The Garden Club’s Mangrove Project

Rain or Shine, It’s Mangrove Time, Garden Club Style

It all began with a bike ride through Matheson Hammock Park during a King Tide in 2019. That’s when Coral Gables resident, attorney and Garden Club member Rhonda Anderson was amazed by hundreds of red mangrove propagules – nicknamed “pups” – washed onto the bike path. Fearing they would be destroyed, Anderson began picking up pups for weeks, leading to the ambitious sprouting and potting of over 700 of these seedlings.

Five years earlier, Coral Gables Garden Club members had sprouted 300 pups, and with the help of FIU students, raised and planted them in Matheson Hammock Park. Anderson proposed they do the project again in 2020 – this time with the goal of raising at least 500 native red mangrove trees to protect and clean our intercoastal waters.

The initial plan was to hold multiple educational potting events in 2020, but after a first session in January, Covid canceled further meetings – while volunteers raised the potted pups in their driveways, backyards and balconies. The majority were raised on Anderson’s impromptu driveway “nursery,” potted to replicate their natural environment.

The Garden Club’s Mangrove Project
Garden Club President Judy Mangasarian (left) and member Rhonda Anderson with the mangrove pups.

In early October MANG GEAR, a Florida sportwear company, filled their truck with 500 of the healthy potted trees, with plans to pick up the remaining ones early this year. MANG GEAR, which sells clothing to fishermen (and women) online, offers its customers the promise of “Buy One. Plant One,” and has created over 126 acres of mangrove forests in the last five years. They hauled the seedlings to warehouses and yards in Broward, where they will grow to four feet in height before planting.

For Anderson, the project was one she could not refuse. “I was so afraid that these pups were going to be destroyed,” she says, recalling her fateful bike ride. “So, I picked some up and just kept coming back for more.” The importance of the pups, notes Coral Gables’ Senior Sustainability Analyst Matt Anderson (no relation), is the role mangroves play “in providing habitat for fish and other aquatic species and protecting our coastline from wind and storms.” Adds Anderson, “Red mangroves filter out impurities in our water… The planting of red mangroves can help play a key role in improving water quality.”

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