Cayman Nature Tours 

Royal Botanic Gardens KEW and 
OTEP –United Kingdom Overseas Territories Environment Programme

There are 415 species and varieties native to the Cayman Islands. Of these, 21 species of higher plants are known to be endemic with a further seven species representing endemic Caymanian varieties. Perhaps, the most important species are those that are endemic to a single island. Grand Cayman lays claim to the greatest number of endemic species: Hohenbergia caymanensis, Salvia caymanensis, Pisonia margaretae, Dendrophylax fawcettii, Scolosanthus roulstonii, Casearia staffordiae, Agalinus kingsii and Aegiphyla caymanensis. Grand Cayman also has three endemic varieties: Pectis caymanensis var. robusta, Terminalia eriostachya var. margaretiae, and Myrmecophila thompsoniana var. thompsoniana. Cayman Brac has one endemic species, Verbesina caymanensis and one endemic variety: Epiphyllum phyllanthus var. plattsii. One endemic species is restricted to Little Cayman, Chamaesyce caymanensis. There are also three sister island endemic species (i.e. restricted to two of the Cayman Islands) and one endemic variety. In addition, twenty four species are considered near-endemic (i.e. native to the Caymans and one other island) and forty four are local regional (i.e. native the NW Caribbean region). The Cayman Islands are also home to ten Caribbean endemic genera; Leptocereus (1 sp.), Chascotheca (1 sp.), Picrodendron (1 sp.), Petitia (1 sp.), Dendropemon (2 spp.), Neoregnellia (1sp), Tolumnia (2 sp.), Margaritopsis (1 sp.), Scolosanthus (1 sp.) and Hypelate (1 sp.). 

Ghost Orchids and the Ironwood Forest, Grand Cayman.

Maybe it will take an Orchid to Save a Forest 

Ironwood Forest, Grand Cayman 
There are many Critically Endangered and Endangered plants in 
Grand Cayman's IRONWOOD FOREST, SE of George Town, behind the University College of the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Islands Ghost Orchid - Dendrophylax fawcettii Rolfe
Grand Cayman endemic
Flora of the Cayman Islands by George R. Proctor 2012 p.208, Fig.75, Plate 10

Ironwood Forest maps and pictures 
Cayman Islands endemic Ironwood - Chionanthus caymanensis, Family OLEACEAE, is the predominant tree.
Flora of the Cayman Islands by George R. Proctor 2012 p.595, Fig.221, Plate 58

Ghost Orchid - Dendrophylax fawcettii, 
showing flowers with ghostly face and long spur,
Critically Endangered Grand Cayman endemic. 

Photo: P. Ann van B. Stafford, April 3, 2008

Cayman Ghost Orchid - Dendrophylax fawcettii
Grand Cayman endemic, Critically Endangered.
Photo: P. Ann van B. Stafford, May 20, 2016. 

 Ghost Orchid - Dendrophylax fawcettii
showing stolon - elongated stem, 
on the end of which tiny new roots are growing and from which a new plant is formed.
Photo: P. Ann van B. Stafford, Aug.6, 2013.

Cayman's Ghost Orchid, which has no leaves or pseudobulbs,
 grows on bare rocky limestone karst pinnacles (epipetric) or 
on other plants (epiphytic).
The fragrant, night-scented flowers attract Sphinx (Hawk) Moths. 
The orchid's long spur contains nectar on which the moths feed, using their proboscis (long tongue) like a drinking straw.
The Giant Sphinx Moth -  Cocytius antaeus is the most probable pollinator of Cayman's Ghost Orchid.

Florida Ghost Orchid visited by the Giant Sphinx Moth
in south Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve – watch the video. 

University of Florida scientists work to preserve the endangered Ghost Orchid
Dendrophylax lindenii


Cayman Islands Ghost Orchid Dendrophylax fawcettii listed in 
100 Most Threatened Species p.40
Priceless or Worthless? 

Priceless or Worthless p.40-41

Dendrophylax fawcettii 

Cayman Islands Ghost Orchid

Text reviewed by the Orchid Specialist Group

Population size: Unknown
Range: < 1km2 ironwood Forest, George Town, Grand Cayman
Threats: Habitat destruction due to infrastructure development
Action required: Development of legislation that will facilitate the protection of the Ironwood Forest 

Known only from Grand Cayman Island, the ethereal ghost orchid (Dendrophylax fawcettii) grows on the trunks of trees and bare rocky limestone karst pinnacles. A leafless, spider-like network of roots for most of the year, delicate pale cream flowers bloom between April and June, decorating the moist forest adjoining the wetlands. Sadly, this beautiful orchid faces an uncertain future. The Ironwood Forest, the last remaining fragment of old-growth forest in George Town, is bounded on all sides by the urban development of the nation’s capital. The forest extends to just 46 acres of this, while the ghost orchids are confined to an area of only six acres.

Development of the west side of Grand Cayman has been voracious in recent years. In 2008, government plans to construct a bypass through the forest, and through the portion occupied by the orchids, provoked outcry from both the public and the owners of the privately-held Ironwood Forest land. The forest won a stay of execution thanks to the campaign by the protestors and the bypass plans were shelved. However, this temporary reprieve will be insufficient to ensure the long term survival of the enchanting ghost orchid as the Ironwood Forest continues to remain without any formal protection. The successful protection of the forest would also preserve (among numerous other native species) four additional Cayman Islands endemics of cultural as well as natural significance (Ironwood: Chionanthus caymanensis, Thatch palm: Coccothrinax proctorii, the Banana orchid: Myrmecophila thomsoniana (Cayman’s National Flower), and Hohenbergia caymanensis). The latter, a giant bromeliad nick-named “Old George”, is known naturally only from this area.

What needs to be done?

The Cayman Islands currently lack the comprehensive conservation legislation necessary to establish national protected areas, and only five per cent is under the protection of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. With appropriate legislation, protection of the Ironwood Forest would be possible, either by purchase or through establishing management agreements with the private landowners. This would benefit the landowners by enabling them to maintain their land in its natural state, as they have done for generations. All that is required to enable this is the political will. 

Banana Orchid - Myrmecophila thomsoniana,  endemic, Endangered
Cayman Islands National Flower,
 M.t. var. thomsoniana - Grand Cayman only
M.t. var. minor - Little Cayman and Cayman Brac only.
Photo: P. Ann van B. Stafford, June 3, 2013

 Banana Orchid - Myrmecophila thomsoniana var. thomsoniana
Photo: Lori Adams, Grand Cayman, June 2014

William Fawcett (1851-1926) 

was a British botanist and co-author with Alfred Barton Rendle (1865-1938) of the FLORA of JAMAICA.  Fawcett was Director of Public Gardens and Plantations in Jamaica for 21 years from 1887 to 1908. He then returned to Britain and was Assistant in the Department of Botany at the British Museum, Natural History, Cromwell Rd, London, where he worked with Rendle to produce the first few volumes of the FLORA of JAMAICA (1910). Rendle was Keeper of Department of Botany.  
Fawcett sent living specimens of Grand Cayman's Ghost Orchid, named after him, Dendrophlax fawcettii (July 1888), and Myrmecophila thomsoniana (syn. Schomburgkia thomsoniana) from Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, (May 1888) to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 

History of Botanical Collections

FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor, 2012, p.18.
“Botanical investigation began late in the Cayman Islands, and has involved comparatively few people.  The earliest known collections* were made in May, 1888, by William Fawcett, then the Director of Public Gardens and Plantations in Jamaica, and later co-author of the Flora of Jamaica. His visit, of but a few days’ duration, resulted in the publication of a short report dealing with the natural and agricultural resources of the islands, and also reporting on such subjects as the disease of coconut palms (presumably what is now called Lethal Yellowing) then ravaging Grand Cayman.  Added to this report was a list of 112 plants that he had collected, including both indigenous and introduced species. The specimens on which this list was placed were deposited in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England. Among Fawcett’s discoveries was the endemic orchid Dendrophylax fawcettii, described by Rolfe in the Gardener’s Chronicle of Nov. 10, 1888.  Alluding to this plant, Fawcett later commented, “As I saw but a small portion of the Islands, and that chiefly on the sea shore, I feel little doubt that a complete collection of the plants would be of very great interest, and that perhaps other endemic species would be found.”


Ironwood Chionanthus caymanensis

Chionanthus caymanensis Stearn, Bot. Notiser 132:58 (1979) 
OLEACEAE Olive Family
Cayman Islands endemic. Endangered 
FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor, 2012, published by Kew p.595, Fig.221, Pl.58 
Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands BY Fred Burton, illustrated by Penny Clifford, 2007, p.144/220
Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands The Red List by Frederic J. Burton, 2008, p.49
There are many plants around the world with the common name ‘Ironwood’, but Chionanthus caymanensis, the tree called Ironwood in the Cayman Islands is endemic – it grows only on Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and nowhere else in the world, in rocky woodlands, close to a fresh water table. 
Ironwood tree and Banana Orchid (Myrmecophila thomsoniana var. thomsoniana), 
two Cayman endemics.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Lower Valley forest, Jan.13, 2002

Grand Cayman Nature Tours

Cayman Islands Ironwood grows to 10 m tall.
Ironwood tree with Old George (Hohenbergia caymanensis), a giant Bromeliad, growing in its branches, in a George Town garden. Both are Cayman endemics.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Aug. 23, 2002.

Cayman Islands ENDEMICS pictures
Plants and creatures

The leaves are arranged in exactly OPPOSITE pairs. 

Photo: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman, Nov. 13,2006.

The flowers are small, fragrant and white in many-flowered panicles. 
Ironwood in bloom in a George Town garden.
Photo: Ann Stafford, May 1, 2011.

Many-flowered panicle.
Photo: Ann Stafford, George Town garden, Grand Cayman, May 1, 2011.
 Ironwood flowers and leaves from a George Town garden.
Ann Stafford's Virtual Herbarium, May 1, 2011.

The fruits, purple when ripe, are an oval drupe and are eaten by birds and rock iguanas.

Cayman’s Ironwood is a culturally significant tree.   
 Cousin Cora's Cottage, Boggy Sand Road, West Bay.  
The original one room wattle-and-daub house was built in 1913, with Ironwood posts and Silver Thatch roof. It was the home of Captain McLaren Henning, his wife Cora and their six children.
Photo: Lorna McCubbin, 1998
Cousin Cora's Cottage, made of wattle and daub with ironwood posts,
Boggy Sand Road, West Bay.
Photo: Lorna McCubbin, 1998
Cousin Cora's Cottage showing wattle and daub interior with ironwood posts,
Boggy Sand Road, West Bay.
Photo: Lorna McCubbin, 1998

The heavy wood is very hard, strong, termite and water-rot resistant, not inclined to warp. It was traditionally used for the foundation posts of houses.
 Lorna McCubbin in her wattle-and-daub house,Cousin Cora's Cottage
Photo: Ann Stafford, Boggy Sand Road, West Bay, Jan.19, 2003
Ironwood post base.
Photo: Ann Stafford,Jan.19, 2003

Cayman CULTURAL pictures
Step-wells, traditional buildings, games, arts and crafts, house-shaped grave markers, ships, Cayman catboats, monuments, maps, stamps, Hell and more.

 A young Ironwood tree was planted in George Town.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Feb.22, 2004
Ironwood - living fence post, Grand Cayman.
Photo: Ann Stafford, July 31, 2006
Ironwood - Chionanthus caymanensis is the predominant tree in the Ironwood Forest,
George Town, Grand Cayman. 
University College of the Cayman Islands hall has white roof (mid-right).
Photo: Lois Blumenthal, June 2007.

 Ironwood - Chionanthus caymanensis, Endangered endemic,
is the predominant tree in the Ironwood Forest.
Old George - Hohenbergia caymanensis, a Critically Endangered Grand Cayman endemic giant Bromeliad,
grows on the pinnacle rock and up in the trees.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Sept.11, 2005.
Ironwood with Resurrection Fern - Polypodium polypodioides growing on the trunk.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Oct.9, 2005
Pictures of Cayman Islands plants
Endangered Ironwood with other native trees in a George Town garden,
Mahogany - Swietenia mahagoni Endangered, Spanish Elm - Cordia gerascanthus Endangered, Broadleaf - Cordia sebestena var. caymanensis Vulnerable, Popnut - Thespesia populnea Endangered, Silver Thatch - Coccothrinax proctorii Endangered, Bull Hoof - Bauhinia divaricata and Burn Nose - Daphnopsis americana Critically Endangered.
Photo: Ann Stafford, March 5, 2012.
Silver Thatch - Coccothrinax proctorii and Ironwood,
2 Cayman endemics, Colliers Wilderness Road.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Dec.1, 2013.



Tea Banker Pectis caymanensis

P. Ann van B. Stafford
Text published in Cayman Islands Department of Environment Newsletter FLICKER #4, December 2009.
(The pictures may differ from those in FLICKER #4.)
Tea Banker, Mint   Pectis caymanensis (Urb.) Rydb. 1916
Synonyms: Pectis cubensis of Hitchcock, 1893, not Griseb., 1866  Pectis cubensis var. caymanensis Urb.,1907

P. c.  var. caymanensis Cuba and the Cayman Islands 
P. c.  var. robusta Grand Cayman endemic
(Proctor, 1984) 
CaymANNature Flora pictures

Tea Banker, a small mat-like herb with a woody taproot, leaves with a distinctive, lovely lemony smell and little yellow flowers, has traditionally been used in Cayman to make a refreshing tea.

It was first recorded in the botanical literature of Grand Cayman in 1899 by Charles F. Millspaugh M.D. Department of Botany Curator, Field Columbian Museum, Chicago, Illinois. Millspaugh was a guest of Allison V. Armour, the Chicago meat-packing millionaire, on a West Indian cruise of the yacht ‘Utowana’; they visited the Cayman Islands during February, 1899. The chief set of Millspaugh’s specimens is in the herbarium of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Millspaugh published lists of his collection.

On February 8, 1899, the ‘Utowana’ stopped at The Creek ,‘Cayman Brae’ (Cayman Brac)  A Norther sprang up in the night, so they had to leave for  a point further west, where they anchored. They did some more collecting and then sailed on to Little Cayman, but found no safe harbour. They reached Georgetown (sic), Grand Cayman after dark on Feb. 9. The Health Officer forbade them to land as their last port (Port Antonio, Jamaica) was reported to be infected with measles.  They were, however, given permission to go ashore elsewhere as long as they kept away from any other person or dwelling. Because of the Norther, they anchored at ‘Spot Bay’ (Spotts).

Tea Banker was originally called Pectis cubensis, it had been found in Cuba. Millspaugh found it on Grand Cayman on Feb.14, 1899: ‘Fine full masses of this species were found in the sand of the roadside at Spot Bay, Grand Cayman (1279), but not seen elsewhere on the island. It is called "Flat-weed," and is used in infusion as a stomachic tonic.’ (Millspaugh, 1889)

Culturally Significant
In a two page article entitled ‘Bush Medicine’, published in the February 1973 issue of the Nor’wester magazine,  Ena Watler wrote: “It has fine green leaves, grows real close to the ground, and has tiny yellow flowers. Stick a bunch of it in boiling water and add some sugar and you’ll have a nice cup of tea to improve your appetite”.  (Watler, 1973)
Tea Banker - Pectis caymanensis, there were a lot of plants
in the sandy beach ridge yard of Capt. Carl Bush, #972 South Church St, Grand Cayman.
The house has been moved and in recent years no Tea Banker has been seen here.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Oct.30, 2002.
Critically Endangered
Tea Banker occurs in two varieties P. caymanensis var. caymanensis, Cuba, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, near endemic, and P. caymanensis var. robusta, Grand Cayman endemic. Both are Critically Endangered. (Burton, 2008)

Grand Cayman cemeteries and beach ridges
In recent years it has been found growing in some beach-ridge cemeteries. Do the plants die naturally in a prolonged dry season and sprout during the rainy season? Might it be an annual? This is a challenge to monitor, because it grows amongst Zoysia grass, Donkey Weed Stylosanthes hamata and other ground covers. It may have been pulled up and used for making tea. Cemeteries are weeded and raked.  Specimens of the plants I have found from four different locations on Grand Cayman all key out to P. c. var. robusta, the Grand Cayman endemic.
 Tea Banker - typical beach ridge habitat
Photo: Ann Stafford, South Sound, Grand Cayman, Nov.8, 2008
Sister Islands
Has anybody found Tea Banker on the Brac or Little Cayman in recent years?  var. caymanesis occurs in sandy clearings or soil-filled pockets of exposed limestone.
Conservation (P.c. var. robusta)
It is difficult to transplant. Although it can be grown from seed, it seems to require salt, such as at a beach ridge habitat, and fresh water, (when rain falls after the dry season), for the seeds to germinate.
 Tea Banker - typical beach ridge habitat
Photo: Ann Stafford, South Sound, Grand Cayman, Dec.1, 2013

Botanical description
Proctor, George R.  FLORA of the Cayman Islands, 1984, and second edition (in press):
Matlike perennial herb, subwoody at the base and with a woody taproot, the stems often pinkish; leaves oblong-linear or very narrowly lanceolate, 4-12 mm long, minutely scabrid toward the apex and sharply mucronate, and with 4-6 pairs of long cilia near the base. Peduncles mostly 5-10 mm long; ligules yellow, more or less longitudinally nerved. Achenes dark brown, minutely striate.
Occurs in two varieties which can be distinguished as follows:
Pectis caymanensis var. caymanensis   Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac and Cuba
Stems glabrous, seldom more than 12cm long; phyllaries ciliolate, c. 3mm long; ligules c. 3mm long;
achenes 2 - 2.5mm long, strigose with reddish hairs.
Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac and Cuba.
Occurs in sandy clearings or soil-filled pockets of exposed limestone. Frequently used to make a pleasantly aromatic tea.
Pectis caymanensis var. robusta  Proctor in Sloanea 1:4 1977
Stems sparingly hispidulous in lines, up to 25cm long or more; phyllaries glabrous, c.6mm long; ligules c. 5 mm long; achene 3 – 3.2mm long, glabrous or minutely white-strigillose toward the base.
Grand Cayman endemic. Found growing in gravelly sand near the sea.
This variety is generally larger and coarser in appearance than var. caymanensis.

 Isotype of Pectis caymanensis var. robusta Proctor 

Pectis caymanensis var. robusta Proctor 
Critically Endangered, culturally significant Grand Cayman endemic,
small, aromatic mat-forming herb, South Sound sandy beach ridge,
virtual herbarium image, scanned at 600%.
 P. Ann van B. Stafford, June 6, 2006.

Pectis caymanensis var. robusta Proctor 
Critically Endangered Grand Cayman endemic,
small, aromatic mat-forming herb, South Sound sandy beach ridge,
scanned virtual herbarium image, P. Ann van B. Stafford, Dec.1, 2006.

Cayman Endemics images

Tea Banker - Pectis caymanensis - little clumps growing amongst the Zoysia grass,
Bodden Town Cemetery beach ridge.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Feb.19, 2010

Tea Banker - Pectis caymanensis - little clumps growing amongst the Zoysia grass,
Old Man Bay Cemetery beach ridge.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Feb.13, 2010

Please report observations to Cayman Islands Department of Environment.

Burton, F.J.  Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands The Red List 2008 Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Millspaugh, Charles F.   Antillean Cruise of the Yacht Utowana  Dec. 1898 – Mar. 1899, Field Museum of Natural    History, Chicago  Accessed Nov.11, 2009
Proctor, George R.  Flora of the Cayman Islands 1984 and second edition (in press) Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Watler, Ena  Bush Medicine,  Nor’wester magazine, Feb. 1973 Cayman Islands National Archive

Plantae Utowanae. Plants collected in Bermuda, Porto Rico, St. Thomas, Culebras, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Cuba, the Caymans, Cozumel, Yucatan and the Alacran shoals. Dec. 1898 to Mar. 1899. The Antillean cruise of the yacht Utowana. Mr. Allison V. Armour, owner and master (1900)

Cayman Islands Department of Environment Tea Banker - Pectis caymanensis Species Action Plan

CaymANNature Flora pictures

Photos and scanned virtual herbarium images of Cayman Islands plants.

Rochefortia acanthophora (Spiny Confus'em, Greenheart Ebony) and  
Sideroxylon horridum (Green Thorn) Endangered compared.
Spiny Confus'em has brittle spines, whereas Green Thorn spines are rigid and very sharp.
FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor: 2012: pp.345, 438, 570.
Grand Cayman, P. Ann van B. Stafford Oct.1, 2006.


Cayman Herbarium

Scanned virtual herbarium images of Cayman Islands plants for identification.

Spiny Confus'em, Greenheart Ebony - Rochefortia acanthophora, BORAGINACEAE.
Dioecious. Fruit with 4 seeds.
Jasmin Lane, Grand Cayman, P. Ann van B. Stafford, Sept.17, 2006.
Greater and Lesser Antilles.
FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor: 2012 p.570 and 438
Securinega acidoton - Green Ebony, EUPHORBIACEAE (ovary 3-locular) has not be found in the Cayman Islands.

The book is available from the National Trust for the Cayman Islands and local bookstores for CI$30.

Review of the FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS 2nd. Edition 2012 by George R. Proctor, p.138-142, by -Lee B. Kass, L. H. Bailey Hortorium, Department of Plant Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Plant Science Bulletin 59 (3) 2013
Cayman Islands PLANTS Red List, 2007

Know Cayman's Native Plants

Knowledge DOES Grow on Trees!

Cayman Nature FAQ


The Cayman Islands are unique because of their relative geographic isolation in the north-western Caribbean Sea and have plants and creatures which occur naturally only in Cayman, or Cayman and Cuba, or Cayman and Jamaica.


Cayman common names for plants and creatures are often different from those for the same species found elsewhere. 

Different countries have different common names, sometimes more than one for the same plant, or one name may refer to several different plants. Several trees around the world are called Ironwood, but Cayman’s  culturally important Ironwood trees are only found in the Cayman Islands - Chionanthus caymanensis . Scientific names, avoid confusion of which plant is being referred to. Even though there are many plants, many don’t have Cayman common names – especially if they didn’t have a use. Some common names reflect how the plants were encountered, for example Shake Hand trees. In Cayman’s forests and dry rocky woodlands there are tall slender trees, some very old and extremely slow-growing, seemingly growing out of cliff-rock (karst limestone), trees such as Ironwood and Silver Thatch (both endemic), Bastard Ironwood, Bitter Plum, Candlewood, Smoke Wood, Pompero, Wild Fig, Cherry, Bastard Cherry, Strawberry, Bastard Strawberry, Spanish Elm, Cedar, Mahogany, Bastard Mahogany, Fustic, Bastard Fustic, and shrubs Duppy Bush and Rosemary. If any of these plants occur in the United States, they would be found in south Florida and the Florida Keys, where they may be endangered. The US common names are almost always different.

Plant Uses
The Cayman Islands were discovered by Columbus in 1503.  Permanent settlement came later, in the 1730’s. Indigenous plants were used for shelter, food, clothing, healing, everyday utility, boatbuilding, livelihood and export. They are part of the history, culture and identity of the Cayman Islands and what makes them unique. We do not have large wild animals, but we do have an interesting diversity of wildlife, for which plants provide food and shelter. Native plants and animals are interdependent, and are part of intricate food webs.

What is a Cayman Islands native (indigenous) species?

A Cayman Islands native (indigenous) species is one that occurs naturally in the Cayman Islands without direct or indirect human actions. Some plants and animals are native to only one or two of the three Cayman Islands.

What is a Cayman Islands endemic species?

An endemic species is one that originated or evolved in a particular place, and that situation won't change in the future.  The Cayman Islands have 28 endemic taxa (species and varieties) of plant and 5 endemic subspecies of butterfly.

How many Cayman Islands native (indigenous) plants are there?

415 taxa (species and varieties) formed the original, ancient flora of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

What is a naturalized plant species?

A species introduced from another region that becomes naturalized, maintains itself and reproduces successfully in competition with the native (indigenous) vegetation. There are some 700 plants, both native and naturalized, (including many grasses), that have been recorded growing in the wild in Cayman.


Cayman Islands Plants arranged in FAMILY sequence as in  
FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor, 2012


Pimento, Allspice Tree - Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.
Native to Mexico, Central American and the Caribbean

The tree is called Pimento and the berries Allspice. The cured berries combine the flavour qualities of Cinnamon, Cloves, Pepper and Nutmeg.

Tree: to 20 m tall; young branches flattened and 4-angled.

Bark: mottled cream, brown and tan, twisting lumpy surface that peels off in flakes

Leaves: Opposite, glandular dots more or less pellucid, strong aroma of pimento (allspice) when crushed

Flowers: inflorescence - panicle 6-12 cm long, many flowered, petals white, stamens numerous.
Individual flowers sometimes unisexual or apparently so.
Fruit: a fleshy, aromatic, 2-seeded berry, black when ripe.
Seeds: tough seed coat; the seeds lose their viability quickly; germination is more likely when the seeds have passed through the gut of a bird.

The green fruits turn black when ripe. George Town, Grand Cayman, Jan. 15, 2014.

3 Pimento trees on School Road, George Town, Grand Cayman July 21, 2003

Pimento trees on School Road, George Town, Grand Cayman after Hurricane Ivan (Sept. 2004)

Uses: the dried fruits (picked full-size when still green) are used as spice, for flavouring numerous foods. Oil extracted from seeds, leaves, and bark is used to scent cosmetics, foods, and many other things. The wood has various uses. Young saplings are used as walking sticks. 
Pimento tree in a garden on South Church St, Grand Cayman, Feb. 6, 2009

Pimento Dram is a Jamaican liqueur with a rum base flavoured with Allspice.

Pimenta dioica:
“This species was at first thought to be solely an introduced cultivated plant until the dead remains of several very large old trees were found in a George Town building site. Later, documents were found in the Cayman Archives that recorded the export of significant amounts of Allspice from the Cayman Islands in the early to mid nineteenth century. It appears that groves of Pimento trees formerly grew in the part of Grand Cayman that is now urban George Town, but all original trees have now disappeared. Meanwhile, a few young trees are now developing from seeds or seedlings brought from Jamaica. However, the evidence suggests that the Allspice tree should be considered indigenous to Grand Cayman.”
George R. Proctor, Flora of the Cayman Islands, 2012, p.406

Early Spanish explorers found the tree growing in Jamaica. It was identified in about the year 1509 and is closely related to the Bay Tree and to Cloves.

Click here for more pictures and information:   Jamaican Pimento




Duppy Bush – Phyllanthus angustifolius Vulnerable 


Shrub, leaves absent except on seedlings or when the plant starts to grow after being cut back to the ground. 
Flowers in small staminate or bisexual clusters at notches of the PHYLLOCADES - green flattened stems, ALTERNATE, that resemble leaves.
Range: Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Swan Islands.  
Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor 2012 p.444, Fig.159, Plates 37 & 38.  
PIX: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman.
 This plant had been cut back to the ground. The little leaves can be seen on the edges of the phyllocades (flattened green stems that resemble leaves). Photo: Ann Stafford, Mastic Trail, Grand Cayman, Jan.3, 2013.


Parrot Berry – Bourreria venosa Family: BORAGINACEAE 
Shrub or small tree with ALTERNATE leaves.  
Fruit, orange when ripe, a thin-fleshed drupe enclosing 4 bony nutlets.
Range: Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Swan Islands. 
This species is perhaps not really distinct from B. succulenta, which has an undivided capitate stigma and a wide range from Florida and Mexico through the West Indies to Venezuela.
Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor 2012 p.566, Fig.211, Plate 53.  Photo: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman, June 24, 2013.

Click here for more information the plant and how to grow it.
Natives for Your Neighborhood - Bourreria venosa

The Fiddlewoods

White Fiddlewood - Citharexylum spinosum = C. fruticosum, Endangered, Family: VERBENACEAE. 
Tree with OPPOSITE leaves, white flowers are very fragrant in the evening. 
Fruit a juicy, berry-like drupe containing two 2-seeded nutlets. Orange fruits turn shiny black, which birds love to eat. The tree grows readily from seeds, suitable for Native Plants Landscaping.
Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor 2012 p.579, Plate 56
Photo: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman, Oct.17, 2009

This tree is called Florida Fiddlewood in the US.
Click here for more information about the plant and how to grow it:
Natives for Your Neighborhood (Florida)

Fiddlewood, Petitia domingensis, Endangered, Family: VERBENACEAE,
Tree with OPPOSITE leaves. Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Bahamas and Greater Antilles.

Fruit, red when ripe, a small drupe containing a single 2-4 seeded stone.
Birds love to eat the fruits, particularly Mockingbirds and White-crowned pigeons. The wood is hard, heavy and strong and was used for fence posts, furniture and general construction.
he tree grows readily from seeds, suitable for Native Plants Landscaping.
Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor 2012 p.584, Plate 56
Photo: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman, Dec.8, 2006.
Pictures of plants growing in the wild in Cayman  -  CaymANNature Flora album

Carlos D. Rodriquez, October 1993

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