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Plants That Can Withstand Salt Water

Salt water is very rough on most plants. Not very many plants have adapted a way to deal with it. The ones that have, however, have become very successful; often they are one of the only plants that can live in their ecological niche. Salt water marshes, estuaries and mangrove forests are a vital habitat for many of the exotic coral reefs around the world. They provide the nursery for many types of fish and invertebrates.

Red Mangrove

The red mangrove (scientific name Rhizophora mangle) is a tropical tree that grows along marine shorelines and islands. It is one of the only plants in the world that can tolerate full sea water for more than a few hours at a time. Red mangrove trees are often found growing in shallow open areas of water where they start to collect debris around the root system and form new land. They develop prop roots from the trunk that help stabilize the tree against the beating surf in shifting sands. Mangrove forests along hurricane prone areas keep the shoreline from eroding and washing into the sea. They also act as a buffer for storm surges.

The roots of the red mangrove have developed pores on their surface that transports oxygen from the atmosphere down into the mud and silt, which would otherwise be too oxygen deprived for a plant to grow. The roots have adapted so as to not allow very much salt to pass through into the plant. Any salt that is absorbed in the plant gets expelled from tiny glands at the base of each leaf.

Coconut Palm

Coconut palms grow all over the world in tropical regions. They are a tall palm tree, topping off at 100 feet. They usually grow right on the beach, sometimes overhanging the ocean. They are very tolerant of flooding at high tide, but do not like to sit in water for very long.

Coconuts are a very important agricultural crop for many people in the tropical world. Numerous products are made from the nut, including shredded coconut for confections, coconut oil and coconut milk.


Saltgrass (scientific name Distichlis spicata) is a salt marsh grass. It grows to be 1 to 1-1/2 feet high and forms dense thickets in low lying areas that often receive tidal influence. It is not restricted to the coast, however, and grows inland in fields and pastures as well. It grows in most areas of the United States, including along the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, as well as along the Gulf of Mexico. Salt that is absorbed by the plant gets expelled through the leaves and often covers the plant with fine salt crystals. Native Americans used this salt as a source of seasoning.

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