Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)
Red Mangroves get their name from the bright red colour of the wood underneath the bark of the tree. Red Mangrove trees can grow up to 30 feet (9 m). In order to grow that big in a soft muddy environment, the Red Mangrove has adapted aerial ‘prop roots’ which help prop up the tree, and give it a spider-like appearance. These special roots also filter the salt out of the seawater that the plant takes up, allowing it to get the water it needs to survive, without the damaging salt. The prop roots also have openings that allow the tree to breath air.
Red Mangroves produce dark green, leathery, smooth-edged leaves. Red Mangrove trees flower in summer and autumn. The flowers are small, yellow and bell-shaped. They have a pleasant smell and attract bees and insects to pollinate them. A pollinated flower develops into a seed, which grows its first root while still attached to the parent tree. These germinated seeds (called propagules) look like green and brown cigars, and can be seen hanging from Red Mangrove trees in summer. Once the propagule reaches about 8 inches (20cm) long, it drops off. The bottom of the propagule is heavier than the top so it will drop straight down into the mud if the tide is low, and small leaves will then grow out of the top. If the tide is high when the propagule falls off the parent tree, it floats off into the ocean to wash up and grow somewhere else.
The Red Mangrove is native to Bermuda, Florida, the West Indies and tropical America. This species has declined in Bermuda throughout the 20th century due to clearing for coastal development and storm damage (see threats to mangrove habitats). This decline, coupled with the significance of Bermuda’s mangroves as the most northerly in the Atlantic, and the incredible importance of these trees for structuring habitat and hosting other plants and animals, led to both the Red Mangrove and Black Mangrove being listed under the Protected Species Act in 2011.