In addition to their historic significance, you may be surprised to know that the Bonnet House grounds encompass one of the last examples in South Florida of a native barrier island habitat. Five distinct ecosystems can be found on the property including the Atlantic Ocean beach and primary dune, a freshwater slough, the secondary dune (which includes the house site), mangrove wetlands, and a maritime forest.
The Primary Dune is incredibly important to Bonnet House, as our estate exists on a Barrier Island. Primary dunes are very important to barrier islands because they offer protection against flood tides and storm surges. These natural barriers are formed and maintained by the plant life that lives on them. Living conditions on primary dunes are extremely harsh, with strong winds, salt spray, low moisture retainment, shifting sand, and hot sun. For this reason, the plants and animal species that inhabit these dunes tend to be similar to those found in desert regions.
In many dune systems, like ours at Bonnet House, Secondary Dunes can also be observed past the primary dunes. At Bonnet House, this is where the main estate is located. These dunes form when severe storms breach the primary dunes and deposit sand further inland. Due to their relative stability over time, and because they are protected by primary dunes, secondary dunes.
The grounds of Bonnet House are also home to a freshwater slough, a deep marshy river that remains flooded almost year-round. Sloughs are particularly important to South Florida’s ecosystem because they deliver freshwater to bays and estuaries. Because water flow through a slough tends to be slower than most rivers and streams, water is often subject to chemical changes. These changes can actually involve the removal of pollutants and excess nutrients, and are necessary to prevent degradation of any receiving estuaries.
Additionally, The Bonnet House gardens contain beautiful mangrove wetlands. Mangroves are thick, dense shrubs and trees that have adapted to life in brackish water, including along tidal rivers and streams, and low energy coastal wetlands. Red, black and white mangroves are native to South Florida, and are considered excellent contributors to coastal fisheries due to their high productivity and nursery functions. Mangroves are built to withstand the harsh growing conditions and subtropical climate of South Florida, and are considered essential to life in the Everglades because they stabilize the coast line and reduce erosion from storm surges.
Lastly (but certainly not least), the Bonnet House grounds feature a beautiful Maritime Forest. Maritime forests are coastal estuaries found on higher ground than dune areas, and within range of oceanic salt spray. They support a great diversity of plant and animal species that can withstand strong winds, periodic flooding, and salt spray. A variety of mammals, and reptiles often make homes in maritime forests, and thousands of birds migrate to these locations each year.
If you’re interested in experiencing the great natural beauty of South Florida all in one place, be sure to visit Bonnet House on your next visit to Fort Lauderdale! If you have any questions, or would like to plan your next trip, contact us!