Welcome to stop #2, the west side of George’s Trail.
Along our boardwalk you will find white, black, and red mangroves - habitat to many native animals of the Indian River Lagoon.
Most plants cannot live in soils that are saturated with water like these below the boardwalk; standing water prevents roots from breathing. And, to make this location even more inhospitable – it is salty.
Mangroves have adapted to this salty environment. Some mangroves exclude the salt, keeping it out altogether. Others extrude it, allowing the salt to enter the plant tissue, but then excreting it.
Look for the white ribbon on the tree. The white mangrove occurs along the driest parts of the shoreline. Just like the other mangroves, it is extremely tolerant of salty soils. It has an extensive underground root system that allows water molecules to pass through their tissue, while excluding most of the salt.
Now look for the black ribbon on the tree. As the land gets somewhat wetter, black mangroves replace the white mangroves. Black mangroves thrive in the part of the shoreline that is underwater at high tide and above water at low tide. Black mangroves have pneumatophores - slender projections that extend up through the mud from an underground root system. Pneumato- comes from the Greek prefix meaning wind or breath, and -phore comes from the Greek suffix meaning bearing or carrier. Because they help the tree breathe, a nickname for these is snorkel roots. Black mangroves are salt extruders; they take in salt, but rid it through glands on their leaves. Look closely for salt crystals on a leaf.
Now look for the red ribbon on the tree. This is a red mangrove. It has special roots that allow it to grow under conditions that most plants cannot tolerate. It has prop roots that grow out from the trunk, and drop roots that grow down from the branches. Both types of roots stabilize the tree by anchoring it in the soft, shifting sediments. Red mangrove roots allow the water molecules to pass through their tissue, while excluding most of the salt