The red mangrove is distinguished by its prop roots, which support the tree over the water. This mangrove tree has the ability to take oxygen in directly through its complex root system. Its viviparous seeds, also referred to as propagules, drop into the water from the parent tree, drift around under the influence of tides and currents, and eventually take root and grow in shallow coastal areas. While the red mangrove can grow to over 75 feet under optimal conditions, it most commonly reaches a height of 20 feet throughout its range. The bark of a mature red mangrove is a grey with red hues. Its leaves are broad and dark green in color. During spring months red mangroves will produce pale yellow flowers.
Red mangroves are found throughout most of the world’s tropic and sub-tropic coastal areas. These trees thrive in brackish coastal areas as well as swampy salt marshes. In some areas the red mangrove is threatened by other invasive species like the Brazilian pepper tree. However, in Hawaii the red mangrove itself is considered to be an invasive. Frequently, white and black mangroves are found along with red mangroves.
The ability of red mangroves to inhabit the harsh saltwater environment provides cascading benefits to a number of other plant and animal species. Like smooth cordgrass, red mangroves generate new habitat in an areas that may otherwise be barren. By stabilizing sediments and other surrounding environmental components, the red mangrove allows for small fish crabs to thrive. In addition to providing habitat structure, red mangroves act as a coastal barrier preventing coastal erosion.
Red mangroves are capable of self-pollination as well as wind pollination making them well suited for long-term survival in the harsh ecosystem, without relying of additional species for reproductive success.