By Kathalyn Gaither
Native plants are native for a reason. Not just because they can adapt to the various elements that they are exposed to, but because the role they play in the environment enables other plants and animals to survive and thrive.
Florida’s mangroves are one of these important native species. Without them, who knows how Florida would be defined. Mangroves are a key stabilization force for our shorelines. They serve as storm buffers, protect water quality by filtering the water, provide roosting and nesting sites for birds and nursery grounds for a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates. Mangroves also provide detritus – leaves and other vegetative materials that drop into the water and feed tiny crabs, snails and fish.
Mangroves are so important to Florida’s environment that they even have their own special day, Oct. 1, as recognized in Governor Rick Scott’s Florida Mangroves Day proclamation.
The nearly 500,000 acres of mangrove forests throughout the state consist of three different varieties – red, white and black. The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is most common and is usually found in and around salt water. It is easily identified by its reddish roots and is often referred to as the walking tree because of the way its prop roots arch up out of the water and seemingly appearing to be walking. Its seeds, called propagules, resemble small green cigars.
The black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) is found on slightly higher elevations than the red and is easily identified by the finger-like projections that protrude from the soil around its trunk called pneumatophores. White mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa), identified by their elliptical and light yellow green leaves, typically occupy a zone above the high tide mark and inland of the other mangroves.
Because mangroves are so important to our environment, Florida has strict regulations and guidelines pertaining to the trimming of many mangroves. In 1996, DEP was directed to oversee the trimming and alteration of mangroves under the Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act. Only specific professions can be qualified to trim mangroves, i.e., professional wetland scientists, certified arborists and ecologists, and persons that DEP authorizes. There are certain exemptions for mangrove trimming; learn more about how they may apply to you as a property owner.
Mangrove snappers swim amid the roots of the red mangrove.
Did you know?
There are more than 50 species of mangroves found throughout the world; three species are native to Florida.
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