Hibiscus : Polydamus Swallowtail, Delphi Abaco


The flowers and plants below were mostly photographed in the grounds of The Delphi Club, Abaco or nearby. I expect most or many are already securely on the SD chips or hard drives of every visitor to an agreeably floral place like the Bahamas. Who can resist a pretty flower? I have confessed in earlier plant-based posts (links below) to a certain lack of aptitude around flowers. They just… are. Let’s see how this pans out – corrections and (for the last two) IDs welcome.

HIBISCUSHibiscus Delphi Abaco 2Hibiscus Delphi Abaco 1 Hibiscus Delphi Abaco 5Hibiscus Delphi Abaco 4

BOUGAINVILLEABougainvillea Delphi Abaco Bougainvillea AbacoBougainvillea Abaco 2Bougainvillea : Polydamus Swallowtail, Delphi AbacoThe butterfly is a Polydamus Swallowtail (also in the header image)

DATURA (ANGEL’S TRUMPET)Datura (Angel's Trumpet), Delphi Abaco Datura : Cuban Emerald Delphi AbacoThis one has a cuban emerald hummingbird feeding from it – a lucky, but frankly not very good, shot

FIRECRACKER PLANT RusseliaFirecracker Plant BPSMARSH FLEABANE (WITH HONEY BEE) PlucheaMarsh Fleabane, AbacoHORSERADISH TREE (WITH CUBAN EMERALD HUMMINGBIRD)  Moringa oleiferaHorseradish Tree : Cuban Emerald Abaco BahamasBISMARCK PALMBismarck Palm, Delphi AbacoBANANASBananas, Delphi AbacoThese were growing just outside our bedroom. Pity they weren’t quite ripe…

I’m beginning to struggle now. The next two plants are probably completely obvious, but I am losing my floral grip. Suggestions welcome via the comment box or email (Bridget on Tilloo, that means you…)

STOP PRESS ID within 24 hours, thanks to Nick Kenworthy who says via the comment box that this bright pink one “is loosely referred to as the Orchid tree (or Hong Kong Orchid Tree) as the blooms are very like an orchid but it comes on a tree rather than a plant”. I’ve checked my cheat books, where it is named Bauhinia pupurea, aka Orchid Tree, Butterfly Tree or (from the leaf shape) Bull Hoof Tree. The tree originates from India and Southeast Asia. Nick has undoubtedly nailed it, for which many thanks. One more to go…

ORCHID TREE Bauhinia pupureaP1050168 - Version 2

STOP PRESS 2 Nick has solved the second ID as well. His interesting information about this striking waxy plant can be seen in detail in the comments below. The answer, in a word, is ‘Jatropha’, of which there are a great many varieties – and quite a number of informal names, most of which (‘Firecracker’; ‘Star of Bethlehem’) are confusingly assigned to other plant species as well. It doesn’t feature in either of my Caribbean plant /tree reference books, so my amateur eyes didn’t actually let me down this time… This plant (there was were two of three) was in a small park area by the beach at Treasure Cay. I haven’t seen it elsewhere on Abaco.

JATROPHAP1050172 P1050171

Here are the links to a couple of my previous Abaco flower / plant posts:

A BUNCH OF FLOWERS (the most recent)

FLOWERING ON ABACO (an expedition with Ricky Johnson)

There’s a larger collection on the dedicated FLORA page, including some of the above, but also featuring articles on LIGNUM VITAE, YELLOW ELDER, Bird of Paradise flowers STRELITZIA and more


                                                           Click me!                                                                                                          ©Brigitte Bower Carey

I have been in touch with Brigitte Bower Carey from Tilloo Cay, whose cheerful painting of a Sergeant Major graces the usual rh Logo space above. She has kindly sent an update on the post-Irene situation on Tilloo, and a couple of images showing the effects of the storm on foliage. Luckily, it sounds as though the birdlife is ok in the aftermath. But no phone, a month after…

“Everything is good here – the house and we weathered the storm just fine. The dock is a mess, but is repairable. Nothing at all like most of the south facing docks on our island and our neighbouring island, Lubber’s Quarters – only the poles survived there. So we are grateful. Still cleaning up, the yard was in bad shape, but it is coming along… Communications are a weak point here after the storms – we still don’t have our phone back.

Abaco is starting to look like in spring time now, because a lot of the foliage got burned in the 140 mph gusts of Irene. So now all of the surviving trees are pushing out new leaves, plus all the rain has helped revive things. But nothing at all like after Floyd – when we came home in November ’99 there was not a leaf on any tree, and no birds at all. So we are considering ourselves very lucky now”. 



Both images © Brigitte Bower Carey


Yellow Elder Hope Town, Abaco 2


Thanks, Wiki!

YELLOW ELDER (Tecoma stans) is a flowering perennial shrub of the trumpet vine family. Common names include Yellow Trumpetbush, Yellow Bells, Yellow Elder, Ginger-Thomas, and Esperanza. Tecoma stans is the National Flower of The Bahamas.

The plant is cultivated as an ornamental and blooms throughout the year. It has characteristic sharply-toothed, lance-shaped green leaves and large bright yellow trumpet-shaped flowers. It is drought-tolerant and grows well in warm climates. The flowers attract bees (nb see below), butterflies and hummingbirds. Yellow Elder produces pods containing yellow seeds with papery wings. The plant is apparently desirable fodder in fields grazed by livestock. It also readily colonises rocky, sandy and cleared land, occasionally becoming invasive.

The leaves and roots of the plant contain “bioactive compounds which may have medicinal uses” (unspecified – more research needed?). Honey bees are attracted to the flowers but “unlike most flowering plants, the honey produced from Yellow Elder’s nectar / pollen is poisonous”.

 [rh note – so many questions arise here: Poisonous to the bees?  Can the bees tell? What if they mix it up with non-toxic honey back at the ranch? Can the beekeepers tell if their product is toxic? How? Do they bother? Why not? What are the effects? What’s the antidote? What “medicinal use” can there be? Is there a PhD for someone in this: “An impact survey into the effects of pollinic toxicity in honey derived from Tecoma Stans“?]


Selection of the yellow elder as National Flower over many other flowers was made by the vote of members of New Providence’s garden clubs of the 1970s: the Nassau Garden Club; Carver Garden Club; International Garden Club; and YWCA Garden Club. Other flowers – such as the bougainvillea, hibiscus, and poinciana – had already been chosen as the national flowers of other countries. The yellow elder was then unclaimed (although it is now also the national flower of the United States Virgin Islands).

(Floral tribute to TopTropicals)

Yellow Elder Hope Town, Abaco 2Yellow Elder  Abaco (Rhonda Pearce)


Photo credits as shown + RH



This very pleasant walk somehow seems more satisfactory taken clockwise, turning left at the front gateway and wandering along the guest drive. The straight service drive is less interesting and feels less ‘in the coppice’. The distance is about 2 miles. You can walk the circuit briskly in about half an hour. The birds will see you, but you won’t see them… So preferably take it easy. Here is a fantastic aerial view of the drives (courtesy of DCB)

The start of the route – trees as far as the eye can see

From a birding point of view, as you walk down to the gateway, keep an eye out on both sides. There are plenty of birds in the bushes and trees, though they are not always easy to see. You might see a western spindalis, bananaquits, black-faced grassquits, warblers, northern parulas, loggerhead kingbirds, vireos, cuban emerald hummingbirds or a bahama woodstar if you are lucky, amongst many others. When you get to the main drives, have a look straight ahead into the coppice – in fact anywhere along the guest drive is worth pausing to investigate.

This cuban emerald was just opposite the drive gateway  (credit

The gumbo limbo trees are very popular with many birds, including the Abaco Parrots, so it’s good to check them out as you pass by (and if you have unfortunately touched a poison-wood tree, they provide the antidote – conveniently the two trees tend to grow next to each other). Here are a couple of Thick-billed Vireos proving the point. And their song, which you will hear a lot around the Club itself.  (credit

Hairy Woodpeckers seem to favour dead trees for drilling practice – and perhaps for feeding on the sort of bugs attracted to dead wood. Here’s what they sound like (a call and response with 2 birds) (credit

There are plenty of small birds all along the way, some more vivid than others…Black-faced grassquit (not a warbler, as earlier suggested. Thanks CN)

Prairie Warbler

Antillean Bullfinch (not, as previously alleged, an American Redstart. Thanks CN)

If you look at the base of the trees in certain places, especially on the the left hand side of the guest drive (facing the highway), there are some small but deep holes in the limestone. If you drop a stone in, you can hear it splash in water – and the ferns growing inside them suggest a continuously moist environment.

As you progress, you move from the hardwood coppice to the pine forest.This photograph was taken just as the forest fires in March were petering out. The theory was that the fires that raged through the pine forest would stop where the coppice began, and not sweep on to engulf Delphi… and so this photo shows. The thick pine forest with its flammable vegetation and undergrowth gives way here to damper and less combustible coppice-wood which has halted the progress of the flames. The pines you can see are the last few outliers of the pine forest.

Here is an example of the drive having acted as a partial firebreak.

The pines, even burnt ones, are a good place to see West Indian Woodpeckers

When you reach the top of the guest drive it is worth carrying on to the highway. For a start you can admire Sandy’s gardening effort on the south side of the ‘white rock’, and maybe do some weeding. You are quite likely to see Turkey Vultures on the telegraph posts and wires, as here. You may also see Bahama Swallows on the wires, and perhaps an American Kestrel on a post. 

20110727-064435.jpgSmooth-Billed Ani (wiki-ani)

I have seen a raucous flock of Smooth-billed Anis in this area, but it is hard to get close to them. Listen out for this unmistakable noise (credit

Returning from the road to the fork, to your right is the way you have come – seen here as the fires burnt out. There had been thick, indeed impenetrable, bright green undergrowth all along only 3 or 4 days earlier.

To the left is the service drive and your route home

Because this route is more open, there seem to be fewer birds. Again, you may see kestrels on the posts. Halfway along we heard the loud and very melodious singing of a Northern Mockingbird some distance away. CLICK on image (as you can with all, or most, of these photos) and you can see it singing!CLICK BUTTON to hear song of a Northern Mockingbird (credit

On either drive you will see butterflies. They seem to like the vegetation around the piles of stone and rubble.
GULF FRITILLARY Agraulis vanillae

It is also worth looking out on either drive for epiphytes, or air-plants, growing on their host trees. They are so-called because unlike say, mistletoe, they are non-parasitic and do not feed off their hosts.

And so back to Delphi, a well-earned swim… and an ice-cold Kalik in the hammock…

For another angle on the circuit walk, have a look at a proper professional-looking blog by Craig Nash, already trailed in the BLOGROLL. This link will take you specifically to his fourth Delphi post, featuring this stroll. At the risk of stitching myself up here, I should say that you’ll get plenty of seriously good photos… PEREGRINE’S BLOG 4


have provided a number of wonderful photos from their stay at Delphi earlier this year. The images conveniently coincide with various categories already posted, to which the headings below link (supposedly – I will sort out any problems in due course, the general rh policy being to upload pictures first then worry about details later…)

ABACO PARROTS  (including some extraordinary acrobatics)


Angel’s Trumpet (Datura Candida)


OLEANDER (Nerium Oleander)



FOREST FIRE DAMAGE AT DELPHI (Ricky Johnson gets involved)



SANDY, unable to contain himself at one of his own jokes, being comforted by a guest, while PM and other guests tactfully look away


RJ’s eco-tour is not just about parrots and other avians. He is also an expert in the plant and tree life, and a great deal else. Here are some of the flower / tree images from the day, to which I will (may?) put names in due course. But frankly the pictures are far more satisfying than the knowledge that something is or is not a variant of a Cuban Popcata Petal Tree. Or whatever. If you feel like it, fast forward to the end of this post for a blue hole, a butterfly and a team photo…

THATCH PALM Thrinax radiata

 CORAL HIBISCUS Hibiscus schizopetalus

BOUGAINVILLEA Bougainvillea Spectabilis

SAPODILLA Manilkara zapota

Three images of a STAGHORN FERN Platycerium bifucatum, an epiphyte or ‘air plant’: one that grows upon another plant non-parasitically

Having left the parrots and the very lovely private garden we were shown round (where most of the plant shots were taken), Ricky took us to a blue hole nearby. The choice of 3 was narrowed down by the forest fires raging in the area (see FOREST FIRE post. The 2 largest were in a part of the pine forest that was busily engulfed in flame and dark smoke. So we went to the smallest.

However, what we could see was merely the entrance to a large and deep cave system in the limestone rock, the extent of which is still being explored (though not by me, thank heavens). The rock to the left was actually covered by 6 inches of water so clear that you could not see it – as one of our group discovered when he stepped onto the rock…

It was here that we saw ATALA HAIRSTREAK butterflies. This one is a different one from the one in the main BUTTERFLY post… but even their mothers can’t tell


And so to the final photo of the day, taken as we sustained ourselves… before having to leave rather sharpish when the wind changed direction and the smoke and fire decided we might be worth incinerating. Possibly Ricky, in the background on his cellphone, is calling for help…


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)


Thatch Palm
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