The mangrove is a tropical evergreen that manages to thrive where very few trees could ever live. Mangrove trees grow in mud-filled tidal flats, swamps and along ocean shorelines in brackish water conditions. Mangroves grow in the southern United States, Asia, numerous islands in the Southwest Pacific, Australia and parts of Africa. The trees can even survive being periodically pummeled by surf and being submerged.
Mangroves Across the World
Over 50 species of mangrove exist worldwide. In the United States three varieties of Mangrove exist. In Florida the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), flack mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) can all be found flourishing. Growing along vast shorelines in Florida, the groves prevent sand and beach-line erosion during strong tropical storms and hurricanes. They can live in water that is 10 times saltier than what any other plant can withstand.
Mangroves provide wildlife with roosting sites, nesting locations, and bird and wildlife protection. The trees also provide an excellent food source for aquatic and marine life. Many juvenile fish species seek refuge from predators amidst the mangroves wildly twisted root system. Turtles live happily under the roots of the mangrove, where they are afforded safety and a wonderful food source.
Mangroves have the ability to filter water through their diverse root system. The trees can easily filter runoff before it reaches the ocean. Their roots will trap debris from the uplands. This helps protect sea life and coral reefs, which could be killed or destroyed by an overabundance of sediment. The trees make an excellent windbreak during tropical storms and hurricanes by reducing wind damage to the inland areas, taking on the brunt of the storm. They will also lessen wave action and prevent storm surge from becoming too intense.
The mangrove helps ensure its survival by allowing its seeds to actually begin germination while still attached to the mangrove tree before being dispersed. This gives the seeds a head start for survival. Mangroves also have roots that extend out of the water and into the air. These aerial roots allow the tree to obtain oxygen in its anaerobic substrate.
White mangroves produce fruit that the Aboriginal people of Australia enjoy consuming. The fruit are toxic if they are not soaked in mud for up to seven days prior to consumption. The fruit is then boiled twice or simply roasted before eating. The branches can be burned in large campfires to repel sand flies