A descriptive study of the architecture of the red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle L., habitat of Tampa Bay, FL, was conducted to assess if plant architecture could be used to discriminate overwash from fringing forest type. Seven above-water (e.g., tree height, diameter at breast height, and leaf area) and 10 below-water (e.g., root density, root complexity, and maximum root order) architectural features were measured in eight mangrove stands. A multivariate technique (discriminant analysis) was used to test the ability of different models comprising above-water, below-water, or whole tree architecture to classify forest type. Root architectural features appear to be better than classical forestry measurements at discriminating between fringing and overwash forests but, regardless of the features loaded into the model, misclassification rates were high as forest type was only correctly classified in 66% of the cases. Based upon habitat architecture, the results of this study do not support a sharp distinction between overwash and fringing red mangrove forests in Tampa Bay but rather indicate that the two are architecturally undistinguishable. Therefore, within this northern portion of the geographic range of red mangroves, a more appropriate classification system based upon architecture may be one in which overwash and fringing forest types are combined into a single, "tide dominated" category. ?? 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.