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Florida’s Iconic Trees

Florida’s trees do more than just provide shade - they protect air and water quality, enhance shoreline resilience to storm impacts, and provide food and shelter for species important to Florida’s economy. DEP plays several roles in protecting the trees that characterize our state and  provide environmental benefits. 

DEP manages thousands of acres in state parks, aquatic preserves and national estuarine research reserves. Native trees are protected on these lands that represent Florida’s natural and cultural heritage. DEP also partners with others to restore habitat such as longleaf pine and mangrove forests. Through Florida Forever, Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, DEP buys lands that conserve natural resources, including the state’s iconic trees. DEP’s regulatory side provides guidance for mangrove trimming and oversees permitting for cutting and trimming mangroves and other coastal species such as sea grapes. 

Join us as we celebrate some of Florida’s most iconic trees!

    Bald Cypress
    Bald Cypress at Highlands Hammock State Park 
    Photo Credit: Michael Douglas  

    Bald Cypress

    You can recognize the bald cypress as the Florida trees that have “knees.” These special roots are called Pneumatophores and can be seen sticking out of the water along the base of the bald cypress trees. 

    Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park is the worlds largest royal palm and bald cypress swamp in the world. As the name suggests, the park’s Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk offers visitors the chance to walk along towering bald cypress trees on a raised boardwalk. Another unique place to see bald cypress is DeLeon Springs State Park, home to “Old Methuselah,” a 500-year-old bald cypress, making it one of the oldest identified bald cypress in the Eastern U.S.

    Other popular Florida State Parks with bald cypress trees include: Fanning Springs, Haw Creek Preserve, Manatee Springs, Highlands Hammock, Colt Creek and Collier-Seminole.

    The Florida Torreya
    Torreya at Torreya State Park

    Florida Torreya

    The Florida Torreya tree (Torreya taxifolia), also known as Florida nutmeg is another rare Florida gem! This tree has many names including Florida nutmeg or the “stinking cedar” due to its strong odor when cut or bruised. The tree was first recorded in 1835 by botanist Hardy Bryan Croom. Torreya State Park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s in honor of its namesake tree, as well as the bluffs and ravine for which the park is famous. Estimates suggest there were once around 600,000 Torreya trees in the Apalachicola valley during the early 1800s.  

    Today there are only about 200, making the Florida Torreya one of America’s most endangered trees. As a part of larger restoration efforts, the park service is working with the Atlanta Botanical Garden to plant new Florida Torreya trees propagated from seeds of existing trees within the park. 

    Gumbo Limbo Tree
    Gumbo limbo at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park Photo Credit: @lorimcescobar 

    Gumbo Limbo

    Not only is gumbo limbo (Bursera simaruba) fun to say, but it is also a great Florida native! These south Florida trees are known for their twisting branches and their wind tolerance. The gumbo limbo is also the host plant for the Dingy Purplewing Butterfly (Eunica monima). 

    See gumbo limbo at several state parks: Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, John D. MacArthur Beach, Lovers Key, Collier-Seminole and Long Key

    Live Oak
    Like Oak at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park Photo Credit: Angela Harlow 

    Live Oak

    The majestic live oak (Quercus virginiana) can be found from the panhandle down to Miami-Dade County. They are a classic backdrop to an outdoor wedding and a symbol of the southern countryside. While an image of a picturesque live oak among rolling hills may be the first thought that comes to mind, but live oaks make their home throughout urban and suburban landscapes across Florida.  

    Some of the state’s most interesting live oak trees can be found within Florida’s state park. The Fairchild Oak at Bulow Creek State Park is estimated to be 500 years old and is one of the oldest trees in the south. Lake Griffin State Park may not boast having the oldest tree but is also home to several interesting oaks. Live oak trees stand as centerpieces for many formal gardens such as those at Eden Gardens State Park and Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.  

    Inspired to add a live oak to your landscape?  Be sure to plan ahead! These trees can live to be hundreds of years old and spread between 60 and 120 feet wide and up to 80 feet tall! Visit Florida-Friendly Landscaping to learn more.

    Long Leaf Pine
    Longleaf Pines at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park 

    Longleaf Pine

    Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) once covered most of central and north Florida but today only about 20% of the original habitat remains. Conservation efforts such as the Florida Forever program aim at protecting habitat including longleaf pine. Florida State Parks such as Torreya, Wakulla Springs and Lake Talquin are implementing restoration efforts to restore longleaf pine habitat.

    Protecting Florida’s longleaf pine forests is also important for preserving our cultural heritage. Forest Capital Museum State Park celebrates the importance of forestry in Florida’s history. The park's museum focuses on the logging industry and displays over 5,000 products manufactured from longleaf pines. The park is also home to a longleaf pine forest more than 50 years old.

    While longleaf pines are common throughout many of Florida's state parks, these parks offer visitors the chance to visit old-growth pines: St. Sebastian River PreserveColt Creek, Dade Battlefield, Rocky Bayou, Dunns Creek and Favery-Dykes.

    Florida Mangrove at Curry Hammock State Park
    Mangroves at Curry Hammock State Park 


    Florida is home to three species of mangrove, the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and the white mangrove (Laguncularia racemose). Mangroves are so important to Florida they are legally protected and restoration projects are common in areas where mangrove degradation has occurred.

    Mangroves can be home to hundreds of species and act as a nursery for many commercial fish and shellfish. Birds such as blue herons, egrets and brown pelicans roost among mangroves. Mangroves act as a living shoreline. They can absorb nutrient pollution before it enters a waterbody. This can help prevent harmful algal blooms and other impacts caused by excess nutrients.

    One of the best ways to see mangroves is from the water! Many state parks offer the chance to paddle along shorelines to explore mangrove islands. You can find mangroves in many Florida State Parks, including: Caladesi IslandDon PedroOleta River, Long Key, Cockroach Bay Preserve, Fort Pierce Inlet, Florida Keys Overseas Heritage TrailCollier-Seminole, St. Lucie Inlet, Crystal River, Curry Hammock, Charlotte Harbor, Werner-Boyce and Terra Ceia. Bald cypress can also be seen at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

    Pygmy Fringe Tree
    Pygmy Fringe-tree at Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park

    Pygmy Fringe

    The pygmy fringe tree (Chionanthus pygmaeus) is a federally listed endangered tree endemic to Florida.

    The pygmy fringe tree blooms for two to three weeks in spring with delicate white fringed flowers. This tree’s ability to survive the dry conditions of central Florida scrub habitats is impressive.

    One of the few places that you can see this tree “in the wild” is Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park.  

    Sabal Palm
    Sabal Palms at Mayakka River State Park Photo Credit: Karen Willey 

    Sabal Palm

    The sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) may be one of the most iconic trees in Florida, which is ironic because it is not actually a tree! Scientifically speaking the sabal palm is more closely related to grasses. Still, the sabal palm is conventionally thought of as a tree and was designated as the Florida state tree in 1953. The sabal palm is a Florida native and can be found across most of the state.  

    To immerse yourself in a sabal palm environment, visit these state parks: Atlantic RidgeMyakka River, Avalon, St. Joseph and Madira Bickel Mound. 

    Sea Grapes
    Sea Grapes at Jonathan Dickinson State Park Photo Credit: Deborah Keating 

    Sea Grape

    Similar in ecological function to the Florida mangroves, sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) is a coastal plant that helps protect our shorelines from erosion.

    As the name suggests, the sea grape trees produce a fruit that is similar in appearance to grocery store variety grapes. These fruits are often used to make a delicious jelly and are popular with birds and squirrels. 

    Sea grapes are protected under Florida law, including trimming.  

    Ready to see some sea grapes? Check out these state parks: AvalonDagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock, Jonathan DickinsonOleta River and Fort Pierce Inlet.

    Strangler Fig
    Strangler Fig at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.
    Photo Credit: @floridaexplored 

    Strangler Fig

    While the strangler fig (Ficus aurea) might sound like the start of a spooky movie, this fascinating tree is a Florida native that means you no harm! The strangler fig gets its name from its unique growth pattern. A new tree will look more like a vine, growing up other trees for support. Over several decades the strangler fig will grow multiple vine-like trunks that surround the support the tree creating a beautiful network. 

    One of the state’s most spectacular strangler fig is at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park but strangler figs can be found at many state parks, including: MacArthur BeachLovers Key and Collier-Seminole. 

    Tips for Trees

    • When gardening at home, it is important to select trees and other plants that will thrive in your landscape. Selecting natives and other Florida-Friendly plants that are suited for your area’s light, soil, moisture and other conditions mean that you will need fewer inputs and have a healthier landscape. Learn more about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Right Plant, Right Place principle.  
    • Did you know some trees are protected by law? That’s right! Mangroves, sea grapes and some wetland vegetation are protected by statute in order to protect Florida’s shores and water resources. Other trees such as large oaks may be protected by your local municipality. Need help? Reach out to your local DEP district office for guidance! 
    • Mulch is an important tool in a gardener’s tool bag! It helps maintain soil moisture and prevent weeds. When selecting a mulch option avoid mulch that contains cypress trees. It is often harvested from delicate wetlands. Instead, try sustainable mulch such as Melaleuca mulch, which is recycled from invasive plant removal! Learn more about the Florida-Friendly landscaping mulch principle.  
    • Sabal palms are a common ornamental tree in developed areas. There is a common misconception that palms should be “hurricane trimmed” each year. According to the experts with the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program, this can damage your tree. Instead use the “9:00 to 3:00” method or hire a Florida-Friendly landscape professional to maintain healthy palms.

    Ready to explore Florida’s trees yourself? Find a Florida State Park near you, or learn more about landscaping with Florida trees in your yard with Florida-Friendly Landscaping™.

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