Capparis cynophallophora (Black Willow)This article excerpted below dates back a few months, but is still worth a read; Professor Sean Carrington encourages greater use of native Caribbean plants in our gardens and landscapes:

Is it too far-fetched to imagine a day when the only place we will find native Caribbean plants is in our gardens? Many of us dismiss the plants that were here before us as just ‘bush’ but the Caribbean region boasts some 13, 000 flowering plant species and half of these are found nowhere else in the world. For this reason the Caribbean is recognised as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots or areas of high and threatened biodiversity.

Most of the plants we use in landscaping are exotic species, someone else’s bush! Bougainvillea from Brazil, crotons from Asia, poinsettia from Mexico, hibiscus from China bear this out and the truth is many of these plants are much more showy than native species. Yet we also have familiar attractive Caribbean natives like Portlandia from Jamaica, Rondeletia from Cuba and the more widespread Spider Lily and Lignum Vitae. There are big benefits to be reaped in using natives in landscaping, largely because they are much better adapted to local conditions. Generally, native species will not need the high levels of irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides that typical garden plants require.

Not surprisingly, we are already using Caribbean natives in our landscaping, often without knowing it. Compact black willow trees with their dark glassy leaves, stately mahoganies, bread & cheese hedges, vines like what is misleadingly known as yellow mandevillea are all Caribbean natives. Ask anyone who has planted Golden Dew Drop, a blue-flowered native shrub, about the number of butterflies they now see in their garden! In areas like Florida where humans have dramatically altered the landscape there are ordinances that require householders to plant or retain a certain portion of their property in natives. New State buildings lead the way in only using natives in their landscaping. In the Caribbean, we need more information available to the public on what natives make good garden plants and then nurseries to provide such plants in a sustainable way. Probably the easiest way to start on this path would be for new major commercial or government buildings to largely use native Caribbean plants as demonstration projects. This could be the first step toward a Green Building Code which would include such sustainable landscaping among its provisions. That goal is a far way off but meanwhile, as individuals, let us make an effort to “go native” in our gardens. The benefits are immense.

You can read the complete article at the BusinessBarbados.com.

Sean Carrington is professor of Plant Biology at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, and the author of Wild Plants of Barbados.

[Photo: MagnetFL]

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