Bay Swamps

conducting research in a north Florida bay swamp, photo by Chris DemersBay swamps occur throughout Florida as relatively small communities. This community can be found on hillsides, in depressions in pine flatwoods, in ravines, or as strips along edges of creeks.

The soil layers beneath bay swamps appear to be similar to those beneath cypress swamps.  Bay swamps occupy peat-filled depressions, but tend to have more shallow standing water and deeper peat than cypress ponds.

These swamps are characterized by dense, low vegetation and are believed to be fed by groundwater draining from higher land.  Unlike cypress swamps, they are drained by small blackwater streams.  This may be a result of restricted downward flow and slow evapotranspiration. 


The vegetation of bay swamps is dominated by evergreen shrubs and trees.  Bay swamps are either dominated by sweet bay, loblolly bay, or mixtures of sweet bay, loblolly bay, and red bay.  Scattered slash pine and pond pine and an occasional cypress are also found in this community.  Bay swamps are characterized by the following species.  Note that occurrence of these plants will varies greatly from swamp to swamp:

Trees:loblolly bay, photo by Julie Anne Ferguson Demers

  • swamp bay(Persea palustris)
  • red bay (Persea borbonia)
  • sweet bay(Magnolia virginiana)
  • loblolly bay(Gordonia lasianthus)
  • pond cypress(Taxodium ascendens)
  • Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides)
  • blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica)
  • pond pine (Pinus serotina)
  • slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. elliottii)


  • black titi (Cliftonia monophylla)
  • dog-hobble (Leucothoe spp.)
  • fetterbush (Lyonia lucida)
  • giant gallberry (Ilex coriacea)
  • myrtle-leaved holly (Ilex myrtifolia)
  • summersweet clethra (Clethra alnifolia)
  • swamp titi (Cyrilla racemiflora)

For more information on these and other trees and shrubs, visit our Trees of Florida page.

Herbaceous Plants and Vines:

  • greenbriars (Smilax spp.)
  • Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.)

Threatened or Endangered Plants


  • Chapman's rhododendron (Rhododendron chapmanii)


  • Harper's beauty (Harperocallis flava)

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Bay swamps support a wide variety of wildlife.  Most mammals use bay swamps for cover.  Common wildlife include:


  • Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus)
  • mink (Mustela vison)
  • white-tailed deer (Odecoileus virginianus)
  • raccoon (Procyon lotor)blue heron, photo by Julie Anne Ferguson Demers
  • otter (Lutra canadensis)


  • egrets
  • herons 


  • frogs
  • salamanders


  • Florida panter, US Fish and Wildlife Servicesnakes

Threatened or Endangered Wildlife


  • Everglades mink (Mustela vison evergladensis)
  • Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus)
  • Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi)

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