Friday, April 23, 2010

Red mangrove seedlings

Red mangrove seedlings, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

Red Mangroves are amazing trees. They blanket parts of the Southwest Florida coastline, protecting us inland from the brunt of tropical storms and hurricanes, and providing a nutrient-rich protective home for juvenile seafood. In his book “Growing Native,” Dick Workman states that “…red mangrove debris serves as the energy base for an extensive food web upon which almost all fish, shrimp, crabs, shellfish and other marine creatures depend.”

The propagules, or mini-trees, are equally astonishing. They start life as a brown berry, and while still attached to the tree, germinate and start to grow into an olive-green cigar-shaped structure. Eventually, this structure drops off and floats on top of the water (both salt- and fresh-water tolerant). As the root end becomes saturated and heavy with water, it drops, causing the propagule to float vertically. And so it bobs upon the water, waiting to find just the right oyster or sand bar to snuggle into, and then to put out roots and grow into a tree.

I found these on Christmas Day, 2009; they’ve been in fresh water and are just now putting out leaves. Exciting!

You can click on the top image to view it larger on my Flickr photostream.