• Red Mangrove
  • Black Mangrove
  • White Mangrove
  • Buttonwood

Red Mangrove

Growing along the edge of the shoreline where conditions are harshest, the red mangrove (Rhizophora
mangle) is easily distinguished from other species by tangled, reddish prop roots. These prop roots
originate from the trunk with roots growing downward from the branches. Extending three feet (1 m) or
more above the surface of the soil, prop roots increase stability of the tree as well as oxygen supply to
underground roots.
Under optimal conditions, this mangrove tree can grow to heights of over 80 feet (25 m), however, in
Florida, red mangroves typically average 20 feet (6 m) in height. Habitat range in Florida is limited by
temperature. Red mangroves occur from Cedar Key in the Gulf of Mexico and Daytona Beach in the
Atlantic, southward through the Florida Keys. The smooth-edged, elliptical leaves have shiny, dark green
uppersides and pale green undersides and occur opposite from each other along the branches. Trunks
and limbs are covered with gray bark, over a dark red wood from which the common name originates.
Clusters of white to pale yellow flowers bloom during the spring and early summer months.
Reproductive adaptations enable seedlings to germinate while still attached to the parent tree. Seeds
sprout into 6 inch (15 cm), pencil-shaped propagules. Seed germination while still attached to the tree
gives this mangrove a higher chance of survival. When the seedling falls into the water, it may either take
root alongside its parent or be carried by the tides and currents to other suitable habitat.

Black Mangrove

Avicennia germinans, the black mangrove, is characterized by long horizontal roots and root-like
projections known as pneumatophores. It grows at elevations slightly higher than the red mangrove
where tidal change exposes the roots to air. The pencil-shaped pneumatophores originate from
underground horizontal roots projecting from the soil around the tree's trunk, providing oxygen to the
underground and underwater root systems.
The black mangrove reaches heights of over 65 feet (20 m) in some locations, however in Florida they are
smaller with heights to 50 feet (15 m). Within Florida, they range from the Keys north to Cedar Key on the
west coast and St. Augustine on the east coast. Leaves occur opposite of each other along the branches,
with upper sides that are shiny and undersides densely covered with hairs. The bark of this mangrove is
dark and scaly. Black mangroves blossom in spring and early summer, producing white flowers.
Reproductive adaptations enable seedlings to germinate while still attached to the parent tree. Seeds
sprout into 1 inch (2-3 cm), lima bean-shaped propagules. Seed germination occurs while still attached to
the parent tree, increasing the chances of survival in this adverse environment.

White Mangrove

Occupying higher land than the red and black mangroves, the white mangrove (Languncularia racemosa)
has no visible aerial roots, unlike the black mangrove which has pneumatophores and the red mangrove
with prop roots. However, when it is found in oxygen-depleted sediments or flooded for extended periods
of time, it often develops peg roots.
White mangroves are the least cold-tolerant of the three mangrove species found in Florida, occurring
from Levy County and Volusia County southward in Florida. This small tree or shrub grows rapidly in rich
soils to heights of 50 feet (15 m). The light yellow-green leaves are broad and flat with two glands located
at the base of the leaf where the stem originates. These glands excrete salts taken in through the
underground root system. White mangroves produce greenish-white flowers in spikes, blooming from
spring to early summer.


Often found in the upland transitional zone, the buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) is often associated with
mangrove communities. Sensitivity to frost restricts its range to south Florida. The name buttonwood
comes from the button-like appearance of the dense flower heads that grow in branched clusters, forming
cone-like fruit. This plant does not reproduce via propagules, but instead producing seed cases. While the
three mangrove species have leaves that occur opposite of each other, the buttonwood leaves alternate.
The leaves are leathery with pointed tips and smooth edges. There are two salt-excreting glands located
at the base of each leaf. Flowers appear in cone-like heads and are greenish in color.
Species of Mangroves
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary