What You Need to Know About Mangrove Trees
If you’ve lived up in Tampa, Florida your whole life, you don’t think anything of it every time you see a mangrove tree. You can recognize their leaves from all the way down the street, and you probably have some growing in your yard. But what do you actually know about these trees?
Below, we’ve given you a brief homeowner’s guide to growing and maintaining mangroves. We’ve also outlined reasons why you should care for your mangroves instead of leaving their survival to up to fate.
Why Mangroves Matter
These trees come with a number of important benefits:
Mangroves filter contaminants out of the water. Their roots catch sediments and other contaminants before they reach marine environments like reefs, swamps, or sea-grass beds. This keeps the plants and animals in these areas healthy.
Mangroves can store a huge amount of carbon dioxide, so they keep the air clear. If people planted enough of them, they could slow climate change considerably.
Mangroves create an ideal environment for many species. Around 75% of the world’s fish species have either lived in mangrove roots or subsist off of animals that live in mangroves. Fish, sponges, and insects also use these trees as nurseries.
Mangroves have complex root systems that keep soil from eroding. When hurricanes and other ocean storms hit, mangroves act as a buffer that holds back the sea and keeps the soil intact. Mangroves can also build more useable land because they catch soil in their roots.
You may not have the time, patience, or inclination to plant and nurture trees, but if you already have mangroves in your yard, you should take their care seriously. Mangrove populations worldwide have seen a 30%-50% decrease in the last half-century. Every mangrove tree felled represents more carbon dioxide entering our atmosphere. Do your part to make the world a better place by helping these trees thrive in your yard.
How to Maintain Your Mangroves
Since 1996, Florida has had strict guidelines on preserving and trimming mangroves. If you have these trees in your yard, brush upon the regulations here. These regulations ensure that you care for these endangered and valuable plants properly. The species of mangrove you have in your yard will determine how you care for it.
f mangrove you have in your yard will determine how you care for it.
Also called the red mangrove, this species features arching aerial roots and a somewhat reddish color. They normally grow near the water’s edge, or even in the water itself. Their roots steady them so they don’t collapse into the water. Red mangroves also have unusual seedlings that grow straight from their fruit as the fruit hang from the mother tree. The seedlings, called propagules, hang like limp branches until they fall into the water, where they float until water saturation helps them sprout roots.
These trees also have another quality that makes them difficult to prune. They only grow from the ends of their stems, so if you remove their leaves and growing tips, the tree could die. This means that you should never top the tree. You should only prune from the bottom and create windows. This way, you ensure that your mangrove has enough growing tips to stay alive.
If you don’t think you can prune your red mangrove properly, talk to an expert. He or she will know which areas to prune and which to leave alone.
This species, called the black mangrove, looks similar to the red mangrove, but with a few key differences:
Their leaves have a dark green upper side and a whitish underside.
Their leaves exchange salt rapidly, so you’ll often see salt deposits on them.
Instead of arched aerial roots, they have pneumatophores that grow up out of the ground. These roots have a pencil-like shape, and they help the tree breathe just like aerial roots do. Black mangroves have several of these roots surrounding them.
They grow larger than other mangroves.
They have smaller propagules that look like berries, nuts, or large seeds.
You should use caution when you prune these mangroves, as well as when you water them. These trees prefer salt-rich environments, so don’t water them so much that the salt levels drop.
You’ve probably heard these trees called white mangroves. These trees grow higher up on the shore, so they don’t need the same fancy root systems as other species. They will occasionally grow pneumatophores, but they usually have just one trunk. They also look different from other mangroves in that their leaves have a whitish-green color on both sides.
While this species tolerates pruning better than black or red mangroves, it has a weaker trunk, so you need to make sure the tree stays balanced while you trim. If you don’t think you have the skill to do this, have a professional do it for you.
Remember that if you don’t have a permit, you may not legally chop down a mangrove in the state of Florida. If you don’t want to maintain a mangrove, hire a tree trimming company to do it for you. The professionals will turn this unique tree into a beautiful addition to your yard in no time. In the interim, you can use the information above to ensure your mangroves stay healthy.