Tie a yellow ribbon around the Aegiphila caymanensis tree

Health City Development construction crews must tread carefully as they work to build a new apartment complex to serve medical tourists at the growing facility.

A quirk of the development approval is a list of conditions that must be complied with under the National Conservation Law.

The five-story building is being erected around one of the last remaining trees of its kind found anywhere in the world.

As a condition of planning permission, the developer has agreed to build a wall around the tree and maintain a 15-foot buffer zone.

At the site last week, a yellow ribbon had been tied around the tree and a white exclusion zone painted around the perimeter of the tree, where it sits, close to what will be a large swimming pool on the edge of the apartment complex.

According to the Department of Environment’s response to the planning application, published with agenda papers for the April 26 Central Planning Authority meeting, the tree is one of only two Aegiphila caymanensis found anywhere in the world. The tree, only found in Grand Cayman, is listed as critically endangered, and it would be an offense under the National Conservation law to jeopardize its survival, the DOE notes.

It states that the root structure makes it impossible to move and recommends conditions including the construction of a wall around the tree and the maintenance of other vegetation in that area to provide shade and shelter.

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  1. It would be interesting to know why only one tree is left. Why no efforts were made to repopulate this tree. Also, how the construction, and the wall in particular, would affect what is considered to be a natural habitat for this tree. How adequate the measures to protect this tree?

    Some of the answers were found on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(tm) site.
    “The specimen located at Spotts was discovered serendipitously after being blown down from the tree canopy by hurricane Ivan. This single individual still survives in the wild.”
    “Habitat and Ecology: A scrambling shrub or liana which reaches into the tree canopy, this species is inconspicuous when not in flower, and so may be under-reported.”
    “Major Threat(s): The area where this species occurs is under active development for residential homes. There are no ex situ collections for this species and attempts to propagate this individual from cuttings have failed so far.”
    “Conservation Actions: There are no conservation actions in place for this species. There is an urgent need to protect the site where the only known individual occurs, to propagate and DNA bank this individual and to monitor and collect seeds if available. Focused surveys should take place to verify whether or not additional individuals exist. Further research is needed on the taxonomy of the species. This species is included in the Cayman Islands National Biodiversity Action Plan 2009 (Cottam et al. 2009)”

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