Satinwood on critically endangered list

Know your islands

Also known as Satinwood, this tree is currently on the 2006 Red list as a critically endangered species.

Yellow Sanders (Zanthoxylum flavum)

Yellow Sanders (Zanthoxylum flavum)

There are more reports of small Yellow Sanders trees on Little Cayman with fewer numbers on the Brac and Grand Cayman.

Thank you to Wallace Platts for his help and interest with this, as with all, native plants.

The following is taken from Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Fred Burton, with illustrations by Penny Clifford; Photograph by Frank Roulstone and Ms. Lucy Barker from Little Cayman.

Yellow Sanders

Zanthoxylum flavum

Yellow Sanders can easily be mistaken for Mahogany at a distance, but closer up you can see that the leaves are covered with tiny, translucent yellow dots.

If you crush them they are strongly aromatic. The tree grows with a broad spreading crown in the open, but like many trees will develop a taller, thinner form in crowded woodlands.

On younger limbs the bark splits in irregular cracks along the branch: on the trunk it cracks more randomly and may shed a few woody flakes.

The trunk appears pale, with grey lichens. Yellow Sanders flowers in the early summer, with a mass of white blossoms which attracts swarms of bees.

This handsome tree is native throughout the West Indies, and also Bermuda and Florida. It grows on all three of the Cayman Islands, but is extremely rare.

It has beautiful wood and so has been seriously over-harvested throughout its range.

Very few individuals are known from Grand Cayman and efforts to propagate these trees and re-establish them in secure areas are under way.

Grow Cayman plants and encourage Cayman wildlife!

For more information, to share your knowledge or if you would like to get involved with the many activities in the National Trust’s Know Your Islands Program, please visit, or call 949-0121.

Last week’s answer: Yellow Sanders is the native tree that can be easily mistaken for Mahogany at a distance, as explained above.

Trivia question: What endemic bird has become extinct?

Look for the answer in next week’s column.

The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Laing, Education Programs Manager at the Trust. The Trust can be contacted at 949-0121 or via email at [email protected]

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