Hammocks are dense stands of hardwood trees that grow on natural rises just few inches higher than surrounding marshland that is otherwise too wet to support them. They are formed gradually over thousands of years rising in a wet area through the deposits of their own decomposing organic material.
Because of their slight elevation, hammocks rarely flood. Acids from decaying plants dissolve the limestone around each tree island, creating a natural moat that protects the hammock plants from fire. Shaded from the sun by the tall trees, ferns and airplants thrive in the moisture-laden air inside the hammock.
As a result they typically have a large and diverse density of various forms of plant and animal life. They appear as teardrop-shaped islands shaped by the flow of water in the middle of a slough. Many tropical species such as mahogany and cocoplum grow alongside the more familiar temperate species of live oak and red maple.
Hammocks are one of the habitats found in the Florida Everglades, as well as in more northerly marshy areas of Florida such as the Gulf Hammock Wildlife Management Area in Levy County and the Steinhatchee Wildlife Management Area southeast of Cooks Hammock in Lafayette County.