Changes in the total phenolics, condensed tannins (CT), protein-precipitable phenolics content and protein precipitation capacity were determined on a series of mangrove leaves from two true viviparous mangrove species (Kandelia candel and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) at various stages of development and decomposition in the Jiulong River Estuary, Fujian, China. Similar measurements were also done for the propagules at different developmental stages. The results showed that the total phenolics, extractable condensed tannins, total condensed tannins, protein-precipitable phenolics content and protein precipitation capacity in young leaves were higher than those in mature and senescent leaves. Tannin dynamics during leaf decomposition varied with species, and the rapid loss of phenolics observed during decomposition can be ascribed to leaching and degradation. Protein-bound CT and fibre-bound CT tended to increase with leaf decomposition, with CT binding more strongly to protein than to fibre. Protein-bound CT was higher than fibre-bound CT with the exception of mature leaves. Total phenolics, extractable CT and protein-precipitable phenolics contents in flower tissues were relatively lower than those in hypocotyls at different developmental stages. Protein precipitation capacity fluctuated with the development of propagules. Increases in nitrogen in decaying litter, and declines in contents of total phenolics and total condensed tannins of detritus support the general conclusion that decomposing mangrove detritus can be a more palatable heterotrophic substrate than living leaves.