Gardeners to save local trees

| 15/03/2009

(CNS):  Much more than a garden centre the opening of the Native Tree Nursery at the Botanic Park at the weekend signals the start of a concerted campaign to get Cayman’s gardeners and landscapers growing local. “As development increases across Cayman and natural habitat is lost, then gardeners become increasingly more important in the drive to save our endangered endemic species,” said Mat Cottam (left with Governor)  from the DoE. “More than ever we need gardeners to propagate the trees and plants which are unique to Cayman and save them from extinction.”

Aside from the over riding need to preserve local species there are also a number of other good reasons for gardeners to grow local, not least the fact that they are far easier to grow than plants or trees which are not native to the islands. Having evolved here Cayman’s endemic species are perfectly adapted to our climate and environment so even those with less green fingers can enjoy the fruits of their gardening labour if they choose local species. And many native species have been here so long they too have adapted to the geographical and climate conditions and therefore flourish without the constant tending of exotic species.

Officially opening the nursery, which was a three year collaborative effort between amateur conservation groups, the Botanic Gardens and the Department of Environment, the Governor commended the hard work and offered his support to the project. “This is a very important and worthwhile contribution towards preserving the local environment and I thoroughly encourage all our gardeners to go Caymanian,” the governor, who has contributed to the nursery project through the FCO Governor’s fund, said.

The nursery is selling some thirty different species of plants, shrubs and trees under the Cayman Collection label from white fiddlewood to black mastic and staff at the nursery say, growing your own tree even from seed, will only take a couple of years something which is more difficult with non-native species.

Cottam said local trees and plants require less water and fertilizer and are often suited to our challenging environments and are both salt and drought tolerant. Moreover, they are also stress adapted and tolerant to disease. Above all they attract local wildlife such as birds and butterflies and will contribute to preserving the bio-diversity of the islands.

“Native trees make for hardy, inexpensive and low maintenance landscaping,” Cottam said. “Gardeners can play a significant part in saving many species which are becoming increasingly rare by planting them in their gardens and letting them grow.”

Preserving local plant life is also about preserving Cayman’s heritage as many of our unique species have cultural significance as they were used by early settler for medicinal purposes and other practical purposes as well as in construction and boat building.  

The amatuer gardener’s role as well as the professional landscaper can never be under estimated and their assistance in preserving species on the brink is demonstrated by the revival of Cayman Sage. Only a few years ago Cayman Sage was believed to be extinct however, it was rediscovered by chance by a local gardening enthusiast who drew it to the attention of the DoE and the Botanic Gardens. As a result the team at the nursery has been able to save the species and bring it back to life. Now the nursery is in a position to sell seedling s for only $3 and help spread this traditional plant back into the kitchen gardens of Cayman.

Most experts agree that biodiversity is critical in maintaining the ecological balance of our wider environment and the more we can protect the diversity of local habitats the more we are able to save the critically endangered species. Efforts to preserve the blue iguana for example would be in vain if we cannot also preserve the wider habitat which supports it.

For more details of the Native Tree Nursery visit

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