Caribbean National Forest

El Yunque Forest

Even though the Caribbean National Forest is the smallest forest in the National Forest System, it is the most diverse. It contains more than 240 species of native trees, 23 of which are endemic or found only in El Yunque, and 47 of which are introduced. Also found are 88 species of rare trees, 50 species of native orchids and over 150 species of ferns.

The forest is commonly divided into four forest types:

The Tabonuco Forest is found between 100 to 2,000 feet above sea level. The trees here reach a height of approximately 120 to 125 feet and the dominant species are the Tabonuco and the Ausubo. Other common trees here are the Yagrumo, Guaraguao, Laurel Sabino and the giant ferns.

The Palo Colorado Forest can be found between 1,970 and 2,950 feet (600-900 m) above sea level in valleys and slopes. The common tree species found here are the Caimitillo, Caimitillo Verde and the Palo Colorado.

The Sierra Palm Forest is found in higher elevations over 1,958 feet (600 m) within the forest in the flood areas near rivers and creeks, as well as in steep terrain. Because of its particular adaptations to these conditions, the dominant species is the Sierra Palm.

The Cloud Forest is limited to the mountain peaks over 2,500 feet above sea level. Its characteristics are: vegetation that does not grow over 12 feet, constant winds, soil saturated with water, low transpiration rates, and a constant cloud cover. The most common trees are the Nemoca, Roble de Sierra, Limoncillo, Guayabota and Camasey.

The forest fauna is dominated by reptiles, amphibians and birds. Eight species of the Anolis lizards are found here as well as 13 of the 16 species of "coqui" found on the Island, and over 50 species of birds, including the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot. Native mammals are represented by 11 species of bats. There is also a variety of fish, shrimp and other aquatic species. Snakes are rare in the area: The largest is the Puerto Rican Boa, which can grow to 90 inches (2.25m). The Forest is a wildlife refuge and hunting is not allowed.

El Yunque offers opportunities for passive recreation and interpretive services oriented towards the discovery of the history, flora, fauna, biodiversity, and management of the Forest. Guided tours of the forest trails are offered by interpreters through the "Rent a Ranger" program.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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