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Fern Forest

map showing location of Fern Forest
Map showing location of Fern Forest.
Fern Forest is a 254-acre Designated Urban Wilderness Site that lies within heavily populated Broward County. It is located near South Florida's East Coast, northwest of Ft. Lauderdale, in Pompano Beach.

Opened in 1985, Fern Forest contains many different plant communities, remnants of the historic Cypress Creek floodway, a nature center and exhibit room, and a variety of walking trails. For more information, please visit the Fern Forest website.

Walk the Fern Forest boardwalk with us and see some of the natural communities along the Cypress Creek Trail.

A photo gallery is available for this page. [Photos taken April, 2000]

photo of entrance to Fern Forest
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Welcome to Fern Forest
Looking down the boardwalk that takes you to the Fern Forest Nature Center. The boardwalk from the parking lot to the nature center brings you through a tropical hardwood hammock community, which includes evergreens, white stopper, gumbo limbo, paradise tree, pigeon plum and lancewood.

A rose by an other name... is a primrose!
Common primrose willow (Ludwigia peruviana) blooming along the boardwalk to the Fern Forest Nature Center. The yellow flowers of these tropical weeds generally bloom year-round in the wet areas of South Florida. photo of a yellow flower, the primrose
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Tropical scarlet milkweed
photo of the tropical scarlet milkweed
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Tropical scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) blooming along the boardwalk to the Fern Forest Nature Center. The reddish-orange and yellow flowers of this milkweed generally bloom year-round in Florida. The flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Scarlet milkweed is a native of South America that has adapted to the southern United States. It is often seen in disturbed, sandy soils of south and central Florida.

Take a look down...
Looking down from the boardwalk just before the nature center, ferns and other plants prosper on the Fern Forest floor. Over 35 fern species are found at Fern Forest. photo of fern forest floor
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a photo of a strangler fig
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Cypress Creek Trail
(Left) A panoramic view of a strangler fig. Strangler figs are one of the largest trees in South Florida.

On our first stop along Cypress Creek Trail, we see a large strangler fig to our right. Strangler figs are trees that begin growth from a dispersed seed. They grow above the canopy of their host tree and send aerial roots down to the ground. Once the roots reach the ground, the strangler fig grows faster. In many cases, the strangler fig will envelop and strangle the host tree.

(Right) Along the Cypress Creek Trail, you see many strangler fig trees that have enveloped their host trees. Strangler figs are native to Florida.

photo of a strangler fig
Strangler fig.
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photo of a strangler fig
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photo of an opening through Fern Forest
A forest opening provides a look into the low, hardwood hammock along this part of Cypress Creek Trail.
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photo of a red maple

A red maple sapling with its new, red-colored leaves. Red maple trees are common in much of the eastern United States and are often seen in low wet forests and along stream banks in Florida.
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World Wide Web?
photo of a spooky spider on a spider web
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Many elaborate spider webs were strung between tree branches along the Cypress Creek Trail. Here, golden-silk spiders hang on their webs. Some people call these spiders banana spiders because of their yellow bodies.

Golden-silk spiders are commonly seen in shaded woodlands and swamps of the southeastern United States. They mostly eat flying insects caught in its web.

photo of a spider on its web
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photo showing buttressed bases of the cypress tree
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Knobby knees
Note the buttressed bases and protruding "knees" of the cypress trees seen within the ponded waters of Fern Forest. Cypress knees that protrude out of the water are thought to aid the roots by providing oxygen to the often-waterlogged cypress. Cypress is the most flood-tolerant of all the Florida tree species. photo showing close-up of cypress knees
Close-up of cypress knees.
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Down on the forest floor
photo of the forest floor
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(Left) Along this part of Cypress Creek Trail, the swamp has an open canopy, which allows light to the forest floor. Plants including crinum lily, royal, swamp and leather ferns grow well here.

(Right) Looking down from the Cypress Creek Trail boardwalk, on ferns and lilies growing in the ponded waters. Tannins produced by forest detritus are what give these standing waters their brownish color.

photo of lillies
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photo at the cypress-maple swamp
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(Left) Looking through the cypress-maple swamp. This swamp is seasonally wet. Its open canopy provides light to many understory plants including crinum lily, royal, leather and swamp ferns.

(Right) A giant leather fern along the Cypress Creek Trail. The fronds of these ferns are thick and rugged and can grow to heights of 6 feet or more. Giant leather fern prefers moist soils and is commonly seen along canals, ditches, sloughs and ponds of South Florida.

photo of a leather fern
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photo of marl limestone
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(Left) A marl limestone outcropping amid ferns on the Fern Forest floor.

(Right) Lilies, ferns and pickerelweed prosper in the understory along the Cypress Creek Trail.

photo of pickerelweed, lillies and ferns
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Pickerelweed Pickerelweed has long heart-shaped leaves (generally 4 to 10-inches long) and violet-blue flowers that extend above the water. Pickerelweed is an aquatic plant that commonly grows in calm waters throughout Florida and generally blooms in all but the winter months. The yellow flowers of the tropical common primrose willow weed generally bloom year-round in the wet areas of South Florida.

(Left) In areas of the swamp where water collects year-round, it is too wet for maples, but pickerelweed and common primrose willow thrive.

photo of pickerelweed and primrose
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IPIX - Cypress Creek
Navigate around this 360° view of the historic Cypress Creek area seen from the southwest seating area of Cypress Creek Trail.

In 1909, as part of the plans to drain the Everglades for farmland, plans to drain Cypress Creek were made. The Cypress Creek area was surveyed, the drainage was authorized and between 1912 and 1916, Canal C-14 was constructed. Today, bald cypress, red maple, and coastal plain willow communities grow in the former channels of Cypress Creek.

  IPIX image of Northern Lake Okeechobee
Note: You will need the free IPIX viewer to view this 360° image  

photo of the gumbo limbo
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Everybody gumbo limbo!
The red-brown bark of the gumbo limbo tree makes for easy identification. The gumbo limbo tree has been nicknamed the tourist tree because its peeling bark resembles the skin of a visitor who has been out in the sun too long.

The gumbo limbo is a tropical tree that is native to Florida. It is commonly found in coastal central Florida, South Florida and the Keys.

Rivinia humilis
photo of plant with red berries
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Rivinia humilis with red berries.

Related SOFIA Information

Below we have listed science projects and publications for studies that are being conducted, or have been conducted, in the area of Fern Forest. Follow these links to read about each project and to see project-related publications and data.

Science Projects:

Related Publications:



U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
This page is: http://sofia.usgs.gov /virtual_tour/fernforest/index.html
Comments and suggestions? Contact:
Heather Henkel - Webmaster (hhenkel@usgs.gov)
Last updated: January 15, 2013 @ 12:44 PM (KP)