Time to face up. Time for flora. This post has been… er… post-poned several times. When I first started this blog, it was an adventure into the unknown. Basic computer skills. Zero blog experience. Scant knowledge about much (any?) of the subject matter. Looking back at early posts there is evidence – plenty – of floundering and general incompetence while I gradually learnt more. The birds and other wildlife came quite easily; the flora not so. Apparently I even carry a bunch of flowers in an odd way (opines Mrs RH), under one arm like a rugby ball. Don’t all men? Oh! Just me, then. Anyway, it’s time to try again and brave the land of petal, stamen and pistils at dawn. Here are 20 plants that you will come across on Abaco. Many were photographed at Delphi or in the nearby coppice and pine forest. A couple were in Marsh Harbour, 2 more were at Sawmill Sink Blue Hole. The beautiful Cannas are from Hope Town, with thanks to Abaco Island Artist Brigitte Carey. Some will be known locally by different names – I’d be interested to hear them via the ‘comment’ box.
ANGEL’S TRUMPET (Datura Candida) CANNASCOCONUT WHITE FRANGIPANI (Plumeria)YELLOW FRANGIPANI (Plumeria)YELLOW FRANGIPANI (Plumeria)MARSH PINK (Stellatia Maris)MORNING GLORY (Convolvulus)MOSS ROSES (Portulaca)OYSTER PLANTRED HIBISCUSPINK CORAL (FRINGED) HIBISCUSPINK PENTAS (Pentas lanceolata)RED PENTAS (Pentas lanceolata)PLUMBAGO / CAPE LEADWORT (Plumbago auriculata)ROYAL POINCIANA / FLAME TREE (Dolonix regia)SPIDER LILY (Hymenocallis littoralis)THATCH PALMWILD ALLAMANDA (Urechites lutea)BIRD OF PARADISE FLOWER (Strelizia)BANANAS at the Delphi Club
GLIMPSES OF LIFE ALONG A CORAL REEF by F. H. HERRICK
This post is aimed at those with a particular interest in the flora and fauna – especially avifauna – of Abaco and its Cays. It is a naturalist’s account from 1886 of an expedition to Abaco, interspersed with a few line drawings. It’s an easy read if you are interested in Abaco, its history, and the state of natural life on the islands 125 years ago. Those who have come to this site for the photos and / or even the occasional jest are warned to expect neither. However, to tempt waverers I’ll highlight below (by way of a quiz) some intriguing aspects of the 9-page article. I have had to edit it to correct the many ‘literals’ in the open-source material; however the c19 spellings are retained. I’ve also added coloured subject-matter codes as follows:PLACE NAMES; BIRDS; PLANTS; FISH; CREATURES
In 1886, Herrick visited Abaco with a party of naturalists. This trip predated by 3 years the publication of Charles Cory’s groundbreaking ‘Birds of the West Indies‘. There would have been scant readily-available published material about the natural history of the Bahamas, let alone of Abaco itself. Herrick and a friend left the main party and went on their own wider explorations of Abaco with two local guides. Herrick recorded their findings, which were subsequently published in ‘Popular Science Monthly‘ in 1888. In Herrick’s wide-ranging account of the adventure you will find the answers to the following 15 questions. If any one of them whets your appetite to read this historic account, press the link below the quiz!
What fruit might you have found growing in fields on Abaco in 1886?
What was the local name for the perforated rock at Hole-in-the-Wall?
What is an “egg-bird”?
What was causing “the gradual extermination” of flamingos?
What were “shanks” and “strikers”?
To what human use were Wilson’s Terns put?
How many eggs does a tropic-bird lay?
What law prevented the shooting of tropic-birds, and indeed any other bird, by naturalists?
What sort of creature is a “sennet”?
Which was rated the better for eating – grouper or ‘barracouta’ (sic)?
Who or what is or are “grains”?
What common creature had a burning touch like a sharp needle?
What bird was reckoned to have the call ‘loarhle-ee’ ?
What – or indeed who – was described as a “pilepedick”?
The Bird of Paradise PlantStrelitzia is a native of South Africa, but its exoticism and all-round fabulousness has ensured its export to other parts of the world with suitable climates. These plants can be found throughout the Bahamas, including Abaco. It’s fortunately a plant that is impossible to confuse with any other, an added attraction for non-floral people… Here are a couple of my images of the plant about to flower, and having burst into flower
And here is a flower recently photographed (June 2012) in Marsh Harbour, Abaco
NATIONAL TREE OF THE BAHAMAS & THE WOOD OF CRICKET BAILS
LIGNUM VITAE The “tree of life” (Guaiacum sanctum) is a very heavy wood with clusters of small blue flowers at the branch tips. Its strength, density and durability made it a valuable trade wood historically. It easily sinks in water and is the densest of all trade woods. As alternative materials and compounds have been discovered, the demand for LV has fallen… which is fortunate, since Lignum Vitae (also commonly known as Greenheart and Ironwood) is now considered a potentially endangered tree species.
LIGNUM VITAE TREE IN HOPE TOWN, ELBOW CAY, ABACO
The wood had – and still has – many important uses. All cricketers know that bails of lignum vitae are used in windy conditions to forestall any “…and the bowler charges in… reaches his delivery stride and… oh my goodness the bails have blown off…” dramas. The wood is also used in other sports: for bowls and skittle balls, and croquet mallets Flower Image Credit Grooko
LIGNUM VITAE TREE ON MAN-O-WAR CAY, ABACO
Photo credit: Eric Forsyth of the Yacht Fiona
10 MEMORABLE FACTS ABOUT LIGNUM VITAE
Traditionally, it was used for making British Police Truncheons (now made of soft fluffy pink fabric to reflect new caring policing methods)
Its physical qualities made it widely used in shipbuilding (though presumably not the whole ship, which would sink instantly)
Cabinet-makers, stone-carvers and gem-cutters all use the wood in their crafts
LV has many engineering uses. The wood is self-lubricating and is ideal for bearings. The 1st nuclear submarine had some of these
The world-renowned UK fishing rod maker Hardy’s made a famous ‘Greenheart’ rod
LV has medical uses, including for arthritis; and its bark / shavings allegedly make a nice cup of “tea”… (Any evidence of this?)
A 1920’s calypso song “LignumVitae” was sensationally saucy for its allusions to the bark tea’s prophylactic quality in addition to exploiting the phallic connotations
Gabriel Garcia Márquez incorporates uses for the wood in two of his novels (neither of which I have read. Oh dear. The guilt)
Pete Seeger, singer / songwriter, made the neck of his banjo from LV
The wood is also connected to mauve tiling, vitamin glue, anti-evil gum and the ‘vigilant emu’ by anagrammatic chance
A Lignum Vitae tree at Bahama Palm Shores, Abaco, with a camera-shy juvenile black-faced grassquit
JANKA HARDNESS TEST
The Janka Hardness Test is an international test of the hardness of a given wood by measuring the force needed to embed a steel ball to half its diameter. The size of the ball is internationally standardised, though the reading may be given in ‘local’ units. The hardest wood (using pounds/force units) is the Australian Buloke (5060); Lignum Vitae is the second hardest (4500). Other examples are Ebony (3220); Satinwood (1820); Zebrawood (1575); Caribbean Pine (1280); Teak (1000); Mahogany (800) Balsa (100).
A single lignum vitae flower
Some examples of items traditionally made from lignum vitae: gavels (auctioneers, TV Judiciary eg in Perry Mason); bowls; pestle & mortar; and (for dudes) a seriously cool guitar pick (less than $5 too)
PS 2012: I now have 2 hardwood plectrums (plectra?) to try out. The Lignum is nearly 3 times as hard as the Zebra wood. This does not imply that I am a dude (or even a superannuated one), but merely that I haven’t had the heart to dispose of my guitars. Mrs RH has a view about that… a strong one, I think
Info Card by Scott Johnson of the Bahamas National Trust
The above is cobbled together from Wiki and other snippets. Ta to all. An interesting site for a look at LV’s practical uses and some helpful information is Lignum-Vitae.com CLICK LOGO===>>>
The mention of cricket has made me nostalgic for the season just ended… UK – indeed any – cricket nuts will know exactly where I am coming from with this…
The ‘Flora’ part of ‘Flora and Fauna’ is a bit of a blind spot for me except in a very basic daffodils-tulips-roses english gardening sense. So it was with a massive sense of relief that, browsing through (namecheck here) ‘Dr Ralph’s Abaco Forum’, I stumbled across a comprehensive blog about the flora of Abaco with excellent pictures and very informative descriptions, posted by Iris Spikes. She includes notes about the plants that are poisonous, and those that have medicinal / antidotal properties. For example poisonwood and gumbo limbo trees grow side by side, as poison and antidote – you can find them growing together along the Delphi drives (the gumbo limbo fruit is especially popular with the Abaco Parrots).
With thanks for permission, I have added the web link to the Blogroll list so that you can get to it straight away. Please note that there are two linked posts – you get to part 2 from the link at the end of part 1.
Here are a few random flora images of ours, most now readily identifiable… Almost all (including the bananas outside our room) are from the Delphi gardens or beside the drives – and one cheat that is much more Abaco than UK
Powder Puff Tree - Calliandra haematocephala
Bananas (outside rooms 1 - 4)
Coral or fringed hibiscus
Bougainevillea (pool area)
Bougainevillea (pool area)
Bottle-brush tree (a cheat – in neighbours’ garden, London!)
Angel’s Trumpet (Datura Candida)
An epiphytic bromeliad (see below) on the guest drive
Staghorn Fern (Platycerium bifucatum) - also epiphytic
An epiphyte (or air plant) is a plant that grows upon another plant (such as a tree) non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object (such as a building or a telegraph post), deriving its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it and not from its host
Mid-March saw the outbreak of an unnaturally large number of fires in the pine forests on (mainly) the west side of Abaco. Suspicion mostly fell on hog hunters wanting to clear the thick undergrowth. Many fires spread rapidly in the wind and some jumped the highway. For a couple of days there was increasing anxiety at Delphi, not wholly allayed by Sandy’s robust enthusiasm for driving guests intothe heart of the fires: “Look, I promise you, it’s perfectly safe ”. The big question: would the coppice stop the fire in its tracks as expected, or would the fire sweep through to the Club grounds and buildings? And (a members’ concern, this) were they adequately insured?
In the event, the Club was spared. However, much of the area between the road and the coppice in front of the Club was badly burned. The effect on the bird liferemains to be seen, though even after a few days there was evidence of greening up of foliage – an encouraging sign. Any hogs presumably managed to escape…
Here are some images, all of them taken from the Club or along the drives. Most (all but 2 now – I’ve fixed the rest) will enlarge with a click.
Setting sun from the Club verandah. At least 3 fire seats are visible
This tree along the guest drive kept smouldering for 3 or 4 days
A somewhat apocalyptic sky
This area along the drives was dense bright green undergrowth two days earlier
A milky morning sun filters through onto snowy ash
Click to enlarge this image: you’ll see a flame at the top of the tall dead tree, like an oil refinery flare stack
Fire spreading in the wind and taking hold of a new area between the drives
Another area that had been thickly wooded, with dense green undergrowth