Garden Club of Grand Cayman chose Genipa americana, the fruit of which is favored by bats
Members and supporters of the Garden Club of Grand Cayman gathered on Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park to plant a tree in memory of past president Lois Blumenthal.
Garden club president Ora Hollebon welcomed members, along with family and friends of Mrs. Blumenthal, better known as “the Bat Lady.” Her fellow garden club member Elizabeth Walker shared personal reminiscences, while National Trust chairman Andrew Gibb highlighted the honoree’s involvement in numerous conservation programs.
The one Mrs. Blumenthal was most widely known for is the one she initiated herself – the National Trust’s Bat Conservation Program, now considered a prototype for tropical countries worldwide. She educated adults and children about the value of bats and how they contribute to a balanced ecology by controlling night-flying insects and by pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. She also encouraged the building and installation of bat houses and served as the Caribbean coordinator for Bat Conservation International.
Mrs. Blumenthal was a Lifetime Member of the National Trust and served on its council since 1994. She also set up the Cayman Wildlife Rescue program and served as its manager until 2007.
Tree a favorite of bats
John Lawrus, manager of the botanic park, said the type of memorial tree planted in her honor was an easy choice because the fruit of the Genipa americana is favored by bats. Informally called a genipapo, the tree is located in the park’s Fruit Tree section. A marker explains that it has been planted in memory of Mrs. Blumenthal, past president of the Garden Club of Grand Cayman. But, as Mrs. Walker noted, she was so much more – a writer, a cook, and a beautification project organizer who enjoyed getting her hands dirty.
She wrote numerous articles on nature for local and international publications, as well as a number of books for schools, which included “The Bats of the Cayman Islands Study Guide,” “The Coral Reef Colouring Book,” and “The National Symbols Study Guide.” She was also author of the “Mastic Trail Guide” and co-author of “Landscaping with Cayman Islands Native Plants for Butterflies & Wildlife.”
As a beautification project organizer, her work included the Seafarers Hall and the Mission House, and she also helped schools, churches, nurseries and gardeners to landscape with Cayman Islands native plants.
Mrs. Blumenthal had visited Cayman since 1975, moving here permanently in 1990 with her husband Jim, daughter Janice and son David. She died in April 2013.
Before the speeches ended on Sunday, a downpour threatened to drench onlookers, who retreated to a nearby tree for shelter. Getting wet was a minor inconvenience because, as Mrs. Blumenthal would have said, the park needed the rain.