Lower Ravine Trail
Trails within the Arboretum are graded easiest, moderate, and more difficult based on terrain and length.
Trail Grade: Moderate
This short 800-foot trail meanders along the outside edge of a small man-made island at the bottom of the ravine. Most of the trees in this area were planted after the island was created. Exposed tree roots are prevalent on this narrow trail. This trail was built by volunteers from the Student Conservation Association and connects to the Jones Creek Trail.
Points of Interest
Here you are on the ravine floor. Possibly the first thing you will notice as you walk the trail are the ferns. Cinnamon, royal, and net-leaf chain ferns create an exotic environment under the towering pines. Look closely at the creeks and ponds, and you will see that they are not as stagnant as they might appear. Fed by groundwater springs and seeps, the water is always flowing. Mosquito fish and crawfish make their homes here, along with leopard frogs and green tree frogs. The small floating green plant in the water is duckweed, which is an extremely important food source for many animals and is the smallest flowering plant in the world!
Poison ivy, a plant common throughout the southeast, is abundant here as well. Take the time to locate the plant sign near the bridge and become familiar with the plant. The general rule of thumb is that if it has three leaves, leave it alone. If you should come in contact with it, simply wash the area well with a moist wipe or soap and water as soon as you can. Poison ivy contains oil that causes an allergic reaction when it touches the skin. You can be exposed to the oil directly by brushing against the plant, but also indirectly by tying your shoelaces, petting your dog, or breathing smoke from burning poison ivy vines.
A baygall is a thick, forested depression at the base of a sandy slope. Water seepage from higher elevations allows moisture to accumulate in the soil. When this occurs over a long time, a substrate called peat forms. The Arboretum baygalls do not yet have a peat layer. The canopies of baygall habitats are dominated by evergreen species such as the loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), and a lesser number of moisture-loving deciduous trees like red maple (Acer rubrum), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and even a few swamp bay (Persea palustris) and sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana) trees. The mid-story contains wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), Virginia willow (Itea virginica), and wild azalea. The understories of these habitats are fairly open and consist mostly of fern species. The cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), net-leaf chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), royal fern (Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis) are examples of fern species that inhabit this area.
Cypress trees (Taxodium spp.) are commonly found in Florida’s wetlands. They are among the most flood tolerant of the Florida tree species. The base and trunk of cypress trees are typically buttressed, or widened, making them more stable in soggy, saturated soil. The roots of cypress break the soil surfaces as “knees.” Although the biological function of the knees is unconfirmed, it is thought that they may provide oxygen to the submerged roots and may help to anchor the tree in the ground. It is also thought that the heights of the buttressing and of the knees are related to the depth of flooding. They survive in wetlands where few other trees can, but they will thrive in moist, even relatively dry, sandy soils as well. Cypress trees are coniferous, like pines, but unlike pines, they are not evergreen. Cypress trees are deciduous and will lose their feathery needles in the fall. They can live for hundreds of years, although much of Florida’s old growth cypress was logged in the early 19th century. Today, cypress trees continue to be harvested for saw timber and landscape mulch.