Know your islands
Keep a lookout for rare trees, birds and other species that are unique to Cayman while exploring our natural vegetation and old growth forests.
Learn to recognise rare and endangered species and threatened ecosystems to help make biodiversity a mainstream consideration in all significant conservation and natural resource measures.
Cayman’s beautiful natural heritage is an outdoor classroom where we may all learn how to increase our appreciation for our fragile world and for each other.
The Bastard Fustic belongs to the Celtis genus, a group which possesses the most bending tolerance of all species of wood!
The following is taken from Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Fred Burton, with illustrations by Penny Clifford; photos generously provided by M. Christine Rose-Smyth.
This attractive tree often branches very close to the ground, forming several ascending trunks.
The fine long twigs at the ends of the branches tend to droop towards the ground, and the thin leaves droop also, giving the whole tree a ‘weeping’ look. Young branches are roughened by numerous tiny, raised breathing pores in the bark: further down on the trunk the bark flakes in small woody chips, leaving a rather pocked surface. The trunks are brown, with a heavy growth of lichens in pale and dark greens, white, and grey.
The tree is quite easy to recognize by its toothed leaves, which have three main veins branching from the point where the leaf stalk reaches the leaf: this characteristic pattern is easy to see from below. The regular arrangement of the leaves on the stems can cause confusion, because they can look like compound leaves. Purple-black berries develop singly at the base of each leaf.
Bastard Fustic is an extremely rare tree in the Cayman Islands, where it is only known from a few scattered specimens in Grand Cayman (at Spotts, and on the fringe of the Mastic forest), and in the central Bluff area of Cayman Brac.
It grows in high rocky forest with accumulated leaf litter. Otherwise this tree is known only from the islands of the Greater Antilles.
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 Salina Reserve is currently the Trust’s largest nature reserve, with an area of approximately 625 acres comprising sedge and buttonwood swamps, dry shrubland and forest in an intricate mosaic.
Trivia question: What marine creature is the sole source of potent anti-tumor drugs called ecteinascidins (hint: prevalent on mangrove roots)?
Look for the answer in next week’s feature!