Monday, May 10, 2010

Amazing Mangroves

Mother's Day weekend, my husband took me to an outdoor preserve called J. "Ding" Darling on Sanibel Island. We had never been, and I was inspired to go after seeing my first swallow-tailed kite.

I was in the car, coming to a stop sign, and a large bird flew overhead. At first, I thought it was a hawk, but it was much thinner. What amazed me was how long this beautiful skimmer was. Its forked tail alone was a foot long. Its wing span at least four feet. Black wing tips and tail feathers contrasted against the snowy white plumage. An incredibly beautiful bird.

I'm told the kite can eat in flight, swooping down and snatching snakes, lizards, and birds from trees or large insects from the air. They spend March through August in Florida.

We were not disappointed in our trip to the Darling preserve, although, most of the birds have flown North. We did see a roseate spoonbill, an osprey feeding on another bird, some egrets and cormorants, and two osprey nests with activity. But what really impressed us were the mangrove trees and our knowledgeable tour guide. The trees themselves and the way they live and grow are too complex for this short blog, but I encourage all of you to take a run through the internet and find out as much as you can. about these fascinating trees.

The potential disaster that awaits us if the oil reaches Florida's shores is immense. If these vital habitats are destroyed, it will wreak havoc on Louisiana and Florida shores and the shrimping industry for many years to come.

Briefly, there are three types of mangrove trees: the red, the white and the black. The black mangrove is the only one that is able to take in salt water and excrete it via osmosis through its leaves. Wipe your thumb across a white coated leaf, and you will taste and feel salt.

Red mangroves are able to tolerate the salt water through an internal filtering system. When the tides come in, they close off their tap roots until the tide goes back out. Young trees cannot take root easily in the salt water, so the mother tree produces tiny trees on the branches. When the root pod becomes heavy, they are released into the water.

Some will take root and others will get washed out to sea. We saw many of these new trees growing on the branches, and others trying to take root in the shallow waters below where they had been released.

Space will not allow me to continue, but you can see how interesting these mangrove trees are. The illustration I used in introducing this blog was used in my picture book: "Inez Ibis Flies Again, The Story of a Courageous Ibis Who Never Gave Up." Book is available at Blurb (See the picture book link on this page), and as an eBook at