By Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley
Tucked among the strip malls and commercial trappings along Federal Highway sits about an acre of land that lets you peek into the past. Just south of Town Hall, the Hypoluxo Hammock is a re-creation of how this area would have appeared to settlers who arrived in South Florida 125 years ago.
Take a seat on a bench beneath the cooling canopy of carefully selected and planted live oaks, cabbage palms, gumbo limbos, paradise and mastic trees. Enjoy the bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife that take sustenance from the firebush, wild coffee and other native shrubs well-adapted to the local soil and climate.
Although it has historical significance and almost looks like it’s been here for over a century, this preserve dates back only to the mid-1990s. That’s when the Hypoluxo Town Hall was moved from a trailer to this property, which housed a hair salon and veterinarian’s office at the time.
Town Councilman Mark Hull, who also was manager of the Manalapan water plant, convinced the council that the plantings around Town Hall should require minimal maintenance and be storm resistant as well as reflect the history of the area. And, of course, they must be welcoming to wildlife such as migratory birds as well as humans.
He and Richard Moyroud, owner of Mesozoic Landscape in Lake Worth, set out to landscape the area with about 70 species of plants that would have been growing here before settlers arrived.
Moyroud’s first job was to inventory the plants that were already on site. A botanist, he found that the only natives were two cabbage palms and one scrub oak. Otherwise, Brazilian pepper and other invasives had gained footholds when the parcel was originally cleared for development.
“It’s unfortunate that there’s relatively little land anywhere up or down Palm Beach County that hasn’t been altered. That’s why preserving and creating natural areas is so important,” said Moyroud.
Native landscapes like this hammock don’t require fertilization and rarely require watering after the first year because they naturally conserve moisture. The designers assured the survival of their native plantings by locating the parking spaces around the perimeter of the site and grading the land so any runoff poured into the core of the hammock.
“I remember during a big drought I drove by this place,” said Moyroud. “It was an island of green.”
Visit this hammock today and you will be calmed by birds singing and butterflies winging their way against a backdrop of greenery. If you are quiet and observant, you’ll discover how well-suited this native flora is to its habitat.
For example, the cabbage palms that are resistant to hurricanes, flood, heat and cold also produce fragrant flowers and nectar to attract and nourish butterflies and bees. Their berries feed birds and other animals. What’s more, they create an evergreen canopy of fronds that if left on the tree provide habitat for mosquito-eating bats.
Elsewhere you’ll find a fiddlewood with its tiny but fragrant white flowers; Spanish stoppers with their small oval leaves, an adaptation that limits evaporation; and pigeon plums, a relative of sea grape that would have been common up and down the coast.
“We had a plan for this piece of land and I would say it worked almost perfectly,” said Moyroud.
If You Go
Where:Hypoluxo Hammock on the south side of the Hypoluxo Town Hall, 7580 S. Federal Highway, Hypoluxo.
Information:Call Town Hall at 582-0155 or visit www.hypoluxo.org/266533.html
Hours:Sunrise to Sunset
“A bird feeder acts like a plant for birds to eat. But a plant is not only a bird feeder, it’s also habitat. It provides nesting, roosting and shelter. One native plant is worth a thousand feeders.”
— Richard Moyroud, botanist and owner of Mesozoic Landscapes, a wholesale nursery in Lake Worth
Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley can be reached at email@example.com.