Saving Designated Species

An American alligator floats on the South Fork of the St. Lucie River.

The land slopes from hydric hammock to wet flatwoods and wet prairie before reaching the river.

The area provides habitat for eight species of protected plants and 15 species of protected animals. 

Sabal palms and live oaks tower overhead. Saw palmetto, wax myrtle and wild coffee line the trails. Protected plants include several types of ferns, the snowy orchid and giant air plants.

The giant leather fern, cinnamon fern and royal fern are typically seen in the hydric hammock. All three of these protected plants were commercially exploited.

The giant leather fern grows along the banks of the South Fork of the St. Lucie River and in the interior portion of the hydric hammock along oxbows and isolated wetlands.

In some areas of the hydric hammock, cinnamon and royal ferns often occur in dense stands under a closed canopy.

The snowy orchid is a terrestrial species that inhabits the wet flatwoods and other wet areas within the preserve. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services lists the snowy orchid as threatened.

Common wild pine and giant air plants are most common bromeliads in the hydric hammock. These two air plants have been exploited by collectors and others to the point that they are now protected on state lands.

wildlife, animals, turtles

Fifteen species of protected animals inhabit Atlantic Ridge Preserve.

Gopher tortoises occupy upland habitat and eat a variety of plants. They dig deep burrows for shelter. As a keystone species, they share this burrow with more than 350 other species.

In Florida, the gopher tortoise is listed as threatened. Both the tortoise and its burrow are protected under state law.

The American alligator is most common in the South Fork of the St. Lucie River and the larger canals in the preserve, most notably the Seawind Canal. Alligators also can be found in other wetlands within the preserve during periods of normal rain.

wildlife, animals

The endangered Florida manatee finds safe refuge here during the winter months because of limited boat traffic.

A variety of protected birds inhabit Atlantic Ridge Preserve. Keep a watchful eye for bald eagles soaring overhead or sandhill cranes foraging for a meal. Also look for herons, egrets, white ibis and wood stork. During the summer months, swallow-tailed kites soar over the tree canopy.

Sand hill crane.