Botanic Park installing orchid walk

No government money spent on new project

A new boardwalk at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park won’t be ready until the end of the year at earliest, but park management and the Cayman Islands Orchid Society want the public involved from now.

Visitors will be able to view local and regional orchids in a natural habitat as they walk along the 382-foot boardwalk through mature woodland.

Funding for the boardwalk came from a $20,000 grant that the Botanic Park received from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust in California, plus monies raised by the Cayman Islands Orchid Society and a private donation. No government funds were used to build the boardwalk, park manager Andrew Guthrie emphasised.

Construction was completed by early September and the next steps of the process have been on-going: the attachment of rescued Cayman orchids to trees in the area; and the decision as to which non-native orchids will be included.

That is where the public comes in.

‘We’re welcoming everybody’s involvement,’ said Orchid Society member Kirkland Nixon. He is one of the people working on a list of orchids that the group wants to feature. ‘If anybody is interested in donating plants on our list, we’ll be grateful. People can also donate money for their purchase,’ he said.

‘The goal is to create an attractive garden with a scientific basis rather than random orchids all over the place,’ he explained.

‘To make an impact, you would need at least 100 of one species,’ Mr. Nixon noted. The non-native orchids will be mostly from Cuba, Jamaica ‘and maybe as far afield as Honduras’.

The Caymanian Compass will carry a ‘wish list’ of desired plants when it is available.

From now through January is the best time to put the orchids in trees, Mr. Nixon said. A current task is the placement of Cayman orchids that have been rescued from sites intended for development.

The combination will hopefully mean that visitors will see something in bloom all year round.

‘People can take a walk, see beautiful flowers and get an education,’ Mr. Nixon said. ‘Conservation becomes easier when people can see what you’re trying to save.’

Volunteers have been involved since early this year, said Orchid Society member Sue Gibb. They came to walk the site and determine which trees could be removed for the boardwalk and which were rare and needed to be saved.

A team that included Orchid Society president Mary Ann Lawrence laid out the path with string in May. Andrew Gibb designed the boardwalk and a committee studied the three bids received for its construction.

Concrete bases were in place by July and most of the boardwalk, with railings and an interpretation deck, were completed by the end of August. Mrs. Gibb took pictures at each step of the way as required under terms of the grant.

Putting orchids onto host trees is just one part of the job ahead. Labelling will be an important part of the display, Mr. Guthrie pointed out. Moreover, it could take a year or more for the plants to become established.

The boardwalk is located on the right side of the path from the Visitors Centre to the Colour Gardens. It is cordoned off at present.

But if Mr. Nixon’s enthusiasm translates into donations and the weather cooperates with volunteers putting native orchids in their new home, visitors to the park should be able to view a ‘work in progress’ by December, Mr. Guthrie confirmed.