Museum supports Darwin Initiative

Grown-ups working in the dirt outside the National Museum last week weren’t digging for treasure. Or maybe they were.

Darwin Initiative and National Museum

Darwin Initiative and National Museum representatives check out a bucket of Silver Thatch seedlings. From left: Leonard Dilbert, Paul Chin, Geraldine Duckworth, Mat Cottam and Anita Ebanks. Photo: Submitted

For their efforts they recovered about a thousand seeds and over 125 seedlings from Cayman’s National Tree, the Silver Thatch.

The recovery project was the result of the Museum joining forces with Cayman’s Darwin Initiative to preserve native trees and encourage landscaping with local plants.

Anita Ebanks, Director of the Museum, had read about plans to establish a botanical nursery dedicated to growing native trees at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. She contacted the Department of Environment to offer the support of the Museum.

‘Native trees and plants make up much of the Museum’s own landscaping, which was a project of the Garden Club back in the late 1980s,’ said Ms Ebanks.

‘The thatch trees at the front of the building date from long before the Museum was founded. Silver Thatch is our National Tree and unique to the Cayman Islands. The Museum is very pleased for the opportunity to donate seeds and seedlings to the Initiative,’ she said in a release from the Department of Environment.

Leonard Dilbert, Deputy Director of the Museum, agreed.

‘Given the significance of Silver Thatch in the cultural development of the people of the Cayman Islands, it’s appropriate that we join in this Initiative and encourage the preservation of these trees through landscaping,’ he said.

Taking advantage of the Museum’s invitation, Geraldine Duckworth of the Shade Brigade, with Paul Chin and Dr. Mat Cottam of the Department of the Environment, collected several hundred Silver Thatch seeds and seedlings from the trees in front of the building.

Pink Mealy Bug has not been observed on the Silver Thatch but, given the current outbreak in the George Town area, the seedlings will be kept under quarantine for a period.

Once it is safe to do so, they will be transported to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, to join the hundreds of other native seeds being grown by Park staff, as part of the nursery project.

‘The Silver Thatch, unique to Cayman, is one of the local trees that many of us prefer to imported varieties,’ said Ms Duckworth. ‘It is a practical and cost-effective alternative, and easy to maintain.’

Dr. Cottam explained that the Silver Thatch is one of about 30 key species of native trees and plants that the nursery will carry.

‘Silver Thatch is notoriously slow growing and difficult to transplant,’ he cautioned, ‘so this will be an interesting challenge for the propagation team.

‘We do not expect the Thatch seedlings to be ready for sale for some years; however, the nursery will also stock many faster growing local species, which we hope to make available to landscapers and members of the public within the next year or two,’ Dr. Cottam said.