The Pterocarpus Forest
The Pterocarpus Forest nature preserve at Palmas is a unique 51-acre swamp forest, opened to the public in March 2013. This is one of the largest remaining swamp forests in Puerto Rico and serves as habitat to 44 species of flora and 52 species of fauna, of which 13 are considered endemic. This Forest grows in an area permanently flooded by fresh water and the predominant species in this type of wetland is the Pterocarpus Officinalis tree (“Dragonsblood Tree”), commonly known in Spanish as palo de pollo because of the shape of its aerial roots. The tree may grow more than 65 feet tall, with large aerial roots that allow it to grow in flooded soil.
Once common in Puerto Rico’s coastal wetlands, the remaining Pterocarpus forests are few, widely inaccessible, fragmented and in danger of disappearing altogether. The Forest restoration project, including the construction of a new 3/4-mile, elevated Boardwalk and the establishment of permanent conservation, education and research programs is an undertaking of the Palmas del Mar Homeowners Association (PHA) and the Friends of the Pterocarpus Forest (incorporated as the nonprofit PHA Pterocarpus Forest, Inc.). It is a community effort which represents an opportunity to preserve a unique, increasingly rare ecosystem, and make it available so that the public in general can enjoy this invaluable recreational, educational and ecological resource now and in the future.