The Boardwalk and the Cypress Swamp

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Boynton Beach, Palm Beach County

swamp and boardwalk
Swamps can make for intimidating hikes, but Loxahatchee's 0.4-mile boardwalk makes it easy. Walk quietly; listen for the sounds of a pileated woodpecker pounding away for a meal, the signature "who cooks for you" call of a barred owl or the Marco Polo game played by Carolina wrens. If you're lucky, they'll reveal themselves to you. Second-growth pond cypress trees, between 70 and 80 years old, dominate the swamp, towering above everything else. Red maples, dahoon holly and pond apples mix in the understory, all providing homes for a bounty of lichens, air plants and orchids. On the ground: royal ferns, strap ferns and lizard's tail. There is green arum with it starchy root, a staple food of Native Americans that inhabited the eastern United States. Tailed bracken fern stands tall, umbrella-like. Once upon a time, brachen fern was so valued it was used as money. Sparse, shrubby Virginia willow blooms in late winter, early spring; silverling, with its paint-brush like blooms makes its presence known in late fall and early winter. Climbing aster blooms and brightens the swamp in the cooler months. The cypress swamp mostly is a place of subtle things — keep your ears, eyes and most importantly, your mind open as you walk through. Pro tip: cover yourself and use your favorite brand of bug repellant liberally, especially in the warmer months and toward evening.

NEXT STOP: Mysteries of the Swamp


Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.
Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.