The tallest mountain in Puerto Rico is not only a scenic tropical vista but it also hides the only known habitat of an endangered fern found nowhere else in the world.
Cerro de Punta is the highest point in Puerto Rico at 4,389 feet above sea level. Located in the Cordillera Central that runs across the island from east to west, the mountain has a road leading to the top which holds a group of communication towers, an observation platform, and a montane dwarf, or elfin, forest.
Near the summit is the unique habitat of a plant known as the Elaphoglossum serpens, which according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan, grows on only six moss-covered trees in the mountain’s forest. Like some mythical herb that can only be obtained via a heroic quest (or an endangered species that is on the razor’s edge of annihilation), there are only thought to be 22 remaining specimens left in the world, all of which are found in this small summit grove.
In 1989 a hurricane severely damaged the peak, threatening to destroy the fern species wholesale, and construction interests in the area continue to pose an additional threat to the peak’s flora. However, at the most extreme altitude in the area, the Elaphoglossum serpens may be in the safest place possible.
Know Before You Go
From Route 10 south of Adjuntas, PR, turn east on Ruta Panoramica (143). This road is very crooked with steep drop-offs. Travel 10.4 miles on this road to an unsigned parking lot. Walk up the concrete road .6 miles to the summit.