In the Department of Environment’s November/December Flicker Bulletin, the Terrestrial Resources Unit research officer Jane Haakonsson wrote about one of Cayman’s lesser known plants, found in the eastern districts which, though pretty, packs a nasty punch.
“Lady Hair (Malpighia cubensis), is an inconspicuous understory shrub known best as a plant with which to avoid direct contact,” said Ms. Haakonsson, noting that the plant, which doesn’t grow much taller than six and a half feet or 2 meters high, contains numerous miniscule stinging hairs. “Even a light brush against this plant will deposit a layer of irritant hairs on to the skin or clothing. These hairs are best removed by the use of sticky tape or with a sharp blade. Do not put affected clothes into the washer without removing hairs first.”
According to Ms. Haakonsson, the Lady Hair plant is a woody shrub found mainly in the soil pockets of rocky shrublands.
“As it is found mainly in the xerophytic [extremely dry] landscape of Grand Cayman’s East End, this plant is threatened by habitat loss and development,” she notes, adding that it can frequently be seen in the Colliers Wilderness Reserve, and its stunning red berries are a common food source for birds and rock iguanas.