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Description:
The white mangrove grows as either a spreading shrub or medium-sized tree that reaches 40 - 60 feet in height.  The bark is thick and scaly, reddish in color.  Leaves are smooth and opposite, 1 - 3 inches in length.  They are rounded both at their apices and near the petiole, are leathery in texture, and have 2 small glands on the petiole that extrude sugars.  Leaf color is yellow-green.  Flowers are small and white, blooming at either the leaf axils or branch tips.  Fruits are reddish-green in color, approximately 0.5 inches long, and have longitudinal ribbing. 

Habitat:
White mangroves grow in coastal areas of bays, lagoons, tidal creeks, spoil islands and mosquito impoundments.  They typically grow upland of both red mangroves and black mangroves, well above the high tide line.  

Similar Species:
The leaves of the white mangrove are similar to those of other mangrove species.  They are distinguished from the both the black and red mangroves based on leaf shape.  Red mangroves have broadly elliptical leaves.  Black mangrove leaves are narrower, have their undersides covered with fine hairs, and may be salt crusted.  White mangrove leaves are more yellow-green in color, are more rounded than either red or black mangrove leaves, and bear 2 small glands at the leaf base.  Mangroves are further distinguished by their roots.  Red mangroves have conspicuous prop roots which grow downward from the branches;  black mangroves have numerous, finger-like projections called pneumatophores which grow upward around the base of the tree;  and white mangroves may have either of these types of roots, depending on environmental conditions.      

Range:
White mangroves range along both coasts of the subtropical United States.  On the east coast, they range from Volusia and Levy Counties in Florida, south through the Florida Keys. The range also includes the West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America to Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.  In the eastern Atlantic, it is also known to occur in West Africa from Senegal to Cameroon.    

 

Leaves and flowers of the white mangrove.   Photo courtesy S. Ewe, Smithsonian Marine Station. 
 
Leaf underside of the white mangrove.  Note the small gland on the petiole at the leaf  base.   Photo courtesy  S. Ewe, Smithsonian  Marine Station. 
 
 
 
Mangroves utilize a highly specialized method of propagation:  their seeds germinate into seedlings while still on the parent tree.  After an initial period of development, the seedlings drop off the parent tree to the soft sands below.  They may then either sprout, or be carried on the tide to other locations. Seedlings remain viable for extended periods of time, possibly up to a year or more.