31.75 x 24 in | 80.6 x 61 cm
Trees need fresh water, stable soil, oxygen for their roots and, if they are to reproduce, an expanse of ground upon which to sow their seeds. The Red Mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) thrive in a habitat which has none of these basic requirements. How do they do it? One answer is their marvelous prop roots which you can see at the bottom of this painting. These roots stabilize the tree in the muddy and infirm soil, filter out salt from the water and enable the tree to absorb oxygen directly from the air.
The ecological contribution of these prop roots is enormous. They tame surges during storms and provide habitat for breeding fish. I wanted these roots to be a major part of the composition. However, whenever I have looked at Red Mangroves from a canoe or kayak all I can see are masses of green billowing out over the water. I wanted a perspective from which I could look out onto the water through the roots. Such a perspective would also allow the viewer not only to appreciate the complexity of their root tangles but also the islands in the distance that are formed by these roots. I found this scene by hiking down a trail that led to the edge of a Mangrove thicket.
Mangrove is not the name of a particular plant but a number of plants that share a tolerance of salt water. In Southern Florida there are four such plants, often found together, the Red, Black, White Mangroves and the Buttonwood. In case you were wondering why the large tree, second from the right, has such rough shreddy bark compared to the others. Good spotting. That one is a White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa). The trunk is not standing in the water but behind the Red Mangroves, closer to solid land where I was standing.
And how do their seeds germinate in water? They don’t. They germinate into little plants while still on the tree. Then they grow into long candle like forms that plop off into the water and float like little buoys until their bottom end drags on the mud. Then they root. What an amazing adaptation.