RED MANGROVE - Mangle Rojo

RED MANGROVEOf the four mangrove tree species constituting the Yucatan's mangroves, Red Mangrove, Rhizophora mangle, is the most eye-catching. It's the one with gangling "stilt-roots," as shown at the right.

Red Mangrove inhabits the deepest water of the Yucatan's four mangrove  species, and its fruits are the most curious-looking. You can see what I mean in the picture below.

That picture shows two Red Mangrove flowers with fruits developing from the ovaries in the flowers' centers. The fruit on the right is much more developed, as indicated by the fact that inside it a seed has already germinated and now a very sizable root is emerging from the fruit, pointing downward. The dangling root is about eight inches long (20cm). Sometimes when such root-possessing fruits fall from trees the root stabs into the mud, thus planting new Red Mangroves right beneath the parent tree.

RED MANGROVE fruitMore typically, the fruit with its root falls into water and floats away. When the root makes contact with mud it grows into it and then the tree develops as you'd expect. Still, it's fun to know that a Red Mangrove fruit, at least under certain conditions, can actually plant itself.

Mother Nature almost always prefers for offspring to settle as far as possible from the parent so that parent and offspring don't end up competing for the same resources. Red Mangroves may constitute an exception, however, since their nature is to grow so closely that their interlocking stilt roots form impenetrable thickets that are the delight of shelter-seeking wildlife. Also, the network of roots catches soil particles that otherwise would wash away, and this builds up the land.

RED MANGROVE flowersThe Red Mangrove's long-rooted fruits are so attention-getting that the flowers preceding them often are overlooked. At the right you can see how the pale yellow, leathery, star-shaped flowers arrange themselves in few-flowered, long-stemmed clusters arising from leaf axils:

A picture of a little-less-than-inch-wide (2cm) flower with four pale yellow, leathery sepals and four whitish petals with cottony hairs on their inner surface, and eight stamens, is shown below.

I'm guessing that the petals' hairiness provides footholds for visiting pollinators.