Know your islands
Cherry, Myrcianthes fragrans, can be used as either a shrub (making a magical screening that the neighbours won’t resent), or as a wonderfully ornate specimen tree.
The tree has small leaves, which have very aromatic, and the flowers, which appear throughout the year, are extremely fragrant.
The ripe fruit of this tree is a favourite of our Blue Iguana!
The following is taken from Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Fred Burton, with illustrations by Penny Clifford; photo provided by Department of Environment from the ‘Native Tree Nursery’.
This tree is conspicuous for its steeply rising branches dividing low down on the trunk, and its pale pinkish brown to grey bark.
Cherry has a strongly aromatic foliage – try crushing a leaf!
On close examination you can see that the bark is shedding thin, woody flakes, revealing orange-brown bark beneath which is marked by fine concentric rings like contours on a map.
The overall effect is an attractive mosaic of different shades of bark colour. Few lichens can become established on this rapidly shedding surface.
The base of the trunk is always buttressed.
The flowers are white, and develop into bright red aromatic berries with a bright green seed inside: the fallen berries are a favourite food for iguanas, and the sees passed through the gut intact and ready to germinate.
Cherry grows in woodlands on soil on all three of the Cayman Islands, and throughout the Caribbean region.
In Cayman it is typically found at lower elevations where red soil has accumulated, but it cannot tolerate wetland conditions.
The wood of this tree was the favoured traditional material in Cayman to fashion children’s ‘gigs’, a kind of spinning top. It grows slowly.
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, www.caymanwildlife.org 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 smallest butterfly in Cayman is the Cayman Pygmy Blue.
Trivia question: When was the Mosquito Research & Control Unit created?
Look for the answer in next week’s feature!