swamp trees such as the bays. As more peat accumulates, bay heads tend to become elevated and hammocklike. Ultimately, in the absence of peat loss through severe fires, the bay heads will become hardwood hammocks (Alexander and Crook, 1973: Davis, 1943).

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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:04 PM (KP)