Ever wondered where those lush plants surrounding your home come from?
If you live in one of Cayman’s many new developments, likelihood is they’ve been imported from overseas – Florida being the most likely place.
While Cayman may source almost all its goods from other countries, obtaining plants this way is having a negative impact on Cayman’s already fragile eco-system, author of Wild Tress in the Cayman Islands, Fred Burton said.
‘Almost all developments you would be hard pressed to find a native plant. It’s a generic tropical landscape and has nothing to do with Cayman,’ Mr. Burton said.
‘About 40 per cent of Cayman’s native plants are under threat of extinction and many are on the brink if we do not do something now.
‘It’s a simple fact. Vast areas of land are being cleared, but native plants are not being re-planted for landscaping.’
Mr. Burton recently re-launched Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands; a book he hopes will raise awareness about Cayman’s native plants.
‘People used to spend a lot of time working the land, they knew the plants. Today, a modern Caymanian works in town and doesn’t know about Cayman’s native tress. It’s disappearing,’ Mr. Burton said.
‘It’s a question of education. You have to know something before you love it. If you walk into the bush in Cayman, it’s confusing, bewildering. It’s daunting to get a handle on what’s there. It’s like anything. If you are not familiar with the native plants they all look the same.’
Wild Trees, illustrated by Penny Clifford, is an invaluable guide to Cayman’s native trees. Clear and concise, the book allows readers to easily identify native trees and includes an easy to navigate guide to propagating, planting and developing landscapes.
The first edition was published in 1997 with a 1,000 copy print run.
Mr. Burton hopes that with raised awareness, developers and homeowners will plant more native flora.
However; there is a wider problem. Supply of native plants is almost non-existent, with developers opting to source landscape plants from overseas based on economic reasons.
‘There is no availability of native plants. You can’t buy them and it’s simply cheaper to by in bulk from overseas.’
To help address this, the Department of Environment and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park has started a native plant nursery. Already, there are some substantial orders in the pipeline.
Some developers have chosen to be environmentally aware.
Dart Realty, developers of Camana Bay, has addressed the supply problem by creating its own nursery to propagate native plants, which will be used to landscape Camana Bay.
‘A major part of our logic in setting up the nursery was to understand the native and indigenous plant life of the Cayman Islands and to extend that natural landscape seamlessly into Camana Bay,’ Sandy Urqhuart, senior vice president of design at Dart Realty, said.
‘The decision to propagate our own plants and trees has had the dual advantage of being environmentally friendly, as it reduces the risk of imported plant materials, and financially sound,’ he added.
It’s not just a matter of preservation, Mr. Burton stressed. Cayman’s indigenous plants are more adapted to Cayman’s environment and withstand storms better. They are also closely evolved to the local eco-system, acting as a source of food and habitat for native fauna.
‘It’s very worrying, but, I believe if we act now we can prevent many plants from going extinct.’
Wild Trees in the Cayman Island is priced at $25 and is available from the National Trust at Dart Park, South Church Street. Proceeds will benefit the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.