|Fascinating article by Naqqi Manco about Sea Beans on page 24 - click < here >
Cut Flowers and Pesticides
Giving a gift of cut flowers may not be the wonderful
expression of love that you intend it to be. That's
because whenever you or a loved one touches the flowers
or inhales the scent of your conventional bouquet,
you are probably touching or inhaling poisonous chemicals.
The floral industry is one of the heaviest users of
hazardous agricultural and processing pesticides. In
addition, the majority of flowers sold in North America
are imported from countries like Ecuador and Columbia,
where labor practices are sometimes questionable. Studies
by the International Labor Organization and Ecuador's
Catholic University have found that many farm and post-harvest
workers complain of pesticide-poisoning symptoms. Women,
who represent 70 percent of all rose workers, experience
significantly elevated rates of miscarriages and birth
If you plan to give cut flowers
- or, in fact, to buy them as a gift or for yourself
at anytime during the year - Pick them yourself in a
friends garden or look for Cayman's beautiful and under-appreciated
wild flowers in a field or forest. Make a responsible,
New, greener, fair-trade commercial cut flowers are
in the pipeline - they are becoming available in other
countries and we hope soon in Cayman - ask
your flower vendor about organic fair-trade flowers,
pick your own, or, when you need a gift for a special
friend try fair-trade organic chocolate - or better
yet a box of organic strawberries! Keep your
day as well as women workers in poor countries,
and the planet healthy.
Read www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200107/hidden.asp -
and look for more about this on-line. It's a dirty secret!
|Wild Banana Orchid (Myrmecophila thomsoniana
- syn. Schomburgkia thomsoniana - endemic to Grand Cayman
Island - common in forests and gardens.
by Sonny Rivers
|Wild Banana Orchid on Cayman Brac blooming
in late April - To download a children's story about this
beautiful endemic orchid click < here >.
(The file will download in Microsoft WORD format)
by Wallace Platts
|Wild Banana Orchid on Cayman Brac
by Wallace Platts
|Wild Banana Orchid on Cayman Brac
by Wallace Platts
|Headache Bush (Capparis cynophallophora)
in blossom on Cayman Brac, May 2008
by: Win Thu Aung
"There are about 700 plants growing wild in the Cayman
Islands. The information presented here is just the beginning.
We encourage everyone to use the links and publications recommended
on this site to do their own research and learn more about
Cayman Island's rare, endemic, culturally significant and
fast-disappearing native trees and plants.
Native Trees - What Are They
||A Cayman Islands native species is one that
occurs naturally in the Cayman Islands without direct or
indirect human actions. Some plants and animals are native
to only one or two of the three Cayman Islands.
There is much discussion since Hurricane Ivan about
replanting with native trees, but not everyone is clear
about exactly what a native tree is! Some trees that
we like very much, like mangoes are not native, but that
doesn't mean that we shouldn't plant them
anyway! Mangoes are not Invasive and
that is the important distinction the place where
the line is drawn between welcome and unwelcome foreign
plants just as it is drawn between welcome and
unwelcome foreign visitors of any other species, including
humans! While mangoes are not native, they have been
naturalized and there is general agreement that they
have been given
have become part of the local way of life.
Native or Indigenous mean the same thing found
here naturally, and have been growing in the Cayman Islands
for thousands of years but can also grow in other places
like Jamaica, Cuba, Florida Haiti, the Bahamas, etc.
Though they have been replaced by imported plants in
the more developed areas, they still survive on pockets
of undeveloped land all over the islands.
Endemic those species that are found only here
in the Cayman Islands and nowhere else on Earth.
Opportunistic native or non-native plants that
can become pests when the land is disturbed. For instance
Maidenplum springs up where forests have been cleared.
Useful? Sometimes the usefulness of
a plant is not immediately apparent. As we clear "useless
bush" we may be removing food and nesting sources
for wildlife, causing parrots and other birds to seek
cultivated crops or to roost in buildings.
Many plants regarded as "weeds" are in
fact vital food sources for native butterflies. Even
dead trees support wildlife, by providing nesting cavities
and even food for birds. Parrots build nests in dead
Royal Palm trunks, and woodpeckers will nest in cavities
as well as eat insect infestations in dead wood.
Historically, Caymanians used local plants for hundreds
of purposes, but in modern times we are less reliant
upon the bush for our needs. However, there are often
hidden or little-known advantages to keeping native plants.
Maidenplum root is valued as a good base on which to
attach cultivated orchids, and even a plant that no one
has any use for, may have undiscovered medicinal value
or other qualities as yet unknown. There is no reason
to eliminate any native plants from the Cayman Islands.
Perhaps the Creator has put them here for reasons beyond
Naturalized or Exotic Brought here from somewhere
Naturalized Beneficial plants from
around the world brought to Cayman‚s shores to
provide fruit, flowers or other useful things. Plants
like mangos and tamarinds from India, hibiscus and roses
from China, tomatoes and bougainvillea from South America,
coconuts (so widespread that their origins are still
under discussion) and a myriad of other beautiful, useful
and food-bearing plants that are beloved and economically
Naturalized Benign of no particular threat or
Naturalized Invasive imported plants that spread
aggressively eliminating all other plants in an area.
i.e. imported Scaevola, Casuarinas, (Australian Pine
or Willow), Wild Tamarind (a tree that does not bear
edible fruits) and possibly Neem.
For more on how to incorporate more native plant species
into your garden, look for the booklet: LANDSCAPING
WITH NATIVE PLANTS FOR BUTTERFLIES AND WILDLIFE sold
at the National Trust offices on all three islands, in
Pure Art, Island Veterinary Services, the Butterfly Farm
other local stores and venues or please CONTACT
Think back over 500 years and imagine
the trees that stood on these shores to greet Columbus
in 1503. Archeologists tell
us that there were no people here until then, so
the forests were truly untouched until that time.
There are still stands of nearly
virgin native forest left in the Cayman Islands – even
in George Town! Students at the Community College
are actively identifying the wild trees that grow
on the campus. A small patch of forest in Lower
Valley features many endemic island species of
plants as well as hidden caves and four species
of bats including the extremely rare White-shouldered
bat Phyllops falcatus that is only found
on two other islands in the entire Caribbean. This
forest is also home to birds and other wildlife
and beautiful karst formations. Caanan Land sits
on one of the most diverse and intact native forests
on Grand Cayman and is home to some of the largest
native trees we know of. Then there’s the
Mastic Reserve. These last bits of the original
forest are precious and CWC hopes to help people
learn more about our amazing native trees and forests.
with us on our weekend “bush-walks” and
get to know your native trees! We were honored
to have Dr. George Proctor, author of Flora
of the Cayman Islands and Dr. Tracy Comock,
head of the Natural History Division at the Institute
of Jamaica join us for several fascinating walks.
following is the first of a series of mini-posters of
Cayman's wild trees. These posters may be printed
and used for classroom or office display
on the image to the right to download
a copy in PDF format (Adobe's Acrobat Reader).
Adobe's Acrobat Reader
of Life” - Not strictly native, but we consider
that debatable and we love this tree!
officinale - Native
to West Indies & Central America
Native to the Florida Keys & Bahamas
seen as a cultivated plant in Grand Cayman. It
is a small tree with dense rounded crown, blue
flowers & orange
has a wide distribution in the West Indies
and Central America, and its absence from the
Cayman Islands as a native species is surprising,
since the ecological conditions in these islands
would seem ideal for its growth.
of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George Proctor page
native to the West Indies, in Barbados it is found
only in cultivation.
Wild Plants of Barbados by Sean Carrington
is the national flower of Jamaica, where it is found
mainly in the dry southern plains and coastal foothills;
the attractive rounded shape of its crown, beautiful
blue (very rarely, white) flowers and orange-yellow
fruit make it easily recognizable. A gum (gum guaiac) is
obtained from its resin. It
is the heaviest of all woods and will sink in water.
A – Z of Jamaican Heritage by Olive Senior
tree) Lignum Vitae
wood of Lignum Vitae is very dense, very strong, has
a heavy resin content and is extremely resistant
to decay and attack by insects. This
unique set of characteristics has made it very useful
in applications calling for self-lubricating products
and immunity to water damage. The
wood was used in the early shipbuilding trade for bearings,
propeller shafts, pins, hubs, pulleys and a
variety of other small parts. Today,
it is used in the fabrication of mallets, bowling balls,
caster wheels, and other such items. It
was believed to have powerful medicinal properties.
It was discovered during the early explorations of
the New World. From the beginning of the 1500s large
quantities were shipped back to the European continent.
has been decimated by commercial exploitation and is
an endangered species in Florida. It is found
only in tropical hammocks of the Florida Keys, particularly
on Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Site.
The Trees of Florida by Gil Nelson
is the national tree of the Bahamas. Ref:
Trees of the Caribbean by S.A. Seddon & G.W. Lennox
A tropical evergreen tree, Guaiacum
officinale native to Central America and the
Caribbean. It is very
slow growing reaching a height of about 25 feet. It
has a specific gravity of 1.333 which makes it sink
in water and it's resin makes it waterproof. Because
of the diagonal and oblique arrangement of successive
layers of its fibres the wood cannot be split, making
it an ideal material for pulleys, shafts, rulers,
mallets and bowling balls. Guaiacum sanctum grows
in the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas.
Companion The A – Z Reference by Brian Doyle
Vitae grows very slowly. Both
species are grown in cultivation in Grand Cayman.
"Cayman Islands Native plants may
be purchased at Gary Chisholm's Nursery, "Piece-sa
Cake Mon" on the Hutland Road. Call 917-1243 to
arrange a visit."
Click <here> to
see related story.
We recommend Wild
Trees in the Cayman Islands by
Fred Burton and Penny Clifford which is available from
the National Trust for the Cayman Islands - 949-0121
Cayman’s birds suffered very
badly as a result of Hurricane Ivan (11-12 Sept 2004)
and its aftermath, when there was little food or shelter
for them. The preservation or re-planting of Cayman’s
indigenous (and a few that have become naturalized) trees
and shrubs, in clusters, rather than singly, will create
a network of mini-woodlands to aid in the re-establishment
of bird populations.
Many of the trees and shrubs on the
list bear fruits that provide a year-round food supply
for birds. The fruit is the seed-bearing part of a
plant, such as a berry (many seeds), a drupe (one central
stone seed), a capsule (eg Mahogany) or a pod, etc. It
does not necessarily mean that it is an edible fruit
for humans, but it may be for birds.
Other trees and shrubs
may provide suitable roosts and nesting sites.
|Please click on the image to the
right to download a copy of our
Mini-Woodlands chart in PDF format (Adobe's
Adobe's Acrobat Reader
Dead Trees are Wildlife Trees
||WHAT IS A WILDLIFE TREE? Even Dead Trees
Serve a Purpose!
Adapted for the Cayman Islands from a text by Christine
Hanrahan. Visit the Fletcher Wildlife Garden site at www.ofnc.ca/fletcher
dead trees play such an important role in wildlife
ecology that it is often said they "give life to
Even all these months after Hurricane Ivan ravaged Grand
Cayman, there are trees that we hoped would live but
are still succumbing to the stress of that terrible event.
Weakened Red Birch trees are showing a pattern of circular
rotted divots or „dominos‰ caused by a local
beetle. Younger Red Birch trees seem to be resistant
to infestation, but surely we will lose more of our larger
older trees. But there is a bright spot in this scenario.
Biologists are increasingly calling standing dead or
dying trees "wildlife trees" in recognition
of their enormous value to birds and other creatures.
Biologists know that, in the wild, dead trees provide
food, safe nesting sites in the form of cavities and
platforms, roosting and denning sites, hunting perches,
display stations, and foraging sites for a wide variety
Interestingly, not all dead trees, sometimes called „snags‰ are
equally attractive to all species of wildlife. Perhaps
not surprisingly, snags with the largest diameter support
the greatest number of species.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A TREE DIES?
Lightning, wind storms, fire, and fungal infections
can all kill trees, but injuries, which open the way
to attacks by insects, are the commonest cause of tree
The primary colonizers of snags are insects and fungi.
If you usually think of these species as pests, you might
be surprised to find out that they're essential to all
the other wildlife species that depend on or make use
of cavities. All of these species help to carry on the
long process of decomposition. By softening the wood,
they make it easier for birds and bats to gain access.
Insects also attract woodpeckers and other forest-dwelling
animals that in their search for food hollow out holes
or cavities that become nesting sites for other birds
Woodpeckers are an example of what biologists call "keystone
species" because they greatly influence other species.
The holes they create as they search for food provide
homes for countless other creatures..
HOW LONG DOES A DEAD TREE REMAIN STANDING?
A standing dead tree can remain in place for many years.
Some of the giants of the Pacific northwest rainforests
have been snags for well over 150 years by the time they
fall. Smaller trees come down sooner, but even they can
last for several decades. This should be borne in mind
by anyone considering the "safety" aspects
of snags in public places and in your own backyard.
When a snag eventually tumbles, it continues to contribute
to the overall health of the forest. Biologists are now
calling logs the "hot-spots" of the forest
ecosystem, integral to biological diversity.
Like snags, downed logs provide shelter and denning
sites for birds, amphibians and reptiles.
Logs also act as "nurseries" for plants, giving
them a nutrient-rich base in which to take root. It is
a fascinating exercise to count the number of plant species
growing on a "nurse log."
Even a single downed log in your garden can return nutrients
to the soil and, in the process, provide a temporary
home for small native critters.
STANDING DEAD TREES IN YOUR GARDEN
Unless you live on wooded rural property, your backyard
is certainly not part of a forest ecosystem. But if you
are a gardener wanting to create a healthy, viable wildlife
habitat in your own backyard, you will by now recognize
the role that dead trees play in attracting birds and
other species. As well as harbouring food for insectivores
in the slowly rotting wood, snags also offer safe nesting
cavities. (However, nest boxes are a suitable supplement
to natural cavities in your garden.)
If your standing dead tree is quite large, you may be
worried about heavy falling branches. Cut away some or
all of them and leave the trunk. If you still think the
snag is too tall and overpowering, topping the trunk
to a reasonable height might be a solution. A "reasonable
height" depends on what you feel comfortable with
and what is in the immediate vicinity of the snag (i.e.,
your house, neighbouring houses).
But if you cut the snag back too much, you might as
well fell it completely and leave it as a log; it will
have little value as a nest site if it is only 5 or 6
feet high. Naturally the best thing to do is nothing,
leaving the tree to take its own course, but in a small
suburban lot, safety concerns must be evaluated.
MAKING YOUR WILDLIFE TREE PART OF THE PLAN
If you've left the snag at 15 feet or better, but want
to disguise it somewhat, plant lightweight climbers to
twine up the trunk. You'll need to provide some support
for these vines to get started.
If you want to "dress up" your snag, you can
hang seed feeders from its branches or from simple hanging
brackets. Suet feeders can be affixed right to the trunk.
If you really want to turn your snag into a work of art,
hang flower baskets as you would the feeders. Plant with
nectar-rich flowers for bees and butterflies.
When the snag eventually collapses you can either leave
it where it falls, or move it to a more remote part of
your garden where it will continue its work of feeding
insects, birds, and your soil.
In British Columbia, snags are considered so important
that a snag-tagging program is underway. Bright yellow
signs identify wildlife trees and inform the public about
If your neighbours complain about your snag, tell them
what you are doing and why; you might change their way
of looking at standing dead trees. It is only by changing
how we view the land around us that we can begin to help
restore and nourish both it and its wildlife.
you live on the beach, plant native beach-plants
and leave the natural vegetation line along the
shore. Beside binding the sand and helping
to prevent beach erosion and storm damage, the
vegetation line provides a vital clue to nesting
sea turtles. Sea
turtle nests must be above the high-water mark
and the vegetation line is the signal for mother
turtles to start digging. Visit www.bcbmedia.com/turtles for
more on sea turtles. Visit www.seaturtle.org to
follow the amazing migrations of nesting Cayman
Islands sea turtles via satellite tracking.
|Make your outdoor lighting
Sea Turtle-friendly. To learn more, type "Light
Pollution" into a search engine or visit www.starrynightlights.com
|To learn more about Cayman
Islands Sea Turtles and other reptiles
- click < here >
Native beach plants grow in balance
with each other.
invasive taking over Cayman's beaches. Though
the shiny green imported version is fast growing, highly
salt tolerant and easy to propagate, it is now threatening
the survival of Cayman’s native beach plants.
Resist the temptation to use this overdone "lazy-man's" seaside
landscaping plant and encourage or plant native
beach vegetation. The easy way to tell the difference
is that the true native inkberry has a blue-black berry,
while the invase has a pale white berry.
Native Ink-berry Scaevola
plumieri, is a beautiful salt-tolerant plant that
is being eclipsed by its cousin, the invasive imported Scaevola
sericea. In the photo above you can see the native
version with the bright green invasive branch right
in the middle. It is also clumped in the left lower
corner and in the rear of the photo. In just a few
years the sericea will dominate and the plumieri will
be gone, unless someone pulls it out! We consider this
to be a new kind of beach litter! We should pull it
up just like we would pick up plastic bottles and other
unsightly things on the beach. This plant is like a
bad dog. It's fine as long as it's kept contained!
responds well to pruning and can form many interesting
shapes as a single shrub or continuous ground
cover…The dense clusters formed by this
plant make excellent cover for many birds and
small animals.” From Seashore
Plants of South Florida and the Caribbean by
David W. Nellis.
gnaphalodes is a very good plant for binding
the sand. It grows wild on Cayman Island’s
beaches and could be propagated and used in landscaping.
It is an ideal border or foundation plant
for beach houses. Propagation information is
available in Seashore Plants of South Florida
and the Caribbean by David W. Nellis.
(Bay Cedar in the US) Suriana
a salt-tolerant seaside plant that is extremely
beautiful and can be seen in the landscaping of
Pedro Castle. Juniper helps to stabilize the sand
and prevent beach erosion.
extreme salt tolerance and low growth habit make
this plant an ideal choice for a low hedge on the
beach front. Its great potential as a wind-resistant
landscape plant has seldom been recognized." From
Seashore Plants of South Florida
and the Caribbean by
David W. Nellis.
Weeping Willow Casuarina equisetifolia have
become naturalized in the Cayman Islands, and
though many people love these tall willowy trees
that look like long-needled pines, these trees
are also invasive. The pine needles smother native
vegetation and the trees provide no food or shelter
for birds or other wildlife. The root systems
are shallow and they tend to topple in storms.
Florida was faced the prospect of removing thousands
of them from Bill Baggs Park in order to re-introduce
native species, however, Hurricane Mitch did
the job for them, leveling all the trees in one
fell swoop. Replace these with Sea Grape trees
for better protection from storms and beach erosion.
that Sea Grape Cocoloba uvifera trees
are not oaks or elms. They like to grow in their
own way and if you try to prune them into tall
straight trunks you will allow access for termites.
Remember as you rake the beach to allow a few seedlings
to take root so there will be young Sea Grape trees
for the future.
salmon-pink Chanterelle Cantharellus
cibarius mushrooms grow under Cayman Islands’ Sea
Grape trees in the leaf litter. If you leave a
layer of leaves on the ground, you will see these
lovely ridged, horn-shaped mushrooms a few days
after heavy rains in the winter months. Though
they are considered edible, some people are allergic
to them, so caution is advised, and, as with any
mushroom or wild plant, proper identification is
paramount. They are sometimes served in local restaurants
during the season; Top-of-the-Falls and
The Edge both feature them as occasional specials.
into a small shrub and will propagate itself
around your garden. It is a larval food plant
of the Mexican Fritillary Euptoieta
you will see the red caterpillar of this species
eating the leaves, sometimes right down to
the stem. It can be pruned after the caterpillars
munch it and will “spring back” very
quickly. It makes an excellent border or hedge
and blooms abundantly every morning, all year
round. It is very attractive to bees and butterflies.
This is not strictly a beach plant, but will
grow in sandy soil anywhere.
This section is still being edited. There are
so many wonderful seaside plants, that we can't
possibly feature them all. We recommend the
book Seashore Plants
of South Florida and the Caribbean by Daivid W. Nellis which can be
ordered through any bookshop.
Butterflies cannot survive without
their larval food plants. Yes, you have to let caterpillars
eat some leaves if you want to have butterflies in your
Learn to appreciate the sight of a well-munched leaf and allow a few "weeds" to
grow in the corners for your future butterflies to eat! Some caterpillars are
almost as colorful as the butterflies! Kids love caterpillars --- teach respect
for life and share a few leaves in your garden with these tiny misunderstood
Duppy Bush with caterpillar