A day in a Forest… in Miami?

We all know Miami for its beaches…. but did you know that Miami also has forests?! To be fair, if you didn’t know that, it’s probably because there isn’t much forest left.

The Pine Rockland forests are a critically endangered ecosystem in Miami. Only about 2% of the original forest extent remains in South Florida. One of the largest remaining tracts of these forests- outside of Everglades National Park- can actually be found outside of Zoo Miami… and that’s where I spent a few hours with Dr.Frank Ridgley, Zoo Miami’s Head of Conservation and Research, to learn more about this ecosystem in honor of International Day of Forests (March 21st).

Frank took me on a tour of the Pine Rocklands outside Zoo Miami , and we talked about all manner of things Pine Rockland related, including black bears!

The look on my face when I realized there used to be Black Bears in Miami!

So yeah, there used to be black bears within the Pine Rocklands in Miami. But most of this diverse habitat- and then subsequent wildlife loss- was lost in the ’70s and ’80s due to … development, of course! But slash pines, like the one below, were being used to build homes long before then. Yep, you’re looking at the trees that built Miami.

Slash Pines in the Pine Rocklands…the trees that built Miami

To be real honest… you’re not just looking at the trees that built Miami. When you’re standing on Pine Rocklands, you’re standing on the REAL Miami- the Everglades. I’ll let Frank explain.


The Pine Rocklands are filled with federal and state recognized endangered species. We talked about one of the tiniest federally protected species on the tract, the Deltoid Spurge. I used a macro lens to give you a better look at it, because it’s so easy to step over or on!

Habitat destruction caused the Deltoid Spurge to be federally recognized in 1985 as endangered

We also came across one of the first Prickly Pear Cactus blooms of the season.

Isn’t she gorgeous? Prickly Pear Cactus Bloom!

I learned so much on this field trip that I’m going to have to break this into a few blog posts so stay tuned! For now I leave you with another imperiled species that calls the Pine Rocklands home- a gopher tortoise! Meet tortoise #21! We’ll be talking about her and how climate change will affect this critical ecosystem and all the species you’ve seen in this post (Seriously, stay tuned!).

More later and remember, ELEVATE always,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s