MANGROVE: Mind the Spiders and Snakes!

If you don’t want to get into a mangle of a tangle when you paddle the mangrove thickets of the Florida Keys…
Bring your map, watch for trail blazes on trees…
Frans Jurgens checks  map against blazes along our tangled route. photo by: felicity

Frans Jurgens checks map against blazes along our tangled route.

…and don’t even think about hauling yourself along branch by branch…                             
before checking for current occupants!    
Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake photo: felicity

Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake

Animal education site PawNation states three nonvenomous  water snakes are native to the Florida Keys: the Florida green water snake, the southern banded snake and the salt water marsh snake. It adds “only solid-colored snakes call the brackish and salt water marshes of the mangroves home…”
~ ~ ~ 
Well, don’t tell that to this fellow!
My husband, Frans, snapped this photo…
Can you id this snake?

Can you id this snake?

…as we enjoyed a recent paddle adventure through a mangrove thicket in Marathon Florida’s Boot Key Nature Preserve…

PawNation includes terrestrial snakes among the mangrove’s denizens, stating that although “most are nonvenomous, all are capable of inflicting painful bites if threatened. ” It adds they are “excellent climbers,” who “favor moist, densely vegetated areas, where they feast on caterpillars, spiders, insects and tree frogs…” But so far as we can tell, the above snake is another variety of Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake (N. clarkii compressicauda.) *

We also spotted these shy, quick-legged little creatures during our adventure beneath the mangrove’s intricate, close-growing canopy…

Mangrove Tree Crab Aratus pisonii

Mangrove Tree Crab Aratus pisonii

Other factors we considered  before plying a mangrove’s watery corridors?
Tidal flows and mosquitoes!
First the mosquitoes…
Salt Marsh Mosquito photo: Florida Keys Mosquito Control District

Salt Marsh Mosquito
photo: Florida Keys Mosquito Control District

The locals advise if you want to avoid the worst of these “fierce biting bastards,” don’t paddle through a mangrove between April and October. 
As for the tides, make sure you acquaint yourself with a current chart…


Or risk a close-quartered stranding and the possibility of treading on a delicate Mangrove Jelly Fish

 Cassiopea xamachana

Also aptly known as the Upside Down Jelly Fish… - 5 Upsidedown Mangrove Jellyfish (Dec 2012). – 5
Upsidedown Mangrove Jellyfish (Dec 2012).

Paddling and pulling our way through the winding, root-choked corridors of the mangrove labyrinth…



It was easy to imagine we had ventured much further than a half hour’s paddle from the public launch at Marathon’s suburban Sombrero Beach.



A happy hour later… exiting the dense thicket…



brought pelicans…




snowy egrets…


and a magnificent osprey into view.

 As for the mangrove itself…

“Mangrove are trees and shrubs that have adapted to life in a saltwater environment. They stabilize the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides.”


Red Mangrove: Rhizaphora mangle 1796 Plate by Johannes Zorn

“One perceives a forest of jagged, gnarled trees protruding from the surface of the sea, roots anchored in deep, black, foul smelling mud, verdant crowns arching toward a blazing sun…Here is where land and sea intertwine, where the line dividing ocean and continent blurs, in this setting the marine biologist and the forest ecologist both must work at the extreme reaches of their discipline.” — Jessica Hayes-Conroy



“Paddle solo, sleep tandem…”  –Kayak Humor

*All photos taken by Frans Jurgens and yours truly unless otherwise noted.



5 thoughts on “MANGROVE: Mind the Spiders and Snakes!

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