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Mystery Of The Mangroves

“Walkin’ trees” provide a nursery for a multitude of local fish and wildlife.
But where will they walk to next?

Red mangrove propagules.

Red mangrove propagules.

In the Florida Keys where I spent my youth, exotic plants and animals were commonplace. There were deer the size of poodles and land crabs as big as dinner plates. There were great white herons, short-tailed hawks and short-eared owls. There were sunburned trees with wood as hard as nails, and about as buoyant. The rich tapestry of oddball organisms would have given Darwin pause.

If you were into nature like my school chums and I, the Keys were their own theme park, and each day was an E-ticket ride. But nothing piqued our interest more than the woods at the edge of the sea.

The conchs and oldtimers called them “walkin’ trees,” a nickname coined by the Seminoles. Since they’re often found growing just offshore, maybe “wadin’ trees” would have been more apt. To us they were just The Mangroves, and even though we were irresistibly drawn to them the minute school let out, in retrospect I think we found them kind of unsettling – maybe even a little creepy. Perched above the waves on their spindly stilt roots, they looked like they were fixing to scuttle off the minute you turned your back.

Read the entire article in the March 2012 issue