Today I’ll be spotlighting the mangrove. If you’ve been to the southern part of the State, you’ve most likely come in contact with this truly Florida native plant. They’re an essential part of the shoreline ecosystem in that region and as common as pine trees are to our area. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates 600,000 acres of mangrove forests in the State’s coastal zone. If your investigative skills are sharp, you may now find pockets or singular mangrove plants in the Panhandle.
Mangroves are woody trees that live along tropical and subtropical shorelines in either marine or brackish tidal waters. Typically, mangrove distribution has been found between latitudes 25 degrees south to 25 degrees north. There are 80 species known worldwide with 3 species (red, black & white) historically calling south Florida home.
However, warmer ocean waters and more frequent and stronger tropical storm activity has helped the spread of mangrove seed or “propagules”. Mangroves have been slowly migrating northward in Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides. From the early 1990’s, researchers began to find mangroves in both Cedar Key and Cape Canaveral.
A multi-state partnership to assess mangrove expansion in the northern Gulf of Mexico began in 2018. Sea Grant Agents from the Panhandle of Florida to Louisiana collaborated to conduct field surveys in chosen coastal wetland and estuary zones. More than 500 plants were recorded over a 3-year period with 188 plants found in Florida. The study also confirmed the abundance of black mangrove species due to their ability to withstand light freezing temperatures over red and white mangroves.
As for their impact on our Panhandle wetland ecosystems, one consistent theme found in the literature is that there are ecological trade-offs for consideration by coastal scientists and natural resource managers (Osland et al, 2022). The benefits of mangroves are broad. Mangroves have been shown to filter runoff, trap carbon in peat, act as a buffer against flooding, improve water quality, and to provide an amazing habitat and food web for invertebrates, fish, terrapins and many bird species. Mangrove range expansion may also affect wetland stability in the face of extreme climatic events and rising sea levels and be used as a shoreline stabilization technique, as taught in the Florida Master Naturalist Program: https://masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu/. Mangroves are also a pollinator plant and a favorite of honeybees. Mangrove honey has become a sought-after delicacy for many and a niche crop for south Florida beekeepers. But what about the negatives? Some of the environmental concerns are increased nuisance insects, altered food webs, freeze vulnerability and the economic factor of reduced accesses to fishing areas (Osland et al, 2022).
With mangrove expansion being a relatively new topic, researchers, naturalists and plant enthusiasts alike, will be following the movement with great enthusiasm.
For more information about mangroves, contact your local county extension office.
Osland, M. J., Hughes, A. R., Armitage,R., Scyphers, S. B., Cebrian, J., Swinea, S. H., Shepard, C. C., Allen, M. S., Feher, L. C., Nelson, J. A., O’Brien, C. L., Sanspree, R., Smee, D. L., Snyder, C. M., Stetter, A. P., Stevens, P. W., Swanson, K. M., Williams, L. H., Brush, J. M., … Bardou, R. (2022). The impacts of mangrove range expansion on wetland ecosystem services in the southeastern United States: Current understanding, knowledge gaps, and emerging research needs. Global Change Biology, 28, 3163–3187. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.16111
If there is anything that is more refreshing than the cool shade of a tree on a hot August afternoon, I cannot quite think of it. Here on the Gulf Coast, the thought of the heat in the “Dog Days of Summer” conjures up images of the dogs lying by their owners’ rocking chairs on the veranda – shaded of course by the majestic live oaks out front. If you ever observe older homes in our region, they usually have large established shade trees to shade the house most of the day. In the days before air conditioning, I imagine a world without shade would be intolerable, nigh unlivable. If you have ever had to work on an asphalt parking lot or roof on a 100+ degree August day with no shade, you fully understand the term “heat island”. The steam rising off the same parking lot later after a passing shower or thunderstorm reinforces how hot that surface is.
These past few weeks the oppressive heat has made anything outside unbearable, especially in the heat of the afternoon. You can quickly understand why old farmers in our area worked from sunup to about 10 a.m. or so, then did lighter work in shaded areas or inside. They would go back out and work hard in the cool of the evening too, but you seldom saw anyone out in the open fields during the mid-day heat if it were avoidable. A shade tree in the pasture or up at the house was a welcomed oasis and favorite lunch spot. Going back in the air conditioning just caused you to have more trouble acclimating to the heat and could even cause medical problems if you we very hot and suddenly went into very cool air conditioning. I remember these summer patterns well growing up on the Gulf Coast, and still follow them when doing forestry field work. Being under a closed forest canopy was like being in air conditioning compared to the open sun of a logging deck or pasture. The shade of a tree or a forest canopy offered an amazing relief from the blazing August heat and humidity.
It is impossible to stress enough the importance of individual shade trees and tree cover to our urban areas. Imagine our towns and cities devoid of trees! Imagine Tallahassee without its canopy roads, themselves sort of an early cooling effort for travelers. Without these trees it would make these heat waves, as oppressive as they are already, downright scorching and close to unlivable. If you are doing any gardening or other outdoor activity during these hot days, it is highly likely you seek out a shady area to be in. As that shade moves with the sun through the day it is equally likely that you relocate and follow it as it moves. If you have a neighbor that has no tree cover and shade on their house, and you are on good and friendly terms, ask to compare power bills with them. Odds are their power bill is noticeably higher because they do not have the shade of trees. With all the important features our urban forest provides, we must realize that our trees and the urban forest they form are critical to our urban ecosystem we live in. Yes, I said urban ecosystem; we must remember that we are part of nature too and even though we have altered it to our needs, our urban environment is part of our ecosystem. Trees are the backbone of that here on the Gulf Coast and our cities show it. Gulf Coast cities generally have extensive tree cover, despite our disturbances from Hurricanes.
So, what do these shade trees and urban forests really do for us in terms of actual measurable data? We know from just walking under a tree on a 100+ degree day we can feel the difference but what does it equate to. A study published in the Journal of Forestry in 2018 found that an estimated 5.5 billion urban trees provided an estimated $5.4 billion in energy reduction alone (Nowak and Greenfield 2018). This same study found that Florida was the state with the highest annual urban forestry value with an estimated annual value of $1.9 billion. Those are some impressive numbers and help put the value of urban forests into some monetary terms, but this is just one study. Professionals studying urban forests and their benefits are constantly finding out more on just how valuable our urban tree cover is. A UF-IFAS EDIS publication in 2020 helped to further characterize our urban forests across the state. Urban areas in the Northern part of the state had the highest percentage of canopy cover, with our local Okaloosa-Fort Walton-Destin area being the highest at 74.4% (McLean et al. 2020). Our local Panhandle metropolitan areas all had high canopy cover in the 50% or higher range. That is good news for Panhandle urban areas as this tree cover helps improve quality of life in these areas.
The benefits provided by urban forest cover are not just confined to shade, cooling, and reduced energy use. We get other major benefits from our urban forest and tree cover. The same 2020 UF-IFAS study found that in Florida’s urban areas, trees remove 600,000 tons of air pollutants through their canopies, which results in $605 million in health care savings related to air pollution. Urban tree cover also prevents stormwater runoff into our waterbodies. The study found that Florida’s urban forest cover prevents 50 billion gallons of stormwater runoff, which results in a $451 million saving from avoided stormwater treatment. Those benefits would not be possible without our urban trees. Once you see the numbers, it is clear how our urban forest provides us with so many benefits we rarely see or consider.
When you walk under the shade of a tree or under a forest canopy on these scorching summer days you get an instant reminder of the benefit of that tree cover. The cool relief from the sun and heat is just one of the many benefits our trees and urban forests provide. Trees are one of our favorite parts of the landscape for many reasons and studies that quantify these benefits put in real term just how critical our urban forests are to us. Our tree cover helps clean our air and capture stormwater in our summer downpours. As our communities grow and expand, we need to be sure to preserve the trees we have and plant new ones as the need arises. By keeping our urban forest cover intact, we can enjoy the cool shade and all the other benefits our urban trees provide.
References and further reading:
Nowak, David J; Greenfield, Eric J. 2018. US Urban Forest Statistics, Values, and Projections. Journal of Forestry. 116(2): 164-177.
Please join us for the Persimmon Field Day on Friday, October 20th, from 8:30 – 11:30AM at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center (NFREC), located at 155 Research Road, Quincy, FL.
This is a free field day on growing persimmons in North Florida! Attendees will be able to visit the persimmon grove to see how trees are grown, maintained, and harvested as well as sample the different persimmon varieties grown at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center in Quincy. Light refreshments will be provided. Space is limited, so please register using the link below or by calling 850-875-7255 to reserve your spot!
(All Times Eastern Standard)
8:30-8:45 AM – Registration
8:45-9:00 AM – Welcome and Introduction, Dr. Muhammad Shahid, Fruit Physiologist, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center
9:00-9:05 AM – Opening Remarks, Dr. Dean Pringle, Center Director, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center
9:00-9:35 AM – Introduction to Persimmon Fruit, Dr. Muhammad Shahid, Fruit Physiologist, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center and Dr. Ali Sarkhosh, Associate Professor, UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences
9:45-10:00 AM – Load Trolley and Travel to Persimmon Grove at UF/IFAS NFREC
10:00-11:00 AM – Persimmon Grove Walk and Talk (Persimmon Fruit Tasting and Open Discussion in the Field)
11:00-11:15 AM – Load Trolley and Travel Back to NFREC Conference Room
The University of Florida is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. For disability accommodations such as sign language interpreters and listening devices, please contact KeAndre Leaks, (firstname.lastname@example.org, 850-875- 7150) at least 2 weeks in advance. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.
It is mid-summer with temperatures outside in the 90’s plus, so you may wonder why article on landscape installation considerations during this time of year. It simply is an excellent time for planning and preparing for fall and winter site prep and planting well before it arrives, reducing a time crunch when it is time to plant.
Think healthy plants for our Northwest Florida settings, proper preparation of the site before planting, and many other points to be successful with establishing a landscape that will be enjoyed by all. This article will address the use of woody ornamental plants, but many things discussed can be applied to perennials and annuals as well.
Before starting, make sure to do your homework not only on the plants and placement in the landscape, but any county, city, or homeowner association requirements to work within. Many neighborhoods have review committees for these approvals. This commitment by you when purchasing property and a home can be a part of the closing papers during the purchase. If you are required to submit for an approval before work can begin you might want to consider consulting with a professional landscape company to assist in this process. Always ask for references and sites you can visit before securing services.
Site preparation can be a afterthought, with limited funding focused on this critical area, but properly addressing it leads to healthy, vigorous plant establishment and future growth. Understanding the site from soil type and drainage, size of area, sunlight, water availability, plus needs of prospective plants goes a long way to being successful. If there are plants already established on site that may be worth keeping, be sure to include them in the consideration. Determining soil drainage, moisture retention that would be available to plants, soil pH and structure will also go a long way to determining the type of plants that work best for the site. If, for example, your site does not drain well and holds higher levels of water in the root zone area (top 12″ of soil), consider plants that grow well in wet settings. The next steps are determining soil pH and nutrient needs for general landscape plant growth performance. Many plants thrive in slightly acidic soil (pH 6.0 to 7.0 range) while others grow best in moderately acidic settings (pH 5.0 to 6.0 range). Contact your local UF IFAS Extension office in your county for additional information.
The landscape site brings other considerations for plants to flourish, involving space and light. Space should be considered both above and below ground. With the above ground area, is there room for the limbs to expand in width and height? If pruning is required to manage the size, considering another plant may be a viable option. Next is the root growth and expansion opportunity for the plant. If the root area is limited in space, other options may need to be considered to mitigate compacted soils or pavement areas. Adding raised beds for better soil drainage and increased root growth room may be an option. Be sure to know your soil type and use a similar soil with characteristic that match the existing soil. If you do not, there can be incompatibility that leads to a hard pan layer between the soils reducing potential root zone establishment.
The desire to develop and establish an enjoyable landscape for all to appreciate can be a challenge, but a positive one. As a reminder, call and go visit with your local UF IFAS Extension office, there is great research information available for the asking. Enjoy your gardening experience.
Recently our area has experienced multiple severe wind events. You may have noticed some light to moderate damage to some of the trees in your yard. You may have even experienced severe damage or a complete failure of a tree on your or a neighbor’s property. While a complete failure or severe damage pose obvious hazards and need removal, it is the more minor to moderate damage that often raises questions on how to address the issue. Hanging broken branches are often called “Hangers” in forestry or tree care circles. These are often smaller to mid-sized branches which have partially broken off but are still lodged in the tree. After several weeks to a month the foliage starts to die and turn brown, and these “hangers” become obvious in trees that received damage. How do you assess these and when should you get a professional involved? Do they pose a potential health issue if not removed?
These broken limbs are becoming quite noticeable as they die and turn brown. It is important to make good decisions on how to handle these hanging dead branches and how to maintain your tree. Often these hangers are more unsightly than anything else, especially if they are small. Larger ones may pose a risk of damage or injury if they are located over a structure or may fall in an area frequented by people. Most of these hangers will break and dislodge over time, especially in wind events. You should consider the risk posed by the hanging limb, the difficulty and cost of addressing it, and the risk posed by the limb falling. For trees that got noticeable damage with several larger limbs broken, having some repair and rejuvenation pruning done is often good for tree health. You may be able to address some issues yourself if you are handy with a pole pruner and the broken limb is in reach. Anyone attempting even light tree work should be aware of risks posed by falling limbs and use of pole saws. Remember to never attempt to climb trees yourself or perform tree trimming from a ladder or height, as this is fundamentally unsafe. Even limbs which may be safely reached from the ground with a pole pruner can pose risks of injury. If you are attempting to remove some of these hangers with a pole pruner, be very cautious and use good safety techniques. You need to make sure the branch has a landing zone, and you are well clear of it when using a pole saw or pruner. Be aware of vines and other entanglements, and do not work around or within the right of way of electrical or other lines. Larger limbs and those not reachable from the ground should be considered outside the scope of homeowners and left to professionals.
Here is a quick reference guide for how to size up any broken or damaged limbs in your tree and address the situation
Small branches and branch tips with a diameter of the broken branch is 1 inch or less and the branch is hanging or lodged. These size hangers pose little risk and are mostly unsightly. They should fall out of the tree on their own over time. These may be trimmed out slightly behind the break of those within reach of a pole pruner.
Small to Medium branches-1-3 inches in diameter. The branch has partially broken or has completely broken and is lodged in another branch. Branches this size can do some light to moderate damage if they fall on a roof, fence, or other structure. If the branch overhangs areas where people or pets frequent it could cause injuries if it fails. If the branch does not pose a hazard or danger it should dislodge on its own over time. Consider removing these if they pose a risk. They can be removed from the ground with a pole pruner or pole saw but be very cautious as branches this size can easily injure someone that is in the fall zone. Consult a professional if a lift or climbing is required.
Large Canopy Branches 3 inches and larger. These are significant branches and can hold a significant amount of weight. If they are partially broken, hung, or lodged in the tree they may come out at any time and do significant damage or cause injury. These branches are beyond the tools and scope of homeowners, and the damage may require some recovery pruning to keep the tree healthy. Consult with a professional and consider having the damage removed and tree properly trimmed.
Main Branch and Trunk Failures- This is significant damage to the tree which can make it unsound or susceptible to disease in the future. If large main branches have failed, the top has completely failed, or part of the trunk has cracked or split from the damage; major damage has occurred and the tree may not recover. If your tree has suffered this level of damage consult a professional with a tree service and have a certified arborist examine the tree.
It can be hard to tell from the ground what level of damage a tree sustained until the brown foliage appears past the break. Once you can identify what type of damage occurred you can better determine what action is needed. For small branches it may be best just to wait for them to come out naturally or prune them out if this can be done safely with a pole pruner. For larger branches or more severe damage a professional is the best bet. For those hangers that pose a risk to structures or people in an area removal is best, as these could fall at any time and cause damage or injury. Remember never to attempt tree work yourself especially if it involves climbing or working from heights. You can find a certified arborist at www.treesaregood.org to address large limbs and significant damage. A good arborist can help you rehabilitate a tree that has had only moderate damage from a storm. If you are unsure of where to start with a tree that has wind damage, consult your local extension office for some advice.
The Pensacola area has had its fair share of rough weather lately. While the recent storms were not hurricanes, the rainfall totals rivaled many tropical storms, and the lighting and wind were disastrous. A tornado caused significant damage, including a tragic death, with more tumultuous weather in the forecast. Our rainy hurricane season has just begun, so it is worth talking about tree selection, management, and preparing for storms.
After the busy 1992, 1995, 1998, and 2004-05 hurricane seasons, several University of Florida researchers undertook an exhaustive on-the-ground project to look at tree damage statewide. Their goal was to determine which species survived high winds, and which trees were the most vulnerable during storms. Their findings were consistent, and have held up over the past few decades. A full description of the project can be found online, along with several publications that go over proper pruning and maintenance of trees, both before a storm and after recovery.
Live oaks, and sand live oaks (which live on coastal sand dunes) are slow-growing trees with extraordinarily dense wood. This protects them in hurricane-force winds. Part of the working theory on why bald cypress, holly, and magnolia do well in storms is their pyramidal shape, which seems to allow wind to whip circularly around the trees and avoid damage. Sabal palms are botanically considered part of the grass category and not trees, so their single, flexible trunk allows them to handle the onslaught of wind. Sweetgums are particularly hardy in tornadoes, due to their sturdy root system and shorter, “stout” branches. Smaller understory trees like crape myrtle and dogwood are likely dodging the strongest winds, but also have strong branch structures and dense wood. These two species, along with sand live oak, also lost an average of more than 80% of their leaves. This defoliation is an adaptation to heavy winds, with trees that lost leaves performing better overall than species that held onto their leaves but toppled at the trunk.
Another list of tree survivability was developed for residents in tropical and subtropical regions of the state. If you have friends or family in south-central Florida, be sure to share this information with them.
Besides planting wind-resistant species, the research team shared other observations related to tree planting and arrangement, too. Single trees are more vulnerable than trees planted in clusters, as they protect each other from incoming winds. Older trees, and those with preexisting damage, are more likely to fall. Trees with plenty of space around their roots do better—if a tree is surrounded on two or more sides with buildings or other hard surfaces, they cannot spread adequately. Detailed information on identifying damaged or poorly structured trees, along with maintenance and pruning tips, can be found in the “Urban Forest Hurricane Recovery Program” series of articles written by the UF tree specialists involved in the studies. The publications include good diagrams and photos of specific examples.