There are only about 50 species or so, and each one is a keystone to the intertidal ecosystem they call home (Wikipedia). Despite the enormous number of animals depending on mangroves for shelter, western culture has seen mangrove forests as wastelands. “mangroves are medicinal plants… widely used… rich in resources of steroids, triterpenes, saponins, tannins, alkaloids and flavonoids” (Namazi 2013).
Mangrove metabolism is thought to be more complicated than other trees in part because of the osmotic stress of brackish water requiring extra energy from the plant. Santini et al. were able to determine that Avicennia marina used fresh water and saline water for different metabolic processes. Growth is strongly correlated with rainfall, yet saline water was still traced through some xylem and phloem, showing that it is used by the plant without a full understanding of how or why.
The hydraulic mechanics of Avicenna marina have only been studied in depth since 2008. Nele Schmitz’s doctoral dissertation, Growing on the Edge, dives deep into the morphology of mangroves. Schmitz details how Avicennia Marina differ from terrestrial trees. While charismatic trees like Spruce have only a single cambria near the bark to carry freshwater, Avicennia Marina have many cambria, with a variety of phylum and xylem to support complex water transportation processes. While all vascular plants invest heavily in water transportation, mangroves are forced to spend even more energy here.