Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) – An evergreen shrub that can reach 25 feet, growing in coastal areas in well-drained, sandy soil. The holly can be found on the upper edges of brackish and salt marshes, sandy hammocks, coastal sand dunes, inner-dune depressions, sandhills, maritime forests, nontidal forested wetlands, well-drained forests and pine flatwoods. The female holly is identified by small, bright red berries that persist through the fall and winter. The berries are an important food for many birds, including the Florida Duck, the American Black Duck, Mourning Dove, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Wild Turkey, Northern Flicker, Sapsucker, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird and White-Throated Sparrow. Mammals such as the Nine-Banded Armadillo, American Black Bear, Gray Fox, Raccoon and Skunks also enjoy the berries, while the foliage and twigs are browsed by White-Tailed Deer.
Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) – One of the first plants to burst into bloom each year, this small woody tree gets its name from the downy silvery-colored leaves. The “serviceberry” refers to the Appalachian tradition of honoring memorial services for the dead in January at the same time the serviceberry blooms in clouds of tiny white flowers. The small clusters of fruit are tart but edible and are very popular with birds. Considered a rarity in some parts of the U.S., serviceberries are common along our bays.
Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) – A nearly evergreen tree that reaches heights of 50 feet, identified by its impressive size and horizontal branching. Often festooned with Spanish Moss and Resurrection Fern, live oaks were once prized by the U.S. Navy for shipbuilding. The Naval Live Oaks Reserve in Gulf Breeze (part of Gulf Islands National Seashore) was set aside by then-president John Quincy Adams in 1828 to ensure a continuous and future supply of the invaluable trees. Tall pines in the reserve were used for masts. Live oaks can withstand occasional floods and hurricanes, are somewhat salt tolerant and resistant to rot and decay. Excellent cover for owls and other birds; acorns provide food for birds and squirrels, while the leaves are the favorite food of the Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar.
Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) – An evergreen tree that can reach heights of more than 100 feet. Longleaf pine forests once covered most of the southeast with some specimens as old as 500 years. The forests were decimated by the lumber industry, but efforts were made to preserve remaining stands. Our area was once the center of a thriving turpentine industry that also used the sap.
Description: The bark is thick, reddish-brown and scaly. The leaves are dark green, needle-like, and occur in bundles of three. They often are twisted and remarkably long (up to 18 inches), the longest of all pine species native to North America. Seed cones can be up to 10” long. Essential habitat for the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker.