Waterfront Florida Yards present special challenges and responsibilities. Waterfront property owners have firsthand knowledge of the special contributions that the lagoon, rivers, streams and lakes add to our quality of life. But a special responsibility goes along with the benefit of being a next-door neighbor to these natural resource treasures.


What is the High Water? This is an important point for waterfront property owners because their property typically ends at the Mean High Water (MHW) line. The exact elevation of MHW above sea level may vary somewhat around the state of Florida. For those of us who are not land surveyors, that translates to slightly above the line where barnacles grow on pilings or seawalls.

Remember that anything you wish to do that affects submerged lands waterward of MHW requires the state's permission. For information on permitting requirements, contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and your local natural resources department.


The beauty, wildlife value, erosion protection, importance in the lagoon's ecology and declining numbers make mangrove trees an asset to a Florida Yard. If you have mangroves, contact the Florida Sea Grant Extension Program, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and your local government's natural resources department. Remember that some mangrove pruning requires a permit and the rules are periodically revised.

Here's a quick primer to help you identify the mangrove species found in Florida:

Red mangroves usually live closest to open water. They have arching prop roots and their seeds, or propagules, look something like green cigars. The leaves are large, bright green.
Black mangroves usually are found growing landward of red mangroves. Their leaves are dull green with silver undersides. Black mangroves "sweat" salt from their leaves and send up from their roots twiggy projections called pneumatophores, which provide oxygen to the tree's roots.
White mangroves usually grow landward of or interspersed with black mangroves. Their leaves are more rounded than those of other species and have a small notch at the tip, and are lighter in color. On each leaf stem at the base of the leaf is a pair of small bumps.
Green buttonwood is not considered a true mangrove by some scientists. It behind the other mangrove species; generally has small, elongated leaves and bears round buttons that turn brown. Once established, is quite drought-resistant. It can also withstand flooding. The silver buttonwood, its cousin, is prized in coastal landscapes for its distinctive silver-gray foliage. Pruning of buttonwoods doesn't require a permit.
For more information go to:
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook
Allen Garner, John Stevely, Heidi Smith, Mary Hoppe, Tracy Floyd and Paul Hinchcliff. Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Agriculture Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: May 2001