Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Red Mangroves

Cedar Key Red Mangrove in 2008
In his Field Guide to Coastal Wetland Plants of the Southeastern United States, Ralph Tiner identified Cedar Key as the northern distribution limit of the largely tropical red mangrove tree (Rhizophora mangle). We noticed one near Cedar Key's newly built Cemetery Point boardwalk in 2008. It is easily distinguished from the black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) by the red mangrove's distinctive stilt roots (click on the photo above to get a better look). The red mangrove also tends to grow in more regularly flooded sites. The single one we noticed was severely damaged by frost over the winter of 2008-2009, but had begun to recover by late 2009. The winter of 2009-2010 with its severe freezes was fatal, however. The hardier black mangroves that are abundant landward of this site suffered damage to the leaves from the freezes, but no mortality.

Damaged Red Mangrove in 2009
We wonder whether any red mangroves survive in the lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys area and will be actively looking for them. Perhaps the northern limit of their distribution has shifted southward on the Gulf Coast.

Red Mangrove Skeleton in 2010
We returned today (November 21, 2010) and took this photo of the skeleton of the red mangrove. The lighting was poor, but the characteristic prop roots show relatively well.

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