Buttress roots are wide plank-like roots extending across the surface of the ground at the base of a tree trunk. Their purpose is to support the tree, in this case a Looking Glass Mangrove (Heritiera littoralis) by stopping it from falling over because the root system is shallow in waterlogged and nutrient poor soil. There tend to be more of these roots on the side of the tree from which he worst prevailing winds come. The occurrence of this type of mangrove marks the landward edge of the mangrove swamp because it is able to tolerate some freshwater as well as saltwater. The one tree on the roadside shown above has some buttress roots that are projecting mid-air – maybe because the tree has established itself away from water altogether and they are redundant? Other buttress roots take on amazing designs and some even resemble giant dinosaur feet.

6 Replies to “Buttress Roots”

  1. I remember the first time I saw such buttresses – and how wondrously sculptural they looked. It was in Jakarta, where the trees themselves actually made a greater and more memorable impression than the Raffles corpse flower I’d gone to see/smell.

  2. I am sure that some of these buttress roots must be truly spectacular. I think the ones I photographed may have been relatively young examples because the area experiences devastating typhoons on a regular basis. The ones you saw in Jakarta must have really made an impression on you. Their impact made greater because of their solidity and permanence in comparison with the corpse flower.

  3. Thank you, John. If it were a bit warmer where you live, maybe you would find Looking Glass Mangroves growing in all those flood waters in the local fields.

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