Growing Mangrove Trees: How To Grow A Mangrove With Seed

Growing Mangrove Trees: How To Grow A Mangrove With Seed

By: Teo Spengler

Mangroves are among the most recognizable of American trees. You’ve probably seen photos of mangrove trees growing on stilt-like roots in swamps or wetlands in the South. Still, you’ll find out some amazing new things if you involve yourself in mangrove seed propagation. If you’re interested in growing mangrove trees, read on for tips on germination of mangrove seeds.

Growing Mangrove Trees at Home

You’ll find mangrove trees in the wild in shallow, brackish waters of the southern United States. They also grow in riverbeds and wetlands. You can start growing mangrove trees in your backyard if you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9-12. If you want an impressive potted plant, consider growing mangroves from seed in containers at home.

You’ll have to pick between three different types of mangroves:

  • Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)
  • Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans)
  • White mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa)

All three grow well as container plants.

Germination of Mangrove Seeds

If you want to start growing mangroves from seeds, you’ll find that mangroves have one of the most unique reproductive systems in the natural world. Mangroves are like mammals in that they bring forth live young. That is, most flowering plants produce dormant resting seeds. The seeds fall to the ground and, after a time, start to germinate.

Mangroves do not proceed in this manner when it comes to mangrove seed propagation. Instead, these unusual trees start growing mangroves from seeds while the seeds are still attached to the parent. The tree can hold onto seedlings until they grow almost a foot (.3 m.) long, a process called viviparity.

What happens next in the germination of mangrove seeds? The seedlings may drop off the tree, float in the water the parent tree is growing in, and finally settle and root in mud. Alternatively, they can be picked from the parent tree and planted.

How to Grow a Mangrove with Seed

Note: Before you take mangrove seeds or seedlings from the wild, be sure that you have the legal right to do so. If you don’t know, ask.

If you want to start growing mangroves from seeds, first soak the seeds for 24 hours in tapwater. After that, fill a container without drain holes with a mixture of one part sand to one part potting soil.

Fill the pot with sea water or rain water to one inch (2.5 cm.) above the surface of the soil. Then press a seed into the center of the pot. Position the seed ½ inch (12.7 mm.) below the soil surface.

You can water mangrove seedlings with freshwater. But once a week, water them with salt water. Ideally, get your salt water from the sea. If this is not practical, mix up two teaspoons of salt in a quart of water. Keep the soil wet at all time while the plant is growing.

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Red Mangrove as House Plant?

A friend of mine gave this to me as a gift. For now, it is an elegant little thing. I like it, and hope it will stay this way for a while. Has anybody had this one as a house plant? How fast does it grow? Do I need to move it to a larger pot any time soon? Thanks.

well now, never seen that done before! lol i doubt it will live long. they live in saltwater at the ocean's edge and a little beyond.

Funny you should post this right now, as I'm about to try growing this indoors myself. I should have mine in about a week.

It's said that these will grow in aquariums indoors, (saltwater or not) so why not give it a shot?

Someone on another forum was growing them indoors a year or so ago. haven't heard how theirs is doing, though.

I've read that they're currently becoming quite popular as indoor plants, and that they don't necessarily need *salt* water.

Also try a google search for 'mangrove indoor plant' and you'll get lots of info.

i stand hopefully corrected and hope everyone has luck with them! it will be an interesting experiment at the very least! (hi nan!) debi

Thank you both for the response. The little plant has been doing well over the past 10 days since it came. No leave has turned brown. Hopefully it will stay healthy :-)

Nan, thank you for the link. I will also google it to see what I can find.

It will be a fun experiment, indeed! I'm always up for a new one!

I love that there's always something 'new' to try to grow indoors.

Funny, too, how some plants deemed 'difficult' to grow indoors (by some 'experts') turn out to be relatively easily grown, and some deemed 'easily grown' are often difficult!

I'll be interested to see how yours does for you, donnerville. I'll let you know how mine does, too. when I get it!

experiments are always fun, nan!

one thing i have to say just to get it off my chest. hopefully if these are becoming the rage, they will not be taken from the wild. they are very much protected in florida and i would hope that someone is not out there just ripping these things up and selling them. they are a vital part of the ecosystem in the keys and elsewhere.

Responsible vending. good point. I'll have to check on that with the vendor I'd planned to get mine from. He's an 'aquarium' dealer. sells fish/plants/supplies, etc.

I've seen a lot of Mangrove 'seedlings' on ebay. so hopefully those being sold to the public are grown from seed.

I've looked into 'growing' the plant. but not it's propagation.

I will ask him whether his are grown from seed or how they're obtained. thanks for pointing that out, as I agree it's important!

it is probably all too tempting to pick up the ones that are floating around in the water and not all of them will find their place and take root but you see my point. didn't mean to come off in any way that YOU were personally ripping them out of the ocean. at least not from Wisconsin! lol

(Ь) I knew that! Besides, I'd surely need some long arms for that feat! (Ь)

We need that reminder, though, to make sure the vendors we buy from are 'responsible'.
We need to at least ask them, so they know that we care about our planet.

Keeping & cultivation of mangroves


We are going to inform you about the various methods of keeping and cultivating mangroves and the specific characteristics of mangroves. We will also try to inform which mangrove species is suitable for the particular cultivation method.

A specially developed online questionnaire helps you finding all mangrove species that fit to your growing conditions.

Furthermore you should also check out following information to find out more about mangroves:


  • Artificial lights (9-13 hours a day) (if not enough sunlight is available)
    • Sodium lamps
    • HQI Lamps
    • T5 Fluorescent tubes
    • HBO (mercury lamps)
    • T8 Fluorescent tubes
    • other growing lamps for plants

  • Air- and water temperatures during the day above 20°C (during the whole year)
    • a few special mangrove species need more than 24°C
    • perfect air temperature: 25-30°C
    • perfect water temperature: 23-27°C
    • during night the temperatures can fall within a normal range, temperatures below 10°C should not be reached at any moment

  • Humidity of minimum 50 percent
    • perfect humidity: as high as possible

  • soil & fertilizer
    • Mangrove Mud Special
    • Mangrove Mud Basic
    • no earth, use clay, sand of almost any kind (coaral sand only in marine water or brackish water), hydroponics or the like, you can also mix them. Perfect is Mangrove Mud Special.
    • a minimum depth of 10cm for younger plants Jungpflanzen
    • a minimum depth of 30cm for older plants Jungpflanzen

Mangroves can also be cultivated without any artifical lights at all, only with sunlight, this is only possible in regions near the equator (around 30° north and 40° south), mangroves are able to grow ther without artifical lights.

If you want to grow mangroves outside these regions, artifical lights are a must to provide enough light for mangroves to grow, even if the mangroves are grown in a winter garden or on a sill and the window is oriented to the south or any other similar circumstances, the mangroves will at least need additional artifical light for successfull growing. As always there are some exceptions like Barringtonia asiatica, Heritiera littoralis, Pandanus tectorius and Terminalia catappa which can survive and grow well without artifical lights.

Mangrove basin

If you cultivate mangroves in a mangrove basin the mangrove is the center of attraction and fully in focus, the equipment can be put together especially for the needs of mangroves, perfect lights with the right light spectrum, nutrient-rich soil, air pump or water pump for circulation, humidifiers, sprinkler system and some owners of a mangrove basin have a fully automatic high tide / low tide simulation system.

In most cases mangrove basins are made of aquariums and adopted to the special needs.

There are two options to set up the mangrove basin:

1. the soil substrate is directly spread on the floor of the aquarium, most mangrove basins are made this way. If done this way the soil should have a minimum height of 10cm, the more soil the better for the mangroves. The mangroves are planted directly into the substrate and water is added as long the water surface is a few centimeters above the ground level, watering the mangroves is not needed any more, there is enough water for a couple of days or weeks, depending on how quick the water is used up. When the water level is lower than the soil ground level you can fill up with water again.

This method simulates a little bit the tides, most mangroves get along very well if cultivated this way. Another advantage of this method is that you only have to water the mangroves a few times a months maybe even only once a months.

2. the mangroves are placed in single pots which are put in the empty aquarium. It is important that the pots are big enough and do not disturb the mangroves in developing their roots, the pots should have a minimum height and diameter of 15-20cm for smaller mangroves. As soon as all mangroves are in the aquarium it can be filled up with water. Make sure that the water level will be below the leaves of the mangroves.

The water level can be a few centimeters above the pots for example, important is that the plants are not fully submerged. Watering is not needed for a couple of days or weeks, depending on how quick the water is used up. When the water level is about 10cm you can fill up again.

Stagnant rain water is best for mangroves in this case.

We recommend, regardless which option of mangrove basin you choose, to install an air pump or water pump for water circulation to prevent anaerobic bacteria. You can use pumps of different sizes or heaters to ensure water temperature also floor heating systems are possible, , a heater is also adviseable to ensure enough water temperature, there is no limit for your imagination, fully automatic mangrove basins with realistic low tide / high tide simulations exist already.

Freshwater aquarium

Mangroves are a real eyecatcher, an unusual, exotic and exceptional center of attraction in any freshwater aquarium. Fish, shrimp and other crustaceans as well as almost any other inhabitant of your aquarium will love the great hiding places mangroves can offer. The trunks of mangroves help tortoises breathing by holding on to them and some fish can more easily make their foam nests.

Mangroves are plants that do not grow underwater, mangroves need to be fully or partially above the water level and therefore are especially suitable for open aquariums where mangroves can grow out of the aquarium. Some smaller mangrove species which remain little can also be cultivated in closed aquariums as long as there is enough space between the water level and the lights where the mangroves have some space to grow and develop. The extrem high humidity in closed aquariums will make sure that mangroves develop quickly, if the growth is too fast you can cut back your mangroves so that new branches will develop and keep the plant small. In nature younger mangroves are often totally flooded during high tide therefore mangroves can survive for a certain time under water but will rot and die after a couple of days or weeks.

To bring mangroves into your aquarium will improve the well-being of all animals in your aquarium as well as the water quality as mangroves remove and filter pollutants like nitrite, nitrate and phosphate out of your aquarium water. Mangrove forests play an very important role in nature, they act as huge filters, nursery for uncountable animals, in aquariums mangroves relieve the mechanical filter and ensure that the well-being will improve, less algae will grow and the water quality will improve.

In order to calculate how many mangroves are necessary to ensure sustainable and balanced biological filtration you should use one mangrove for each 40 litres of aquarium water. An aquarium with about 240 litres for example would need about 6 mangroves, less mangroves will lead to a less strong filtration and it will take longer until the required filter performance will occur, more mangroves will speed up the required filter performance and wished water chemistry.

The growth of mangroves in aquariums cannot be compared to the growth of mangroves in nature. Generally we can say that mangroves growing in aquarims grow more restrained, in nature a mangrove propagule develops within a few years to a small tree with numerous aerial roots, in your aquarium mangroves will remain little even when some years passed by. We can say that mangroves in aquariums grow more like bonsais. By selective trimming of mangroves you are able to control the growth and can force the mangrove to develop branches, all in all you can controll the size and shape of your mangrove.

Spraying mangroves with water increases the local humidity and therefore influences the growth of mangroves in a positiv way.

In conclusion we can say that mangroves filter numerous 'pollutants' and therefore the nutrients for algae which will decimate, implementation periods of new aquariums can be reduced, the natural and biological filtration of mangroves relieves your mechanical filtration system and the well-being of all animals and plants in your aquarium will move up.

You can cultivate mangroves in your freshwater aquarium in many different ways:

  • ground
  • filter basin
  • net pot
  • rootwood
  • sucker
  • stone

Mangroves which are tall enough can be placed directly into the ground of an aquarium, it is important that the youngest leaves are above the water level. Generally mangroves placed in the ground grow brilliant, the numerous waste materials, pollutants and nutrients that all go into the ground provide everything the mangrove needs. Often long-term fertilizers are in the ground of aquariums and even ensure more nutrients for mangroves which will lead to magnificent growth.

When placing the mangrove in the aquarium leaves can be under water, as long as the youngest leaves are above the water level the mangrove will develop well. Placing the mangrove fully under water will let the mangrove rot and die after a couple of days or weeks.

Mangroves growing in the ground develop an extensive roots system of about 20 to 40cm in diameter. The very well known aerial roots are not developed in freshwater aquariums. The roots of mangroves adopt to the size and shape of the aquarium as any other usual water plant for aquariums without destroying the glass in any way.

A disadvantage of keeping mangroves in the ground of an aquarium is that mangroves will suffer from stress when the aquarium is redesigned and the mangrove is suddenly taken from its location and replaced. Often mangroves stop their growth for a couple of weeks if replaced, in worst case even can die. If a redesign is necessary and the mangrove really needs to be replaced make sure that as much ground substrata remains on the roots as possible to reduce stress.

Instead of growing mangroves in the soil of the aquarium or the like you can cultivate mangroves in net pots which are perfectly suitable for aquariums. Net pots are available in our online-shop in different shapes and sizes. Fill up the pots with the soil of your aquarium and place the mangroves inside.

You can put net pots on or in the soil of your aquarium. If you place net pots outside the soil of your aquarium you can cover them with some decoration like mangrove roots, stones or the like. Whenever you redecorate your aquarium or for any other reasons need to move the mangroves you can simply take them with the net pot and most of the roots will still be covered by soil. This method is one of the best to avoid stress and harm to mangroves.

Further advantages of net pots are that you can almost cultivate any mangrove species this way in your aquarium and that you can even cultivate mangroves that normally would be to little as you can place the net pots on stones or other objects to increase height, with the growth of the mangrove you can move the net pot down to the soil of the aquarium.

Generally woods and roots in aquariums are from mangroves.

Only Rhizophora mangle (Red Mangrove) is able to root on woods or roots. If you place a mangrove on wood it is important to find a place where the roots have enough space to develop. Best is if you put the mangrove strong enough in a crack or the like so that no string or any other materials for attachment are needed.

Nutrients are taken from the water in your aquarium and also deposit in roots and woods, the nutrients can be taken from the mangrove plant through its roots from the wood and also from the surrounding water. The roots of the mangrove will grow uninterrupted towards the ground of your aquarium where they can one day also take nutrients from.

Roots or woods can be very helpful to increase height of a mangrove if the mangrove is too small and would be totally under water if placed in the ground. To work around this problem the mangrove can be placed on the wood or root so that the leaves are above the water surface.

Clip holder
Mangrove propagules, especially so called torpedo seeds which have a length between 10 to 90cm can be placed at clip holders. Put the mangrove on the clip and place it anywhere in the aquarium, you can vary height and place, the only thing to consider is that the tip of the mangrove needs to be above the water surface. The sprout of the mangrove grows and roots start to develop and grow towards ground and take nutrients from the surrounding water. This method is simple and practical but it is a unnatural way of keeping mangroves, roots are exposed to light and can't find hold as they can't root on something. This method of keeping mangroves is good for a couple of weeks or months, the mangrove grows and the additional centimeters are probably enough to place the mangrove afterwards directly in the ground of your aquarium.

At this place we would like to mention, that this way of keeping mangroves should be avoided if possible, the replacement that needs to be done later on will can be stressful to the mangrove. We advise to think first where and how to cultivate mangroves and if necessary to prepare everything needed before buying them.

Numerous experiments have shown, that only Rhizophora mangle (Red Mangrove) can be successfully cultivated on stone. If you place a mangrove on stone it is important to find a place where the roots have enough space to develop. Best is if you put the mangrove strong enough in a crack or the like so that no string or any other materials for attachment are needed.

A big disadvantage of stones is that nutrients can not deposit in stones, not like in roots or woods where mangroves can take some nutrients from. Mangroves cultivated on stones fully depend on nutrients from the surrounding water or when the roots reached ground where they can take nutrients from.

Meerwasser aquarium

Die einzigartigen Luftwurzeln auch Pneumatophoren genannt werden von Mangroven vor allem in Meeresaquarien ausgebildet, so bieten Mangroven eine ganz auЯergewцhnliche Erscheinung, die prachtvolle Tier- und Korallenwelt unter Wasser und die Mangrove mit ihren ungewцhnlichen Blдttern oberhalb der Wasseroberflдche und die prдchtigen Pneumatophoren sind unterhalb als auch oberhalb der Wasseroberflдche zu sehen. Sollte der unwahrscheinliche Fall eintreten, dass die Pneumatophoren zu krдftig wachsen, so kцnnen diese problemlos gestutzt werden ohne der Mangrove grцЯeren Schaden zuzufьgen. Дngste, dass die Pneumatophoren einer Mangrove ein Aquarium beschдdigen oder gar zum sprengen bringen kцnnen sind gдnzlich unbegrьndet.

Die Blьten einer Mangrove erfreuen jeden Mangrovenhalter. Mangroven wachsen in der Natur zu Bдumen bzw. auch Strдucher heran, im Aquarium hдlt sich das Wachstum stets in Grenzen und Mangroven wachsen ьber eine ьberschaubare GrцЯe nicht hinaus, sie gedeihen wie Bonsais. Erst wenige Aquarianer schafften es Mangroven zum blьhen zu bringen, jene die es schafften gedulteten sich meiste mehrere Jahre lang, erfahrungsgemдЯ beginnen Mangroven in Meeresaquarien nach 6 bis 10 Jahren zu blьhen. Es sind bereits mehrere Fдlle von Mangrovenhaltern in Цsterreich und Deutschland bekannt die unterschiedliche Mangrovenarten zu blьhen brachten, darunter Avicennia officinalis, Bruguiera gymnorhiza und Rhizophora mangle. Die Frage ist nicht ob Mangroven blьhen, sondern wann.

Alleine die Blдtter sind Grund genug um eine Mangrove im Meeresbecken zu kultivieren, verschiedenste Fдrbungen und Formen der unterschiedlichen Mangrovenarten bieten eine nie dagewesene Abwechslung in der Meeresaquaristik. Ganz besonders interessant sind jene Mangrovenarten die ьber einzigartige Salzdrьsen an der Blattunterseite Salz in Form von Kristallen ausscheiden, vor allem Mangroven der Gattung 'Avicennia' haben diese Eigenschaft, aber auch Mangroven der Gattung 'Aegialitis' und 'Aegiceras'.

Besprьhen von Mangroven erhцht die lokale Luftfeuchtigkeit und beeinflusst das Wachstum einer Mangrove positiv.

Zusammenfassend kann festgehalten werden, dass Mangroven durch den Entzug zahlreicher 'Schadstoffe' den Algen grundlegende Nдhrstoffe entziehen und diese somit dezimieren, Einfьhrungsphasen eines Aquariums durch den Schadstoffentzug verkьrzt werden kцnnen, die natьrliche Filterung von Mangroven den mechanischen Filter entlastet und die Gefahr, dass das Aquariumwasser kippt (biologisch gesehen) verringert wird, zugleich das Wohlbefinden aller Aquarienbewohner steigt.

Mangroven kцnnen im Meerwasseraquarium auf unterschiedliche Weisen kultiviert werden:

  • Bodengrund
  • Filterbecken
  • Gittertopf
  • Lebendgestein
  • Saugnapf

Im Gegenteil zur SьЯwasseraquaristik besteht die Bodenschicht eines Meerwasseraquariums oft nur aus wenigen Zentimeter, oftmals zu wenig um Mangroven ausreichend Platz zum Wurzeln zu bieten. Sollte eine ausreichend tiefe Bodenschicht vorhanden sein, dabei empfiehlt sich eine Tiefe von mindestens 5 bis 6 Zentimeter, empfiehlt es sich Mangroven direkt in das Bodensubstrat zu pflanzen insofern diese groЯ genug sind um die obersten Blдtter ьber der Wasseroberflдche zu haben. Abfall-, Schad- und Nдhrstoffe welche sich im Bodengrund eines Aquariums sammeln dienen den Mangroven als hervoragende Nдhrstoffquelle.

Beim Einbringen der Mangrove in das Aquarium kann diese so platziert werden, dass auch bestehende Blдtter sich unter der Wasseroberflдche befinden, solange der Trieb und die jьngsten und somit obersten Blдtter der Mangrove ьber der Wasseroberflдche befinden wird sich die Mangrove gut entwickeln. Wьrde die Mangrove subers gehalten werden so wьrde sie nach wenigen Wochen absterben.

Einmal im Bodengrund gepflanzt, entwickeln die Mangroven ein weitlдufiges Wurzelsystem im Radius von ca. 20 bis 40cm. Typische Luftwurzeln, fьr die Mangroven weltweit bekannt sind, werden in einem Meerwasseraquarium nach ca. 1,5 bis 2 Jahren ausgebildet. Die Wurzeln der Mangrove passen sich der Aquarienform an und wachsen entlang der Glasscheiben ohne das Aquarium dabei zu beschдdigen.

Ein Nachteil der Haltung von Mangroven im Bodengrund ist der Stress den Mangroven erleiden, wenn das Aquarium umgestaltet wird und die Mangrove ihrem gewohnten Standort plцtzlich entrissen wird und einem neuen Ort des Aquariums zugewiesen wird. Oftmals reagieren Mangroven mit einer wochenlangen Wachstumspause, im schlimmsten Fall kann dieser Stress sogar zum Sterben der Pflanze fьhren. Sollten eine solche Umstellung wirklich notwendig sein, empfiehlt es sich, soviel Bodensubstrat wie mцglich an den Wurzeln zu belassen und die Pflanze mit diesem zu ьbersiedeln.

Filterbecken sind in der Meeresaquaristik ein wichtiger Bestandteil der Meerwasseranlage. Zumeist handelt es sich um ein Aquarium das kleiner ist als das eigentliche Meerwasseraquarium selbst, jedoch ausreichend Platz fьr die Technik der Anlage bieten.

Oftmals werden diese Filterbecken erweitert, etwa mit speziellen Algen die der Wasseraufbereitung dienen oder unterschiedliche Sandarten die eingebracht werden kцnnen um ein natьrlicheres Klima zu verschaffen, und auch hier kцnnen Mangroven von groЯem Vorteil sein, allerdings nur unter gewissen Umstдnden.

Net pots are probably the best solution for keeping mangroves in marine aquariums.

Instead of growing mangroves in the soil of the aquarium or the like you can cultivate mangroves in net pots which are perfectly suitable for aquariums. Net pots are available in our online-shop in different shapes and sizes. Fill up the pots with the soil of your aquarium and place the mangroves inside.

You can put net pots on or in the soil of your aquarium. If you place net pots outside the soil of your aquarium you can cover them with some decoration like living stones or the like. Whenever you redecorate your aquarium or for any other reasons need to move the mangroves you can simply take them with the net pot and most of the roots will still be covered by soil. This method is one of the best to avoid stress and harm to mangroves.

Further advantages of net pots are that you can almost cultivate any mangrove species this way in your aquarium and that you can even cultivate mangroves that normally would be to little as you can place the net pots on stones or other objects to increase height, with the growth of the mangrove you can move the net pot down to the soil of the aquarium.

Mangroven gedeihen in Lebendgestein. ErfahrungsgemдЯ lassen sich vor allem Bruguiera gymnorhiza, Rhizophora apiculata und Rhizophora mangle, an Lebendgestein erfolgreich anwurzeln. Hierbei ist es wichtig darauf zu achten, dass die Wurzeln der Mangrove aussreichend Platz haben um sich entfalten zu kцnnen um nicht in einer 'Sackgasse' zu enden. Die Mangrove wird am besten in einen Spalte oder ein passendes Loch des Lebendgesteins gesteckt, dabei sollte sie so fest gesteckt werden, dass die Verwendung von Korallenkleber oder anderen Befestigungsmaterialien nicht erforderlich ist. Sollte keine passende Stelle gefunden werden, so kann die Mangrove auch mittels Korallenkleber befestigt werden, wichtig ist dabei darauf zu achten, dass der untere Bereich der Mangrove, an welchem sich die Wurzeln entwickeln, von Korallenkleber frei bleibt und vor direkter Lichteinstrahlung so gut wie mцglich geschьtzt wird.

Durch vorbeistrцmendes Wasser werden die Mangroven mit allen notwendigen Nдhrstoffen versorgt. Die Wurzeln der Mangrove wachsen kontinuierlich der Bodenschicht des Aquariums entgegen und werden so auch einst dem Bodengrund Nдhrstoffe entziehen. Es kann durchaus passieren, dass die Wurzeln mehreres Lebendgestein miteinander verbindet.


Mangroves perfect for paludariums, high humidity, tropical temperatures, artificial lights and sprinkler systems offer a great environment for mangroves to develop.

Because of the tropical conditions offered in a paludarium as well as the possibility to let the mangrove grow in water or land enables almost all mangrove species to be cultivated in paludariums.

Tropical terrarium

Especially little animals as anolis, geckos, poison dart frogs, spiders and the like welcome the exotica mangroves. The tough and leathery leaves cannot be damaged by these animals, bigger animals can damage and even eat mangroves for example Iguana Iguana which also love to eat mangrove leaves in their natural habitat.

When cultivating mangroves in terrariums it is important not to let them grow in organic substrate such as common earth or the like. It is necessary to grow mangroves in special soil such as Mangrove Mud Special, more information can be found at pot plant.

Cultivating mangroves in substrate which is not suitable for mangroves can lead to death of the mangroves. Numerous mangroves have a huge stock of nutrients from the mother tree which helps them to survive even in inappropriate growing conditions but will also lead to death after a couple of months when all nutrients are used up.

By cutting you can control the growth of mangroves and can force the mangrove to develop branches early.


Avicennia marina var. marina
August 2009, Australien

Avicennia marina var. marina
November 2009, Australien

Avicennia marina var. marina
Mai 2010, Australien

Bruguiera cylindrica, Deutschland

Egal ob am Fensterbrett, im Wintergarten, in geeigneten Breiten das ganze Jahr ьber im Freien in ungeeigneten Breiten den Sommer über im Freien, Mangroven sind eine auЯergewцhnliche Erscheinung. Je nach Art der Kultivierung können Mangroven bis zu mehrere Wochen lang nicht gegossen werden oder jeden Tag gegossen werden, ohne dass diese davon Schaden nehmen. In Japan gilt die Topfpflanze "Mangrove" schon lange als beruhigende, schlichte und harmonische Dekoration!

Hinsichtlich der Mangrove als Zimmerpflanze können diese in zwei Gruppen gegliedert werden, jene die sich nicht in organischem Substrat kultivieren lassen und jede die organisches Substrat bevorzugen.

1. Mangroven fьr nicht organisches Substrat:
Nicht organisches Substrat bedeutet Schlamm, Lehm, Ton, Sand, Kies und дhnlichem. Mangroven die einen sehr nährstoffreichen, schlammartigen Boden benötigen zählen meist zu den "echten" Mangroven. Echte Mangroven bilden typischer Weise Luftwurzeln aus, sind sehr salztolerant und vertragen stehendes Wasser. Als idealer Bodengrund hat sich hierbei Mangrove Mud Special FB erwiesen, unabhдngig davon ob dem Substrat Salz beigemischt wird oder nicht.

EntschlieЯt man sich also zur Kurltivierung von echten Mangroven wie zB Avicennia, Bruguiera, Ceriops, Pelliciera, Rhizophora, Sonneratia Arten, so empfiehlt sich pro Pflanze einen Topf zu verwenden welcher dann in einen Ьbertopf oder eine wasserdichte Wanne gestellt wird. Der Topf in welchem die Mangroven gepflanzt wird sollte bis zu 3-5cm vor dem oberen Rand des Topfes mit Bodensubstrat befьllt werden. Den Topf mit der Mangrove in die Wanne bzw. in den Ьbertopf stellen, Behдlter fluten.

Ein großer Vorteil hierbei, die Pflanze wird einmal ausgiebig gegossen und muss erst wieder gegossen werden wenn das Substrat nur noch feucht ist, das kann je nach GefäßgrцЯe Wochen dauern, ein regelmäßiges Gießen ist daher nicht notwendig.

Da das Gefäß ohnehin geflutet wird, empfiehlt es sich gleich von Anfang an einen entsprechend großen Behälter zur Kultivierung der Pflanze zu verwenden. Mangroven bilden gerne ein üppiges Wurzelsystem und wachsen erfahrungsgemäß besser wenn ihnen ausreichen Platz für dieses geboten wird.

2. Mangroven fьr organisches Substrat:
Organisches Substrat ist jede Art von Erde (Blumenerde, Teicherde, usw.), Torf und дhnlichem. Hierbei handelt es sich um sogenannte "unechte" Mangroven.

Pflanzen die zur Familie der Mangroven gehören, jedoch weiter Landeinwärts oder entlang von Flüssen wachsen und nur geringe Salzmengen tolerieren. Diese unechten Mangroven benötigen keine Zugabe von Salz und können wie normale Zimmerpflanzen kultiviert werden. Die Erde kann bei Bedarf mit etwas Sand vermischt und überdurchschnittlich feucht gehalten werden. Typische Mangroven hierfür sind:

- Barringtonia sp.
- Heritiera littoralis
- Pandanus sp.
- Terminalia sp.
- Xylocarpus sp.

Mangroven im Freien:
In Breitengraden in welchen Mangroven natьrlicher Weise nicht vorkommen, können Mangroven den Sommer über im freien kultiviert werden. In der Übergangsphase von der Haltung im Zimmer zur Haltung im Freien sollte darauf geachtet werden, dass die Pflanze nicht plötzlich der prallen Sonne ausgesetzt wird, wenn diese die pralle Sonne zuvor nicht gewöhnt ist. Langsam anpassen lassen. Als Daumenregel gilt, dass Mangroven nach draußen gestellt werden dürfen, wenn die Lufttemperatur Nachts nicht unter 15°C gelangt.

Unter all den verschiedenen Mangroven gibt es unterschiedlichste Eigenschaften, so gibt es Mangroven wie Avicennia marina var. marina ganz im Sьden Australiens die im Winter teils mit Schnee bedeckt sind, ebenso Kandelia candel im Norden Japans, auch Bruguiera gymnorhiza, Heritiera littoralis, Terminalia catappa, Rhizophora stylosa und Rhizophora mangle haben sich schon des цfteren kurzfristige Temperaturstьrze von bis zu unter 10°C ьber Tage hinweg ausgehalten. Zur richtigen Kultivierung sollte sich ein Mangrovenhalter sich bewusst sein welche Mangrovenart er pflegt und was dieser zugemutet werden kann.

In Breitengraden in welchen Mangroven auch natьrlicher Weise vorkommen, können die entsprechenden Mangrovenarten ganzjдhrig ьber im Freien kultiviert werden.

Wie fьr so gut wie alle Pflanzen gilt auch fьr Mangroven, das Umstellungen langsam und schrittweise erfolgen sollten, auf plцtzliche Verдnderungen kцnnen Mangroven mit Stress reagieren. Beispiel: eine Mangrove die seit 3 Jahren in SьЯwasser kultiviert wird plцtzlich auf Meerwasser umstellen.


1. Meerwasser
Meerwasser hat im Durchschnitt 32 bis 35 Gramm Salz pro Liter. Dieses Beispiel arbeitet mit einem Durchschnittswert von 33 Gramm Salz pro Liter.
Eine Mangrove wird in einen Topf mit 3,8 Liter Volumen gepflanzt welcher dann in einen Übertopf gestellt wird oder einen Untersetzer erhält.

3,8*33 = 125 Gramm Salz sind erforderlich.

2. Brackwasser
Brackwasser hat im Durchschnitt 10 bis 20 Gramm Salz pro Liter. Dieses Beispiel arbeitet mit einem Durchschnittswert von 15 Gramm Salz pro Liter.
Es wird ein Mangrovenbecken mit den Maßen B:120cm T:40cm H:50cm eingerichtet. Wie viele Mangroven darin gepflanzt werden ist für die Berechnung unwichtig. Das Becken wird mit 15cm Substrat gefüllt, der Wasserstand endet bei 25cm.

120*40*25 = Volumen = 120.000 kubik Zentimeter
120.000/1.000 = 120 Liter
120*15 = 1,8 kg Salz sind erforderlich.

Die Salinität (Salzgehalt) steigt und sinkt mit der Menge an Wasser die vorhanden ist. Wird Wasser verbraucht bzw. verdunstet, so steigt die Salinität im Wasser, unmittelbar nach dem Gießen durch SьЯwasser sinkt die Salinität. Mangroven sind an Schwankungen der Salinitдt gewöhnt und können damit sehr gut umgehen.


Abb. 2: Rhizophora mangle Steckling nach 6-8 Wochen

Abb. 3: Rhizophora mangle Steckling nach 6 Monaten

Unter den folgenden Umweltbedingungen, lässt sich die Rote Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) mit großer Wahrscheinlichkeit kultivieren. Bisher waren alle acht Versuche in den letzten fünf Jahren erfolgreich. Dazu wurde ein geschlossenes Aquarium verwendet in dem ansonsten Schlammspringer gehalten werden (Periphtalmus babarus).

Dieses Aquarium mit Abdeckung (Abbildung 4), welches nur halb voll mit Wasser gefüllt ist, hat sich als ideal erwiesen, durch die Abdeckung sowie den Wasserstand entsteht eine schöne Hitze, als auch Luftfeuchtigkeit im Luftbereich des Aquariums. Wasser- und Lufttemperatur betragen ca. 30°C. Die relative Luftfeuchtigkeit liegt bei nahezu 100%. Der Salzgehalt schwankt zwischen 6 und 12 Promille.

Inwieweit die einzelnen Faktoren zusammenspielen, ist mir nicht bekannt. Auf jeden Fall muss der Steckling im Wasser, bzw. einem gewässerten Substrat verankert sein, ansonsten gehen die Mangroven nach den Erfahrungen von Paul Marek nicht an.

Mangroven wachsen nicht schnell und entsprechend wachsen die Stecklinge nur sehr langsam an. Nach ca. 6-8 Wochen ist der erste Wurzelansatz zu erkennen. Nach einem halben Jahr sieht man die Wurzel schon deutlich (Abbildung 3).

How to properly care for mangrove trees in ‘aquaria’

The red mangrove tree, Rhizophora mangle, is a common sight around saltwater aquariums, reef tanks and local fish stores where fresh seed pods are sold and kept. What is not a common sight is for a mangrove tree to be doing especially well and growing because aquarists treat this noble plant like a piece of house ivy.

For some reason it has come into relatively common practice for saltwater aquarium keepers to purchase one or more mangrove seed pods but without any real attention to the care requirements. Most reefers simply place these pour souls in some random area of the aquarium with their leaves above the water, and not much else is given to their specific care requirements.

Let us break it to you, Mangroves are not like house ivy at all, and you can’t simply place a mangrove in your aquarium and hope that they do well. Mangrove trees are high energy living plants which need intense light, a proper growth medium, and frequent rinses of freshwater to do well in an aquarium, let alone grow.

This indoor grove of red mangroves benefits from strong lighting provided by a 1000w metal halide lamp at the Birch Aquarium

To be clear, mangrove trees should probably never be placed right inside the aquarium, as most aquarium setups are designed to have bright lights placed directly above the tank, close to the water surface. Mangrove trees need to breathe so their leaves should emerge from well above the aquarium water.

If you truly want to keep mangrove, and want them to thrive, you should provide these high energy trees in an area of their own, where a dedicated light can offer them very strong illumination. In public displays the lighting for mangrove trees usually consists of very intense metal halide lighting, if not full exposure to sunlight, at least for part of the day.

Secondly, mangrove trees need to root down into a proper growth medium from which to obtain necessary nutrients required for growth. The substrate you use to grow and plant a mangrove tree should be deep enough for the tree roots to support a nice tree, but it shouldn’t be so fine as to cause anoxic regions to develop due to the absence of oxygen.

Rinsing of mangrove leaves is so important to their captive care that a sprinkler system has been installed on this grove of Rhizophora at the Birch Aquarium

Finally and most importantly, mangrove trees require a regular rinsing of freshwater to wash away the salt from the surface of their leaves. The primary reason that mangrove trees can survive in saltwater at all is because they have special glands in their leaves that help to extract salt.

This extracted salt builds up on the surface on mangrove tree leaves, and in nature, a regular sea mist or rainfall would generally remove this salty build up. The regular rinsing of mangrove tree leaves cannot be overstated, especially in healthy growing trees that are given the intense lighting that they need.

The inspiration for this write up came from a visit we made to the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego. Behind the scenes we saw one of the most beautiful groves of Rhizophora mangrove trees which were being tended to while we were there.

The mangroves at the Birch Aquarium were given the white green thumb treatment with a dedicated ‘deep sand’ section in which the trees could truly grow their roots, and they were illuminated using a 1000 watt metal halide lamp. In addition to receiving regular misting with fresh water to rinse of the salt from the leaves, a sprinkler system is installed to further rinse the leaves during days in which a staffer is unavailable to do so manually.

Mangroves are majestic TREES that have been relegated to an aquarium ornament in most home aquarium setups. If you truly want to keep and grow a mangrove as part of your home aquarium, please give them what they need to thrive and you will be rewarded with a dynamic and interesting new dimension to your aquarium display.

Author: Richard Aspinall

Salt-tolerant plants that are as unusual as they are beautiful, mangroves make an interesting and highly functional addition to a brackish or even fully marine aquarium.

Salt Lovers

Salt water presents many challenges for plants. For the majority, having their roots surrounded by salt water would mean a rapid death. Not so for mangroves, that collection of woody species that have not only evolved to tolerate salty conditions, but have also adapted over time to thrive across the tropics.

Mangroves are perhaps the best known of the halophytes (literally “salt lovers”). They are astoundingly successful thanks to a range of remarkable evolutionary developments and survival techniques that have made them common across the tropics and, of course, increasingly seen in home aquaria, where their adaptations, structures, and simple elegance appeal to many aquarists.

Around 100 species are recognized as being mangroves, though only a few are from the Rhizophoraceae, the family typically regarded as the mangroves. Mangroves are best defined by how they live, rather than by their phylogeny. A better definition might be that mangroves are a grouping of woody plants from several families and genera that grow as trees in saline conditions. Based on this “working” definition, a number of species from genera that contain non-mangroves also fit in this category.

Red Mangroves and Black Mangroves

In my experience, it seems that the most common species aquarists are likely to come across are the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) and the black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), and this is fortunate for the sake of this article because the species demonstrate two differing approaches to coping with the saltwater life that I will discuss shortly. Lucky aquarists living close to tropical shores are able to source native species by simply collecting propagules from beaches, assuming local laws and regulations allow.

How Do Mangroves Deal with Salt?

Mangroves are facultive halophytes they have evolved mechanisms to cope with drawing their moisture from saline environments and maintaining tissues with a saline content lower than that of the water that surrounds their roots. In some cases, mangroves may experience hypersaline conditions, where evaporation in coastal swamps results in water much saltier than the 35 ppt we are familiar with, and in other cases, flood waters and tides may bring water that is fresh or brackish.

Mangroves deal with salt in two major ways. The first method is employed by species such as R. mangle, which uses a process analogous to reverse osmosis to exclude salt ions at the roots. This process is not entirely sufficient on its own, and the plants still need to “dump” salt. This is reported to be carried out by translocation of salt ions into leaves that are then shed.

The second way of coping with “salty roots” is salt secretion, a method that is employed by species of the Avicennia genus for example. The roots of these species partially exclude salt but are not nearly as capable as their cousins. To overcome this, these species excrete salt (visible as small crystals on the leaves) through their leaf pores during transpiration, thus maintaining ionic balance within their cells. This is why species from these genera require misting with water (RO if you have it) to simulate rainfall that will naturally keep the leaves’ surface salt-free and in good health. It is good practice to mist all mangrove leaves regularly to remove dust and salt spray, for cosmetic reasons as well as biological ones.

Mangroves have also developed adaptations to cope with regular immersion and survival in low-oxygen (anoxic) environments. To overcome these variable and challenging conditions, many species have evolved pneumatophores, which are upward-growing roots that breach the water’s surface for at least some part of the day to allow oxygen to reach the plant’s roots through networks of fine tubules. These “breathing roots” join with the aerial and prop roots to form a dense tangle that traps sediment and plant material.


Perhaps the most interesting fact about mangroves (Rhizophora species) is their method of reproduction. When aquarists purchase mangroves, they often buy what they may think of as a “seed,” but this is simply not the case. What they are buying is a wonderful thing known as a propagule.

Propagules form after flowering when the fertilized seed develops into a long structure that, when it has developed sufficiently, falls from the plant. Peter Hogarth, author of The Biology of Mangroves, suggests that this method of distribution is an adaptation to aid local dispersal and not a method that allows mangroves to traverse oceans.

When exploring a mangrove forest, you see a large number of propagules being washed up very close to their location of origin (and very likely under their parent plants). When pushed by high tides or wave action onto suitable substrate, they will begin to grow. Roots tend to form after 10 days or so and slowly pull the new plant to an upright position.

Mangroves in the Home Aquarium.

I can see two main reasons aquarists wish to grow mangroves. First, they are simply fascinating—a lush, green plant emerging from a tropical marine aquarium just looks impressive and is a subject for conversation. Second, aquarists may choose to grow them because they perform a useful role in the aquarium system. It is likely, of course, that many aquarists will have mangroves to serve both purposes.

Growing mangroves in the home aquarium is not difficult. They are often bought as propagules or as more established saplings with six months to a few years of growth. Taking mangrove plants from the wild will, no doubt, be restricted in many localities and would at least require the landowner’s permission. More importantly, wild collection may damage natural habitats. As noted, it may be possible to harvest propagules from a local beach if you have easy access and are so inclined.

Fortunately for those of us who are landlocked, mangroves are regularly imported and grown and available online or in stores. Propagules tend to be shipped without pots and will, depending upon their age, have some root growth. The young plants can be raised in beds of substrate (8–10 inches [20–25 cm] is ideal), which can either be fully immersed or kept wet via capillary action. There are specially manufactured pots that, when filled with substrate such as coral sand, will contain the mangrove’s roots. These can be attached to the aquarium glass or hidden with rockwork.

I recently set up a small tank and created a bommie with mangroves that was moderately successful. I had filled the bommie with live-rock rubble and sand to give the mangroves something to root into, but much of the sand dispersed through the inevitable holes in the rockwork and the roots didn’t form as well as I anticipated.

In contrast to standard marine aquariums, mangrove systems often have relatively shallow water—at least in relation to the overall height of the aquarium—and very often different depths of substrate. Deeper substrate at the rear of the system can allow for planting of propagules or more advanced specimens, with their prop roots then allowed to grow toward the front of the aquarium and into the water where fish and inverts can be kept. However, such growth will not happen overnight and may well take several years to begin to look “authentic.”

An increasingly popular use for mangroves is in refugia, and I include in this the plants that many aquarists (like me) grow in pots in their sumps. Personally I grow mine because I like them and, well, because I can, but many aquarists with larger systems and more space will include mangroves in large display refugia.

Mangroves in refugia will, of course, absorb nutrients (for their own use and that taken up by the bacteria associated with their roots), but the contribution that the trees make to overall maintenance of organically derived nutrients in a marine tank will vary enormously. One small plant will be of little use, while a few dozen will be valuable, depending upon the size and bioload of your system. I would suggest that it’s better, perhaps, to rely on macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha, for plant-based nutrient export.

However, refugia are greater than the sum of their parts. The complicated tangle of mangrove roots and the biological interactions taking place around and upon them all serve to provide opportunities for other species, from bacteria to polychaete worms, to prosper. Wherever there is a niche, nature will fill it. This is exactly what one hopes to achieve in a refugium: a complicated series of processes and species interacting with each other, consuming nutrients and, with luck, releasing valuable products, such as crustacean larvae and gametes, back into the water column for consumption by fish and corals.

A well-stocked refugium, replete with macroalgae and filled with filter feeders and beneficial scavenging invertebrates, can be a joy to behold. If planted with a few mangroves, the attractiveness of the aquarium extends upwards.

Mangroves are not the most rapid-growing of plants. Their lifestyle requires an energy input over and above that of non-halophytes to stay alive, but once established they may well require pruning to keep them within their allotted space, especially if kept within a sump/cabinet arrangement. Mine seem to respond well to pruning and, given their natural location where they often take often taking the worst of the weather, they are tolerant of being damaged. But like most plants, they are best pruned over a period of months rather than in one “hack.” In this case, the aquarist can employ the techniques of the bonsai master and nip out growing tips to increase ramification (bushiness) and control overall shape.

Mangroves may well require extra lighting to keep them healthy. When kept in a sump, a standard LED- or T5-based aquarium fixture may be easily provided, but when out of the cabinet, a mangrove may be sharing the light of your main lamps and may cast a shadow onto the aquarium below it. You will need to experiment, but unless you get strong natural daylight, your mangrove is likely to become etiolated (leggy) and lose leaves toward its base.

I have also read that mangroves are susceptible to low magnesium levels. This isn’t usually an issue in a properly maintained reef tank, but in fish-only systems, the magnesium level may fall below the 1350-ppm mark normally considered acceptable. Symptoms of lack of magnesium are similar to those in terrestrial plants showing the same condition: yellowing and eventual loss of leaves.

Fish and Inverts for the Mangrove Aquarium

Stocking a mangrove setup is a big subject. In a marine aquarium, it would be worthwhile to simulate natural conditions, perhaps including fish that might best mimic fry (which frequently shelter in mangroves), perhaps a shoal of cardinals such as Zoramia leptacantha. In shallower systems, bottom-dwelling species with little requirement for water depth will be at home. Jawfish would be a possibility, as would various species of goby or blenny.

It may be tempting to purchase the leaf-mimicking orbicular batfish (Platax orbicularis), which is very attractive as a juvenile and fits the mangrove biotope, but this fish does not acclimate well and I would urge you to leave it in the store (and the store to leave it in the ocean). I have spent time in the wild with fully grown batfish—they are large, intelligent, and attractive creatures that have no place in the home aquarium in my opinion.

Inverts in the mangrove setup are an easier proposition. For the refugium, an aquarist could choose a number of filter feeders, sponges, and crustaceans, including colonies and groupings of small shrimp that may well fall victim to fish in the display aquarium.

You may choose to keep a very specific biotope that is commonly demonstrated at public aquaria, namely the “upside-down jelly” tank. This involves setting up a system with mangrove roots and sea grass to mimic a natural shallow-water habitat, where Cassiopea jellyfish can settle to expose their undersides, which are filled with photosynthetic algae, to the daylight.

The Ecological Value of Mangroves

Mangroves are under serious threat, and while there remains a massive acreage of mangrove forest on the planet, it is shrinking remarkably as coastlines are developed for mariculture and human habitation. This is short-sighted, not only for the forests’ intrinsic value, but also because the mangroves perform a very useful role in protecting and defending coastlines from storms and tsunamis as well as providing shelter for the fry of many species of fish. Mangroves are also superbly capable of absorbing nutrients and sediments from estuaries and coastal systems that would, if they found their way to the reef, cause significant coral degradation.

A Brackish System

As we’ve discussed, mangroves will thrive in a range of water conditions, from sea water to fresh, and this allows the aquarist the freedom to create a brackish system inspired by an estuarine environment.

This means aquascaping objects that would not normally be incorporated into a “traditional” marine system, such as root wood, can be used to simulate the densely packed root and branch structures in estuarine habitats. These can be very effective if mixed with mangrove plants grown within deep substrate beds or within pots hidden within the rockwork—or, in this case, the root work.

Fishes for the brackish system are not as colorful as many marine or freshwater species—in turbid environments, colors are not a useful adaptation. However, they can be remarkably interesting and attractive in their own way.

Scats and monos are commonly kept in brackish systems along with the remarkable archerfish, famed for spitting out water jets to dislodge insects, which fall onto the water’s surface. Replicating this behavior in the home aquarium is possible, with several authors suggesting the use of fake flies. When the archerfish is successful in hitting one of these decoys, it remains glued on a branch and the aquarist drops a real fly onto the water as a reward. To me, this sounds preferable to releasing large numbers of flies close to or around your fish tank, especially if you are using an open-topped system.

Another interesting group that would thrive in a brackish system are the mudskippers. These fishes require flat areas, onto which they will haul themselves using their powerful pectoral fins. As the name implies, this means mud and other fine sediment in the wild, but I have seen aquarists using sea-washed timber to great effect to provide rafts.

Further Reading

Hogarth, P. J. (1999). The Biology of Mangroves. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Stafford-Deitsch, J. (1996). Mangrove: The Forgotten Habitat. Immel, London.

Tomlinson, P. B. (1986). The Botany of Mangroves. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

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Mangrove Seeds are your best option. When you start with a seed all you have to do is anchor it on rocks or sand substrate and give it some light and forget about it.

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Can be planted in freshwater, saltwater, brackish water, in a pot with soil. In southern climates mangrove seeds can be planted outside in ponds also.

Mangroves at the Smithsonian

How diverse are mangroves? How do their components work? What threats do they face—and how can we conserve them? Smithsonian scientists and colleagues from around the world are searching for answers to these and other urgent questions. The scientists make use of the extensive collections at the National Museum of Natural History as well as the facilities at several Smithsonian facilities outside of Washington, D.C.—including the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and field stations along the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts in Florida , Belize, and Panama. These natural laboratories enable the scientists to conduct long-term studies on mangrove ecosystems from a range of latitudes.

Dr. Ilka "Candy" Feller

Mangrove biologist Dr. Candy Feller has spent the last 35 years among the mangrove roots researching the relationship between mangrove growth, nutrients, and the animals that rely on the forests. Dr. Feller spends much of her time perched in mangrove trees or sitting among their gnarled thickets—counting, measuring, weighing, photographing and comparing the leaves and animals she finds. An insect and plant ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, she has collected dozens of insects once unknown to science. Part of her research includes carefully dosing individual mangrove trees with small amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus to understand how excess nutrients, which are a major global threat to mangroves and other coastal ecosystems —like those from industrial, residential, and agricultural sources—affect mangrove ecosystems. “As a child, I played in a swamp near my grandmother’s house. I still do the same thing today,” Feller says.

Dr. Candy Feller in the Field

One of the major questions Dr. Feller and her team hope to answer is how mangroves will react to climate change. Along the East Coast of the United States mangroves jump northward when propagules hitch rides on hurricanes and then jump back south when there is a major freeze. A future climate that has stronger hurricanes and fewer days that plunge below 25 degrees F (-4 degrees C) may enable mangroves to travel further distances up the coast. Just like an early frost can wipe out flower sprouts during the spring, a couple of days of icy temperatures is enough to kill a growing mangrove seedling. But, take away the super cold freezes and the young mangroves are able to survive the winter. As the plants develop into trees, they become more tolerant of cold temperatures and are better able to withstand periodic freeze events during the winter. Climate change will also increase the number of intense hurricanes, a change that will influence mangrove seed dispersal. Since long-distance dispersal of mangroves relies on ocean currents to move seeds along the coast, the strong currents and whipping winds created by stronger hurricanes will help carry propagules from down south, up the coast into new territory.

Once a propagule reaches the northern edge of the range, it not only has to implant and grow, it must also successfully reproduce. Dr. Feller and colleagues are finding that seedlings of all species at the northern limit of mangroves are super reproductive. When most tree species take about 8 to 15 years to reach a reproductive age, these seedlings take just one year. It’s still unclear why these northern pioneers are so keen to start multiplying, but it may have to do with their genetics. Perhaps, the initial few seedlings to colonize the north were extremely early reproducers and the trait has been passed down to the current generation. Or, perhaps, being an early reproducer is somehow advantageous in the colder climate of the north, and these individuals are able to outcompete the late bloomers.

Watch the video: How to Grow Mangroves