While driving along the roads in Grand Cayman it is common to see the Shamrock Trees in full bloom during the months of October thru December, with the slightly fragrant flowers diminishing sometime in March. It is also likely that Shamrock Road was named in the trees’ honour as shamrocks grow abundantly along this route.
Shamrock trees are not a threatened species, but can be invasive and bothersome to some who consider them to be weeds. For people who rather like having this part of their garden, these small flowering trees do require pruning to control their shape. Parts of the following information are taken from Tropical and Subtropical Trees by Margaret Barwick, with the photograph taken by Stuart Mailer.
Tecoma Stans or Yellow Elder, as it is sometimes called, is the national flower of both the Bahamas and the American Virgin Islands. In the Bahamas, it is known as Yellow Elder or the Trumpet Flower, while the Virgin Islanders know it as Ginger Thomas.
Several botanical reference books report that this popular plant tends to be endowed with a wealth of common names. It is a tubular, yellow flower with ultra fine red strips on each petal. After blooming for some time, the flowers are replaced with bundles of green pods that, when ripe release their winged seeds to germinate freely. While the Shamrock or Hemlock as it is known in the Brac can grow upwards of twenty-six feet, it is generally a small flowering tree. The bark, leaves and roots have been employed in home medicines, including use as a diuretic.
Shamrocks are also popular with local, white butterflies. While butterflies do not eat in the traditional sense, you will often see them perched on these flowers gathering nectar on a warm sunny day. If you have other useful information about Shamrocks that you would like to share with the National Trust please call us on 949-0121 or by email at [email protected]
This week’s column from the National Trust is submitted by Erica Daniel, Education Programs Coordinator at the Trust.