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Swamp Things

by germinatrix | June 13th, 2009

Have you ever been in a Mangrove forest?

entering another worldentering another world

They are dark and mysterious, primeval and impenetrable – they are marvels of design.


Mangroves are species of trees and shrubs that grow in estuaries of brackish waters that dominate the coastlines all along the tropics. The most common mangrove is Rhisophera mangle. I met these amazing trees years ago in Puerto Rico, and became reacquainted with them a few months ago in the Yucatan. It was a very early morning, and I was treated to a special boat ride through the Mangrove forest to a small island where herons nest.





When you find yourself among the mangroves, you understand that there are churches all over in the natural world. Here, there are gothic arches of tall, leggy roots, mosaic ceilings of dark green leaves, a chorus of birds singing hymns in warbles and trills… the whole thing is an ecstatic expression of a pagan spirit.

We floated slowly through a great hallway of trees (I was sure they’d come alive and wade over to us), and then into the open water, which suddenly seemed too exposed. The mangroves felt so protective and made a very serene environment. I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the coziness provided by the leggy trees – smaller mangrove islands were clustered around the lagoons, and in them were dozens and dozens of heron’s nests. We got so close I could see them breathing!


what kind of bird are you?what kind of bird are you?


bye bye, birdiebye bye, birdie

A shocking fact – HALF of the worlds mangrove forests are gone – lost to coastal development. I HATE to be preachy, but come on – is it SO important to destroy ancient swamp forests so that another all-inclusive mega-resort can be built as close as humanly possible to the ocean? Who makes these decisions? Are they just not paying attention to the state of the world? Much of the damage from tsunamis and hurricanes would be mitigated if the natural barriers between ocean and land masses were intact. Like I said, mangroves are a wonder of design – beautiful and useful. Nature isn’t really very random. Most things have a purpose.

I want to bring the feeling of these swampy forests into a garden. I think experiencing the wonders of nature is a crucial step in the design process – actually, I believe experiencing the wonders of nature is a crucial step in the living process. When we see the beauty and feel the peace, when we know that life is flourishing in these special places, it makes it that much harder to say nothing in the face of their destruction. Save the Mangroves!


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15 Responses to “Swamp Things”

  1. Very groovy. I would adorn my mangrove garden with tikis and stone idols and passionflower vines.

  2. Swamp Thing, I think I love you! Looks like a Disney ride (definitely E-ticket!) I love hearing about your adventures in Mexico…keep them coming!

  3. Those are cool photos. The Mangrove are amazing ~ so true that everything in nature has a purpose. What a shame to think that these forests are being destroyed so rapidly. It must have been wonderful to see this.

  4. A wonderful, intriguing, beguiling tale, Germi!
    I’ve yet to experience a mangrove swamp, so thank you for a stunning virtual tour.
    aka bayareatendrils

  5. Hey ChuckB! I like your Mangrove Garden already – I see many luau themed parties there. BTW, it seems like your passionflower is blooming it’s head off! I also went through the phase of ‘can more than ONE flower open at a time. please?’ And now – passiflora bonanza! I LOVED the pic you uploaded on Twitter of the hummer and the passionflower! I grabbed it for my desktop – hope you don’t mind!

    Dear InterLeafer, my big sister! You would LOVE the mystery of the mangroves – definitely magical. The Yucatan is your kind of place. I have to figure out how to get my favorite people down there for a visit once the garden is finished! Since you are now family, you are included, of course…

    Hi KateSmudges! I was so saddened when my Mayan friend told me about the disappearance of the Mangroves. Another example of our natural resources being squandered. I was lucky to be there! And I wish I had recorded the sounds – amazing!

    Tendril sweet Tendril! You MUST have a tropical gardens/mangrove swamp travel extravaganza! I think what you do is so extraordinary – bringing people to places of beauty and wonder … talk about a gift from the SOUL! Very inspiring … and thank you for coming along on my little tour of the Mysterious Mangrove Marvel!

  6. Hi Ivette.
    Great photographs of the ancient mangrove forest, what a magical place…very Tolkien. The last time I was in Belize I hired a guide and went fly fishing for bone fish and tarpon on his tiny boat in and around the mangroves – it was amazing. He stopped at the edge of one mangrove cluster, wedged his legs under a seat, and at full stretch pointed out some baby sea horses! they were tiny…ever since then I have been hooked on mangroves (which, as it happens, is a really easy structure to get “hooked”up on). It looks like your trip took you deep into the interior of the forest!
    Stunning, and yes, it is a crime these natural temples are declining.


  7. You’ve just added another must see to my list. Thank you, I think (the list is long…). They are beautiful, and must be so peaceful “in real life”

  8. Hey there ESP! I’m glad you know the Mangroves – I can imagine you communing with these water ‘Ents’ who probably speak with bubbly accents.
    A huge assortment of fish and wildlife live in and around the mangroves – I saw so many other birds, a mammal that I couldn’t identify that looked somewhat like a lemur, and three big hanging termite mounds that I couldn’t get pics of because it was dark. But you are the luckiest! You saw SEAHORSES! I love them – I want a seahorse tatooed on my wrist (or a ladybug. or an ivy leaf.) I can’t imagine how surreal it must have been to see them in their habitat! Aren’t moments like that just – pure life? Sigh…
    I’m ‘hooked’ on the mangroves, too – I want to go back and explore further into the deep dark maze, if I am lucky enough to be invited back to ‘The Island’ (it always feels so Sci-Fi when I say that!)
    Thanks for stopping by, friend!

    Loree dear – you’d love the mangroves! They are majestic and strange, just like our favorite plants. It’s funny, because even though there are so many nature sounds in the Mangrove Swamp, it seems quieter at the same time; like the air behind the sounds was somehow thicker – or filled with cotton. It was lovely! I’m glad to have added another place to your ‘must visit’ list!

  9. I literally breathed “ooooh!” when I saw these photos – amazing!

  10. Jean Prescott says:

    I’ve seem some small replication of this along the rivers on the Space Coast of Florida but nothing so Gothic. Just gorgeous. I do so miss living on the fringes of a marsh, as I did before Katrina. Still trying to get home…this post buoyed my spirits.

  11. Jean Prescott says:

    Germi, I hope you know how wonderful it is to have you back.

  12. Hey dearest Christina! Isn’t it magic? a total church!

    Expat! Thanks so much for the sweet words! I have to say, I really missed blogging for the months I was gone. I LOVE being my own blog entity! And I’m so glad my awesome friends from Domino followed me here. I’m lucky!
    And I’m glad I could give you a little bit of a spirit lift. How difficult, to still be dealing with the aftermath of Katrina – my best thoughts are always with you; I know the home on the fringes of a marsh (how beautiful) will be yours again, even if it is a little different. The wonder of nature changes everything – sometimes in a devastating way – but it also heals.
    Much love!

  13. Great Pics. I have been to the Caroni Swamp -a mangrove forest/reserve in Trinidad- twice, and looks a lot like this.
    The Caroni Swamp is an important habitat for the Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber), one of the national birds of Trinidad and Tobago.This is also the world’s most accessible location to see the Scarlet Ibis-the sight of hundreds of them coming in to roost at evening is quite something.

  14. Q: Have you ever been to a Mangrove forest? A: No, but now I ABSOLUTELY MUST! How surreal it must have been.

    I think the closest thing I’ve ever experienced was in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island – deep in the (temperate) rainforest, I was off building trails with a little environmental organization, and we camped on the edge of this lake that was formed when a landslide blocked the river running through the bottom of a valley. The valley flooded, and the lake was born. And all the trees at the bottom of the valley eventually died, but remained standing in this lake, and you could swim amongst these ancient cedars. One of the coolest experiences of my life. And although I don’t have room for a lake in my garden, I do try to replicate the feeling it left me with.

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

  15. I visited some of the mangroves in Honduras- on the island of Roatan. They were gorgeous! But there are a lot of new vacation homes popping up near them- so I wonder how much longer they’ll be intact. Glad I saw them when i did :(

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