Trees are critical components of Florida’s landscape. They help reduce storm impacts, protect air quality, and provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species.
However, trees are vulnerable to over-destruction due to development and other activities. Fortunately, Pensacola has regulations that prevent the cutting or removal of protected trees without prior approval.
The bald cypress is a long-lived conifer that grows in swamps, rivers, and lakes. It can grow up to 600 years and can reach heights of 40 feet or more.
The tree is also extremely durable, adapting to a wide range of soil conditions, wet or dry. It’s cold hardy and does well with regular irrigation.
This stately tree has a distinctive fall foliage that changes from a light green to a deep russet red. It loses its needles in winter and grows a new set in spring.
Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is one of three tree species found in Florida that are protected by the state’s noxious weed law. It has a unique ability to adapt to its habitat, helping to protect the environment from storm surge and erosion.
These trees grow up to 30 feet (9 m) tall and thrive in brackish water in soft, muddy soil. They adapt aerial ‘prop roots’ that help prop up the tree and filter the salt out of the seawater it takes in.
Gumbo-limbo, also known as copperwood, chaca, turpentine tree, and West Indian birch, is one of the most common and well-known trees in the American tropics. It is often referred to as the “tourist” tree because its red peeling bark is reminiscent of sunburned tourists.
This medium to fast-growing 40-60 foot tree has a round canopy and is a hurricane-resistant species. It can be planted for interest, shade and wildlife benefits in coastal, nearly frost-free areas.
Originally native to hammocks in Everglades National Park and portions of the Upper Keys, Wild Tamarind (Lysiloma latisiliquum) is a fast-growing tree that can reach 50 feet tall or more. It’s also drought tolerant and easy to grow, making it perfect for the Florida garden.
Its round white flowers are a favorite of birds and butterflies. It’s also a larval host for the Large Orange Sulfur, Mimosa Yellow and Cassius Blue butterflies.
Pitch Apple, scientific name Clusia rosea, has long been a popular ornamental plant in tropical areas of the world. This shrub is also commonly called Autograph Tree, referring to the fact that when you scratch your name onto a leaf, the exudate will dry and leave a permanent mark.
This is a sturdy evergreen that tolerates many soil types and grows most rapidly in moist soils. Its low spreading habit makes it ideal for use as a hedge or privacy screen.
The wood of inkwood (Exothea paniculata) is resistant to shipworm, a tiny saltwater clam that is notorious for boring into and eventually destroying wooden structures immersed in sea water.
Inkwood is a protected tree species that grows in tropical hardwood hammocks in extreme South Florida and along the Atlantic coastline. These hammocks provide important habitat for wildlife and a cool, shady place to escape the heat of the sun.
The manchineel (Hippomane mancinella) is a Caribbean tree that grows in the Florida Keys and Everglades. Like poinsettia, it is part of the Euphorbiaceae family.
The tree’s milky sap is toxic and acidic, which can cause blistering if you touch it or are wet by raindrops that contain it.
The fruit, which looks a lot like a green crabapple, is also poisonous. Eating too much of it can cause severe stomach pain, bleeding, and shock.
Colubrina elliptica, Soldierwood, is the rarest of Florida’s three species of this family. It’s also one of the most protected.
It’s native to the Caribbean and grows naturally in hammocks in south Florida, including the keys.
Its trunks are plated with chunks of orange-brown bark that peels and flakes off with age. It’s one of the most interesting medium-sized trees to plant near your home. Mix it with Gumbo Limbo, Simpson Stopper and other trees with exfoliating bark to create a naturalistic grove.
The Black Mangrove, Avicennia germinans, is a coastal tree native to Florida. It grows in shorelines flooded with saltwater during tidal fluctuations.
The tree is distinctive from other mangroves by its “pneumatophores,” pencil-shaped projections that protrude well above the soil. They allow air to pass into the underground and underwater roots, supplying them with oxygen.