I seem to have an affinity for mud. The group of plants closest to my heart grow in places full of smelly, wet, gooey and often slimy mud – the mangroves.
Thus far, I have done some simple study on the Rhizophoraceae, the Chek Jawa transect in 2004 and recently the Semakau transect in 2005 ( See the nice site by Ria ). It was fun. I feel at ease sloshing, wading, sinking knee deep (sometimes more) in mud and walking out smelling like you have not seen a bathroom in days.
They say mud is therapeutic, if that is the case, I must have really nice legs from all the mud therapy.
I digress. Mangroves are one of the most ‘unglamorous’ groups of plants. Unlike the lush productive tropical rainforests or the nice cool montane forests (oh I miss Kinabalu), the mangroves gives an image of a hot, smelly, wet place swarming with mosquitoes.
All the above mentioned is true. But amongst the mud, the salt water, the heat and the mosquitoes, a very unique assemblage of plants and animals thrive there. For example, plants which actually can live in soil without oxygen, drink sea water and still grow to impressive heights of over 10 meters. Or gobies which can stay out of water for extended periods of time.
For a new initiate into botany, the mangroves are a neat place to start your education. The members of each groups are few and easy to recognise and master. That is if you do not mind trudging through mud, risk being stabbed by rubbish, enduring the heat and mosquitoes.
I don’t mind. Will talk about uses of mangroves soon.