Magical Mangroves

Guest writer: Pan 🙂

            Hello, our name is Pan and we have a story to share. Well really we have so many tales to tell, but we must begin somewhere. we aren’t sure where the beginning would be , so we will dive in,  jump around and you, dear reader, will simply have to hang on. Let’s start by explaining our choice of pronouns. Why “we”, not “I”, or “it” or simply “that tree” or “that forest” or even “that swamp”. For starters, “we” are simply more than “I”. We are, by nature a collective, an ecosystem really. Our name “Mangrove” is defined as deriving from Spanish, meaning “mangled”. Ouch, doesn’t that sound almost painful? We feel intertwined describes us better, but we weren’t given the choice to name ourselves. We do like the suggestion of a “grove” that is contained in our name. Doesn’t that sound inviting? If someone said to you “come into my grove”, you would, wouldn’t you? It sounds nicer than “come into my “swamp”, which is another word that is connected to us. You may have noticed we tend to wander. That was a Mangrove joke, did you get it? Wander? Because we are also called “Walking trees”, we can in fact, wander. We do apologize, we have so many thoughts we want to share, sometimes it is difficult to organize them coherently. That would be for your benefit, we don’t mind a zillion thoughts all at once, it’s helps us feel connected to everything, which we are. Ok, where were we?

            “We” , the collective known as Pan, for the benefit of communicating with you, dear reader, reside in the Florida Keys. It is beautiful here, and we span something like 469,000 acres along Florida’s coastal zone. That is a big family! Our local collective here are Red Mangroves. We are what you typically see making up the shorelines of the Keys, with our exposed feet (that’s roots to you) standing high above the water line. This allows us to offer a haven for a myriad of   fish species and marine organisms . The organisms attach themselves to our feet (root systems) and filter the water through their little bodies, providing nutrients for other larger animals that take shelter in our abundant underwater haven. Our underwater haven is a nursery for fish and crustaceans, which in turn help feed snook, tarpon, red drum, oysters and shrimp (Mangroves:11 Facts You Need to Know). It is so wonderful to feel all of them swimming in and out of our intricate and  safe  waterways, although sometimes it does tickle a bit. And I haven’t gotten to what happens in our branches. That is really cool.

            Would you believe, we get to be the home for some of the world’s most beautiful birds?! Two of our most regular settlers are the brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills. They form their rookeries in our branches. They are a noisy, chatty bunch, but we love them. They share news from afar and keep us abreast of all the latest happenings. For instance, did you know that we are moving north and west? That is just amazing. More on that in a minute. We wanted to include this cool infographic that shows how our ecosystem works. You can see there is a lot going on here. It makes us proud.

            Oh wait, we haven’t mentioned how we got our name, have we? Well, that is a story too. There was this young woman in a boat. She would come visit us quite regularly, and we became accustomed to her voice. She would sail in on her catamaran and stay for hours just floating amongst us, talking and singing. We learned a lot about her and we’re sure she heard us chatting with her. She began referring to us as “Pan”. She even explained why. She said “May I call you Pan?”. We were pleased that she thought to ask, no one ever asked us before. “Pan” she said is short for Pangaea. Pangaea is defined as a supercontinent that incorporated almost all of the landmasses on earth in early geologic times ( The word is derived from Greek, meaning “all the earth”. We liked that, it made us feel truly connected to everything. But, then she added, it also can refer to “Pan the Piper”, suggesting that we like to entice people into our environment. We hope if more people can see what we can do they will want to make sure we flourish.

            Speaking of flourishing, sadly there are parts of Florida where we are literally losing ground. That was another pun, but not the good kind. In the Tampa Bay area we  have lost over 44% of our coastal wetland acreage in the past 100 years ( . That’s family loses to us. But on the positive side, there is the most amazing experiment being carried out in Louisiana right now ( They are taking bags of seedlings, which are the awesome pods we use to spread our community. They are taking them up in  dust cropper planes and “carpet bombing” the marshes with seedlings. Over the last 80 years Louisiana’s coastline has lost about 2,000 Sq. miles of marsh land due to erosion and saltwater intrusion, sea level rise and a myriad of other reasons. But as the climate warms, we are being able to move west and settle in new areas, bringing with us a chance to create safe ecosystems that will help underwater life and birds find a safe haven to grow and thrive. We are on a mission and that is exciting!

            We didn’t even touch on our traditional and medicinal uses. We can save that for another day. But rest assured, we have so much to offer, and we are patient. Well, maybe not as patient as an Oak tree or one of those trees that mostly stay where they were planted. We are adventurous! We have dreams of doing our part to save the planet, animals and even people.

Well, it was nice chatting with you and we hope you learned something you didn’t know. This was fun, we must do it again. “Tales from Pan”, we would like that. We  would also like to meet a Flamingo. We have community in the Bahamas where flamingos live. Maybe we can plan a trip. OK, until next time, take care and watch for us. We are Pan.

Written by Pan/Sionainne

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