Some 470,000 acres of mangrove forests line Florida’s salty coasts, creating picturesque vistas that also happen to be a linchpin in the overall health of our shoreline ecosystems. They protect the shoreline against erosion and storm surges, and they provide safe harbor to a full spectrum of animal life. Fish and crustaceans live amid their underwater roots; birds create rookeries in their branches; and land animals from rats to snakes to deer shelter and feed within the mangroves. Disrupting the trees can set off a chain reaction of environmental disasters, and strict laws protect them.

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Elevated “prop roots” suspend red mangroves above the water and earn them their nickname, “Walking Trees.”

Image: Carlton Ward

Tricolor

There are three primary Florida mangrove species: Red mangroves live at or in the water; black live at a slightly higher elevation; and white live higher still with roots entirely underground.

Seasoned Greenery

While red mangroves block salt absorption at their roots, white and black species absorb salt from the water and then excrete excess salt through their leaves.

Development Damage

Florida lost some 86 percent of its mangroves in the 20th century—due in large part to disruptions from human development.

It’s the Law

A 1996 Florida law mandates that mangroves never be trimmed below six feet in height, and trees over 10 feet tall can be pruned only by a professional mangrove trimmer.

Wandering the Waves

Mangrove seeds sprout before leaving their parent tree, then drop into the water to be carried off by the currents and take root along another shoreline.

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