Seepage Swamps

Baygalls typically develop at the base of a slope where seepage maintains a saturated peat substrate. Bog-type bayheads occur on acidic peat soils that have accumulated in a depression. The peat may fill the depression or be an island or isolated mass floated into position by high water. Hydric hammocks occur on low, flat, wet sites where limestone is often at or near the surface.

Baygall and bayhead soils are typically composed of peat with an acidic pH (3.5 to 4.5). Hydric hammocks generally grow on sands with considerable organic material that, although generally saturated, are inundated only for short periods following heavy rains.

Baygalls and bayheads are dense evergreen forests or shrub thickets with a spongy understory of sphagnum moss and ferns. The canopy is composed of tall, densely packed, generally straight-boled evergreen hardwoods dominated by sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), swamp bay (Persea palstris) red bay (Persea borbonia), and loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus). There is typically a more or less open understory of shrubs and ferns and a ground surface of sphagnum mats interlaced with convoluted tree roots. Hydric hammocks are open forests dominated by cabbage palms and laurel oaks (Quercus laurifolia) mixed with other hardwoods. They often have minimal understory and a floor carpeted by fallen palm fronds.

In baygalls and bayheads, the typical plant species include: red bay, sweetbay, loblolly bay, red maple (Acer rubrum), slash pine (Pinus elliottii), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), dahoon (Ilex cassine) gallberry (Ilex coriacea), Virginia willow (Itea virginica), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), coco plum (Chrysobalanus icaco), laurel greenbrier (Smilax laurifolia), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), chain fern (Woodwardia spp.), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), and sphagnum moss.

Typical hydric hammock plants include cabbage palm, laurel oak, red maple, swamp bay, sweetbay, water oak (Quercus nigra), dahoon, myrsine (Rapanea punctata), sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), wax myrtle, saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), poison ivy, royal fern (Osmunda regalis), peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea), rattan vine (Berchemia scandens), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and several species of ferns.

Taken from: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1999. South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan. Atlanta, Georgia. Pp. 3:500, 502.

Listed Species Occurring in Seepage Swamp Habitat

  • Florida Panther
  • Bald Eagle
  • Wood Stork
  • Kirtland's Warbler
  • Eastern Indigo Snake