Because my dog takes her time when out walking I end up with time on my hands and I get to thinking and that leads me into odd places. It was on one such morning that I saw a field of mangrove pneumatophores that caught my imagination.
Around here red mangroves are two a penny, and after decades of being viewed as useless impedimenta to progress they have regained stature as critical components to the nearshore lifecycle.
Mangroves grow in salt water which is pretty strange to start with. They grow out of the muck and silt laced with poisonous salt and they thrive.
Mangroves suck up salt water, filter out the salt and stack it in selected leaves which promptly turn yellow and drop off, taking the salt poison with them.
They reproduce by growing cigar shaped seed pods called propagules which grow, mature and drop off in sure and certain hope of landing in salt water and floating off to create a new bush somewhere else.
There he goes, the little dear, seeking new horizons and a fresh start.
Floating off like a little submarine filled with new mangrove life.
If the propagules land on hard land they dry out turn brown, and die without a chance at creating new life.
Eventually they sprout roots, turn vertical and dig in. And when they do they sprout in mud among rocks and anywhere they can get a grip. Then they create shade and protection for small fish and crustaceans and hold the shoreline together. They are in a word: brilliant.
It used to be they were considered unfit for man nor beast in that they don't burn well, they don't grow straight and true and were thus useless for building and they grow on water so they aren't an indicator land is at hand. Walking among mangroves is in fact impossible for ordinary mortals (and their dogs).
Fish love them and thus sportsmen who know their sport love them. Mangroves also do a better job at no cost of maintaining canals than seawalls. In it's infinite wisdom the state of Florida eventually gave them protected status. And think about this: these are just the red variety, there are black and white and their cousin the buttonwood. South Florida is mangrove heaven.
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