mangrove swamp

To poet Elizabeth Bishop, mangroves made up the “celestial landscape” of Florida, with herons in “tiers and tiers of immaculate reflection” shining whitely among the leaves. She compared the roots of one mangrove, a red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle, to Gothic arches because of its distinctive bower of aerial roots and numerous fingerlike breather roots— pneumatophores—rising from the mud. Though mangroves flourish worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas, this particular one, the red, can be found only in Florida, while the white and black are found in Florida and elsewhere. Possessing all three of these salt-loving, tropical-zone trees, Florida has luxuriant mangrove “forests.” The red is the great colonizer, its foot-long seedlings dropping and rooting in the protective tangle of detritus below, or drifting off in storm-season tides to implant themselves elsewhere. Mangroves are essential to many water birds for rookeries and rest—the brown pelican nests almost exclusively on mangrove islands—and the watery, airy mazes the trees provide are favored by lobster, tarpon, and manatee alike. A peculiar environment, the mangrove swamp: displeasing to man in its tangled impenetrability, but celestial to a great and lovely multitude that is not man. Joy Williams

Joy Williams