When you are out on the water here in Florida, more than likely you are looking at the birds fish and possibly a manatee. However the single most important part of the Florida natural habitat may go unnoticed. Mangrove trees, sometimes simply called the mangroves are an integral part of the Florida ecosystem. First lets quickly look at the 3 different types of mangroves you may find and how you can identify them.
The black mangrove has hanging aerial roots, and pneumatophores, or upward growing extensions of its underground roots that break the water’s surface. The bark is dark gray to brown and is relatively thick and scaly.
The red mangrove has arching aerial roots which form stilts and trunks and help to stabilize surrounding soil. The bark is gray to brown and is relatively thin. The leaves are shiny green on top and yellow with black speckles on the underside.
The white mangrove have no aerial roots or distinguishing root structures. Their leaves are leathery and have two bumps near the base by the stem. The wood of the white mangrove is a dark yellowy brown, hard and dense.
Mangroves are trees that thrive in salty environments because they are able to obtain freshwater from saltwater by secreting salt or blocking salt absorption. Mangroves are extremely important and serve many functions. They provide nursery habitat for young fish, crustaceans and shellfish, food for a multitude of marine species, and act as shelter, rookeries or feeding areas for many coastal bird species. So the next time you are paddle boarding or kayaking around southwest florida with us, take a minute to reflect on these amazing trees and their importance to the ecosystem. If you want to learn more about the National Marine Sanctuaries here in the USA, click here to visit NOAA.