While saltwort (Batis maritima L.) is common in the fringe mangrove forests of southwest Florida, its role in regeneration of degraded mangrove communities is not known. Given the potential encroachment and subsequent degradation of mangrove communities by sea-level rise, it is important to quantify the effect of early-colonizing vegetation to early mangrove seedling survival. A greater number of mangrove seedlings were observed in existing B. maritima patches compared to surrounding mudflats. A planting experiment was designed to determine whether B. maritima was responsible for the observed pattern. Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans L.) seedlings, raised in a nursery, were planted in previously established B. maritima patches and on mudflats with and without nursery-raised B. maritima. There was significantly lower mortality of A. germinans seedlings when planted in existing B. maritima patches (69%), compared to seedlings planted on the mudflats (93%), demonstrating that existing B. maritima improved A. germinans seedling survival. Nursery-raised B. maritima had lower mortality on open mudflats (28%), suggesting that it can tolerate conditions, which make it an early colonizer of newly available habitats. The primary mechanism proposed for improving seedling success is a slight increase in elevation provided by the dense root network of established B. maritima. These findings have implications for scientists and managers anticipating the response of mangroves to sea-level rise.