This week, the Cayman Islands Government launched an ambitious tree planting project in celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. With a goal to plant approximately 1,330 trees across all three Cayman Islands – 70 per constituency – the ‘Plant a Tree for the Jubilee’ initiative aims to create a living legacy that honours The Queen’s seven decades of service while benefiting current and future generations.
According to a new website set up for the project by the Ministry of Sustainability & Climate Resiliency, the initiative will focus on native, endemic and fruit-bearing trees which enhance local biodiversity and support increased food security. One key goal of the project is that 70 of the trees planted for the Platinum Jubilee be Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni). Other native species being promoted by the Ministry are: Cabbage (Guapira discolor), Strawberry (Eugenia axillaris) and the endemic shrub Cayman Sage (Salvia caymanensis).
Read on to learn more about the cultural, historical and environmental importance of these species!
Mahogany | Swietenia mahagoni
Perhaps one of the Cayman Islands’ most culturally important trees, the global demand for Mahogany wood enticed some of the earliest settlers to our country’s shores. An exceptionally durable and beautiful hardwood, mahogany was used to construct everything from schooners and furniture to musical instruments. Mahogany timber was a vital resource for early settlers and a chief export for the country for many years. Due to its popularity, Mahogany is now listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.
Cabbage | Guapira discolor
Thin, flexible Cabbage was used to weave the wattle used in traditional Caymanian homes and to craft ‘calavans’ for trapping ground doves. It also has a slightly unpleasant reputation for making a particularly painful ‘switch’ used to discipline children.
A fast-growing tree that takes harsher growing conditions in stride, Cabbage has an elegant, weeping growth pattern and bright red berries that are a favourite treat for local birds.
Strawberry | Eugenia axillaris
Another tree favoured in the construction of local wattle and daub homes, Strawberry is also characterised by its flexible wood.
With fragrant flowers that bloom year-round but peak in spring and summer, Strawberry attracts many types of pollinators and its purple fruits are eaten by birds. Strawberry also tolerates a variety of growing conditions and can mature into attractive, small trees.
Cayman Sage | Salvia caymanensis
The only species on the list that’s a shrub, not a tree, this endemic herb has a dramatic history. Once presumed extinct, the critically endangered Cayman Sage was rediscovered in 2007 by Carla Reid. Her findings prompted the discovery of a further 300 individual plants and 18,000 seeds were collected for long-term storage and conservation propagation.
Drought-tolerant, aromatic and found only in the Cayman Islands, Cayman Sage provides an important nectar and pollen source for local pollinators, including bees and butterflies. Seeds and plants are available for purchase from the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.