Cabbage Tree twigs good for wattle

To further our daily enjoyment of plants and wildlife, we can select plants that will attract, feed and shelter birds.

cabbage tree

Cabbage tree.

A number of plant species can attract birds by providing fruits as a source of food.

Flowers of some species attract insects, which are in turn eaten by other types of birds. These food sources can be complemented by one or more bird feeders which must provide high quality seed with regularity.

A good bird feeder should be conveniently located for viewing and large enough to hold food for at least 2-3 days, protect the seed from rain, and minimize seed spillage.

The following is taken from Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Fred Burton, with illustrations by Penny Clifford. Photographs generously provided by Ann Stafford.

Cabbage Tree

Guapira discolor

The Cabbage Tree usually grows tall, with an often rather fluted trunk twisting and turning upwards to the canopy.

The pale bark doesn’t shed much and is covered with a mosaic of pale grey, orange and green lichens. The upper branches are chaotic, and usually distinctly drooping: the leaves are very variable in shape and size, and often look twisted and distorted.

The tiny flowers pass unnoticed, but they produce conspicuous clusters of small, brilliant red berries. The Cabbage Tree is a favourite host to ‘Scorn-the-Ground,’ parasitic mistletoes which are visible as knots of dark green foliage in the crowns of the trees.

Native to the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles as well as all three of the Cayman Islands, this tree thrives everywhere except among mangroves and in other frequently flooded land.

The Cabbage Tree’s thick flexible twigs were sometimes used as the wattles in wattle-and-daub house construction, though Candlewood was preferred for this purpose: Cabbage Tree twigs were also widely used to make traps for ground doves.

An attractive garden tree, Cabbage Tree grows reasonably fast in good soil.

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 www.nationaltrust.org.ky, or call 949-0121.

The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Laing, Education Programs Manager at the Trust.

Last week’s answer: The Flame Helmet is one local marine mollusk that has become rare because of over-collecting.

Trivia question: When did the Savannah Schoolhouse first open?

Look for the answer in next week’s feature!

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