tree island

More commonly known as hammocks in South Florida, these slight elevations in the slim grassy waters of the Everglades host palms and hardwood trees. Peter Matthiessen in Lost Man’s River compares these “tear shaped islands in the slow, sparkling sheet of grassy river” to a “green armada sailing north against the sky.” Water once flowed more strongly through the Everglades—Pahayokee to the Seminoles—than it does today, and those currents molded the islands to their distinctive elongate shape. Cool, green, and dry, hundreds of tree islands now dot the sawgrass plain. One of the largest is Paradise Key, measuring a mile by a mile and a half; it lies along the western edge of Taylor Slough, near the national park’s headquarters. The term tree island is used in other contexts as well—for example, near tree line in alpine terrain, where islands of stunted trees may clump together within a matrix of herbaceous vegetation.

Joy Williams