Aside from doing our part to curb the spread of COVID-19, one of the silver linings of sheltering in place has been the ability to pick up on the localised patterns of the natural world that usually go unnoticed. The birch trees are laden with berries, drawing bald pates and parrots to their boughs. Soon, they will be bursting with bright green leaves again, hopefully just in time for some much-needed rain.
If you, too, have found yourself paying attention a bit more to your surroundings and wanting to learn more about the plants you encounter, here are the best books to get you started on your journey:
Flora of the Cayman Islands by George R. Proctor
Containing practically every recorded plant in the Cayman Islands, this is the bible for local plant identification. You can find copies at The National Trust for the Cayman Islands’ Nature Store or via Amazon. The only downside to this book is that, unless you have a detailed understanding of botanical verbiage, it’s almost useless to the layperson aside from the photographs and illustrations. That’s where the next books on this list step in…
Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
If you need an introduction to basic botany, this book does the trick. Available on Amazon Kindle for less than US$10, this book goes through everything from plant cell structure to leaf shapes and flower parts. It is quite useful for deciphering many of the terms used in Proctor’s book.
Wild Trees of the Cayman Islands by Frederic J. Burton
Although Burton’s book is limited in scope, it contains a helpful key for classifying many of the trees more frequently encountered in the Cayman Islands. Each tree is accompanied by an illustration and many by pictures of their bark. The classification key is also useful for learning some of the basic identifying features of plants, including leaf patterns and shapes. You can find copies at The National Trust for the Cayman Islands’ Nature Store or via Amazon.
Caribbean Wild Plants and Their Uses by Penelope N. Honychurch
Containing illustrations for many of the plants described therein, Honychurch’s book is particularly helpful for identifying the types of plants most botanists don’t concern themselves much with – like the weeds of roadsides and open waste places which, coincidentally, often seem to be considered important bush medicines. Not all of the plants in Honychurch’s book are found in Cayman, nor vice versa, but I still count it as a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about Caribbean plants. I picked up my copy at Book Nook but it is also available on Amazon.