What is a Red Mangrove?

What is a Red Mangrove?

by Nick Hammond on Jan 19, 2022

Red mangroves are a species of mangrove tree that grows in tropical and subtropical coastal regions around the world. With their distinctive arching stilt roots, reddish appearance, and viviparous seeds, red mangroves play an important ecological role in coastal ecosystems.


  • Scientific name: Rhizophora mangle
  • Grow up to 20-25 meters tall, sometimes even taller. They have a short, wide trunk that divides into large, woody prop roots.
  • The arching stilt roots emerge from the trunk and branches, extending down to the mud to stabilize and support the tree.
  • Leaves are thick, leathery, oval-shaped and shiny green on the topside. They are paler green on the underside. The leaves are 5-15 cm long.
  • Small, yellow, four-petaled flowers bloom directly on the branches and trunk. They produce a fruit shaped like a long cylinder, up to 30 cm long.
  • Propagate through vivipary, where the embryo begins to germinate and grow out of the fruit while still attached to the parent tree. Eventually it drops into the water where it can immediately root.


  • Red mangroves are found along protected tropical and subtropical coastlines and estuaries.
  • They thrive along calm shorelines, bays, lagoons and inlets where wave action is limited.
  • Grow in soft, wet, muddy soils. They often inhabit the tidal zone where they deal with regular flooding by seawater.
  • Form dense and often impenetrable "fringing forests" along coasts and function as a natural barrier from storms and erosion.
  • Red mangroves in the Americas range from Florida down to Brazil, while globally they are found throughout South Asia, Africa, and Oceania.


  • The stilt roots contain many lenticels through which oxygen enters the roots during low tide. This allows respiration even when the mud is saturated with water.
  • Salt-excreting glands in the leaves remove excess salt that is absorbed from the seawater. The glands excrete the salt crystals on the leaf surfaces, giving a whitish appearance.
  • Viviparous seeds give red mangroves a reproductive advantage, allowing them to spread and efficiently colonize open habitats.
  • Buttress roots provide structural support, anchoring the heavy trunk in soft muddy soils. They help stabilize the tree against winds and tides.
  • Prop roots are woody extensions off the trunk and branches that help support the weight. They also allow oxygen to reach roots during high tide when the soil is submerged.

Ecosystem Role

  • Red mangroves stabilize and protect shorelines from erosion. Their massive root systems trap sediment and reduce damage from storm surges and wind.
  • Provide critical habitat, shelter and food for a diversity of marine species. Their submerged roots serve as nurseries for fish, crabs, shrimp, and shellfish.
  • The nutrient-rich leaves are a major source of food for fish and invertebrates in coastal waters. They decompose and ultimately support entire food chains.
  • The intricate root systems provide nesting areas and shelter for many aquatic species including fish, turtles, snakes, and crocodiles.
  • Their unique placement in the intertidal zone allows red mangroves to link terrestrial and marine ecosystems as they cycle and export nutrients between habitats.

Red mangroves are specially adapted tropical trees that stabilize coastlines and provide essential habitat for many organisms. They form an important and productive ecosystem along tropical coasts throughout the world.


When you purchase from MANG you join a movement of people who are banded together to protect, preserve and restore our ecosystems. The future depends upon stewards like you stepping up to the cause to protect our Earth today.


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