South Sound friends plan treks

Taking gardening outside of the garden, Friends of South Sound have established an informal group to provide information about Cayman’s native plants and give Cayman’s emerging coastal vegetation a helping hand.

Those who have taken a walk along the beach recently may have noticed that down in the sand, things are starting to stir.

Until recently much of the beach ridge has been in a sorry state – bare sand, rock and rubble, wiped clean by Ivan and bleached by the sun.

Now, thanks in part to the recent rains, patches of barren land are starting to show signs of life once more. This is a chance for local trees such as Sea Grape, Buttonwood, mangroves and Popnut to re-establish and return some much needed shade to the beach, while the deep roots stabilise the sand.

As the green shoots start to emerge, one might be forgiven for thinking that Cayman is witnessing the harmonious recovery of nature.

Far from it.

The large open areas of disturbed ground left by the storm are now ‘lands of opportunity’ for foreign invaders – invasive species, which are fast growing, and spreading over the open areas to the detriment of local plants such as Jennifer/Juniper, Sea Lavender, Rosemary, Geranium/Wormwood, Bay Vine, Sea Bean, Dashalong, Trema and Vervine and other butterfly-attracting plants.

Friends of South Sound is an informal group who walk scenic South Sound regularly to monitor the recovery of the vegetation. Headed by local experts, this is an opportunity for anyone who is interested in learning more about the coastal vegetation of Cayman, to pick up some valuable tips on ways to encourage local plants and trees in these open areas.

‘In the wake of the storm, we can expect invasive species to rapidly colonise some open areas’ said Dr. Mat Cottam of the Department of the Environment, ‘this may cause a shift in vegetation away from deep-rooting and comparatively slow growing species, such as Sea Grape, to faster growing, shallow-rooting species such as the Weeping Willow or Pine Tree. Invasive species are an area of concern for the Department, to be examined under the forthcoming Darwin Initiative.

The Friends of South Sound have a wealth of knowledge regarding native trees, and I would encourage anyone who is interested to join one of the walks’.

An example of a common mistake that is made by gardeners, is the planting of the highly invasive white-berried Scaevola bush, Scaevola sericea. This is often planted by those looking for a quickly establishing hedge. Later they discover that once established, Scaevola requires constant attention to keep it from spreading. It invades non-coastal areas as well. The comparatively rare, non-invasive native black-berried Scaevola plumieri, Inkberry, is a more compact, slower growing alternative, which requires less maintenance, once established.

A walk with the Friends of South Sound is completely informal, free of charge and open to anyone who would like to come along. They meet on the first Friday of every month at 5.45pm at the South Sound dock. The walks take about an hour and everyone is welcome.

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