Mangrove swamps dominate much of the world's tropical and sub-tropical coastlines, and have a similar distribution pattern as coral reefs. There are approximately 35 species of true mangroves and another 60 or more species of mangrove associates. Most species occur throughout the Indo-Pacific region, with 3 commonly occurring in the Americas.Rhizophora mangle, the red mangrove, is a subtropical/tropical tree which colonizes coastlines and brackish water habitats below the 20 degree isotherm in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Red mangrove trees dominate the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States to about 28 degrees north latitude, after which a zone of transition to salt marshes occurs.Red mangroves generally are found closest to the water's edge and are distinguished easily from other mangroves by their prominent prop roots which extend into the water from higher up on the stem of the plant. Red mangroves have leaves which are somewhat larger and shinier than those of other mangroves. They are further distinguished by their fruits, or propagules, which are long and pencil-shaped. While these may resemble seed pods, they are actually embryonic root structures.
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