Approximately twenty five people attended the season’s first meeting of the Horticultural Society of The Bahamas-Abaco Branch. They met at New Vision Ministries in the morning of September 14 to be treated to a special very informative presentation on the native flora of the country by botanist, Dr. Ethan Fried.
Dr. Fried, who calls himself a plant collector, is the Chief Botanist at the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve on Eleuthera, an organization associated with the Bahamas National Trust.
Dr. Fried mentioned that the Leon Levy Preserve has catalogued approximately 250 species of plants. Most of them can be found on the preserve’s web site with photos and descriptions.
During his travels to nearly all islands of The Bahamas, (except Rum Cay and Little Inagua) he has catalogued 99 species of plants endemic to The Bahamas, with nearly half of them on Abaco. Endemic plants do not grow anywhere else in the World. Native can be plants native to a region, not just a country.
According to Dr. Fried, there is no such thing as a weed. “A weed is a plant out of place” he said. So his presentation dealt mainly with native wild flowers that can be propagated by seeds or cutting and used in landscaping. He advised not to pull them out, as most likely the roots would be damaged and the plant would die. Most of the plants shown in the presentation are flowers found in various habitats, on road sides or in forests, wetland or open grassy areas.
The presentation gave a synopsis of the preserve’s collection, each plant shown in color and identified by species, with a mention of special features when applicable. They were categorized as native or endemic, such as Lantana Bahamensis – the solid orange colored lantana. The botanist explained that the pink ones. or bi-colored. are not native. Another species of Passiflora, or passion flower, a vine often encountered in the wild is also endemic. Not all Passiflora species are endemic.
He also warned about invasive species, such as Casuarina, Hawaiian Sea Grape, even Jumbay. Non-natives that do not spread or grow rapidly, such as Bougainvillea, do not threaten the native flora to the same extent.
The presentation was followed by a plant identification session. It had been suggested that people bring samples of plants they wanted Dr. Fried to identify. Many did.
Among the samples were leaves and twigs of Cascarella. Cascarella was discussed at length as it is collected for its bark used in the Italian liquor Campari. Another was wild Cinnamon (Canella Winterana), which the botanist cautioned should be approached with care as it is pollinated by wasps.
The audience learnt that there is a female and a male tree of Sea Grape. Only the female tree produces fruits.
Other plants identified were Willow Bustick, Varnish Bush, Spanish Stopper and Snake Root, among many others.
The web site for the Leon Levy Preserve is: www.levypreserve.org