Cayman Islands – Founded upon the Seas – and Mahogany

by P. Ann van B. Stafford

The three Cayman Islands are located in the western Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba and some 270 miles NW of Jamaica. Grand Cayman is 76 square miles, Little Cayman 10 square miles and Cayman Brac 14 square miles.

Huge West Indian Mahogany tree at East End, Grand Cayman

Mahogany, West Indian Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni is native to Florida and the West Indies, including the three Cayman Islands.

Map of the West Indies and Central America
West Indian Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni bark

Cayman’s plants and history are woven together, like the wattles of Wattle and Daub houses.

Grand Cayman Land Grants

1734 – 1742

Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni, Endangered.

1730s – 1740s The first formal land grants were made in Cayman, mainly to cut Mahogany. Mahogany furniture had become popular in Britain and Europe and Mahogany surpassed turtle as Cayman’s most valuable product.

Dr George R. Proctor, author of the Flora of the Cayman Islands, 1984 and 2012, by a large Mahogany tree in West Bay in 2002

West Indian MahoganySwietenia mahagoni (L.) Jacq.

Native to:

Bahamas, Cayman Is., Cuba, Dominican Republic, Florida, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks-Caicos Is.

Introduced into:

Andaman Is., Assam, Bangladesh, Caroline Is., China South-Central, China Southeast, Hainan, India, Laos, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Marianas, Mauritius, Nicobar Is., Puerto Rico, Réunion, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Windward Is.

West Indian Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni (left) and Big-leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany – Swietenia macrophylla leaves compared

See below for more information about Big-leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany – Swietenia macrophylla

The first Land Grants, made by the Governor of Jamaica in Spanish Town, Jamaica (1734 – 1742), were to cut Mahogany for export to Jamaica and thence to England.

1734 The first land grant was to Daniel Campbell, Mary Campbell (probably Daniel’s widowed mother) and John Middleton for 3,000 acres in the area between Prospect and North Sound.

1735 plat / map of the Campbell/Middleton property – “Hear is Timber”
1735 plat / map of the Campbell/Middleton property – “Hear is Timber” (north at the top)

House of Campbell and Middleton: between Hog Sty Bay and George Town Barcadere, somewhere in the vicinity of the present Butterfield roundabout, junction of North Sound Road and Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

In 1729 Daniel Campbell was granted 3000 acres in Westmoreland, Jamaica.

1734 Dec. 2. Battersby and Foster, two Jamaican merchants, made an agreement with John Bodden of Grand Cayman to take 8 male slaves to Grand Cayman cut Mahogany, in return for a quarter of the profits from the venture. John Bodden asked John Middleton for advice on the best place for lumbering.

1735 Battersby went to Grand Cayman, found the slaves working near the Great Sound at a place called Bodden’s Work. (A History of the Cayman Islands by  Neville Williams 1970  p.17-18)

1735-1741 There was considerable informal settlement.

1741  Murray Crymble had a land grant of 1000 acres in Cayman. He was an absentee land patentee, a prominent Jamaican merchant, Receiver-General in Jamaica and extremely wealthy. He seems to have had mercantile dealings with Central America, including Roatán, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

1741  Samuel Spofforth, a wealthy absentee merchant, had a land grant of 1000 acres in West Bay. He was a prominent Bermudian shipowner. He cut Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum), from Central America, for its dye, and also Mahogany, for its timber, from Cayman.

1741 William Foster had a land grant from the present centre of George Town south to Pull-and-Be-Damned Point, South Sound. Foster had become acquainted with this area of S.W. Grand Cayman during the 1730s, when he was in partnership with fellow Jamaican, Benjamin Battersby. They had an agreement to fell and cut Mahogany.

In 1745 William Foster of Kingston was granted 3000 acres alongside the Great River in Westmoreland, Jamaica.

1742 Mary Bodden, the final land grant of land of 1,000 acres, in the Newlands area, dated January 15.

1741-42 Land Grants A codicil stipulated that those who could prove, with two witnesses before a magistrate, that they had occupied, planted or felled trees within the granted land, could retain possession of that land, with 30 acres of adjacent woodland, provided that they took out a patent within two years. (Founded Upon the Seas, p.41)

1741-42 Land Grants – all grantees were to bring ten white servants into their plantation, regardless of how many slaves they owned. Walter / Watler may have come with Foster.


Richard Jennings, from Bermuda

Thomas Newlands

1741 August  Governor Edward Trelawney of Jamaica ordered Richard Jennings to survey Grand Cayman prior to grants of 1000 acres each to Spofforth, Foster and Crymble, to encourage settlement to defend from Spanish attack.  Williams p.18

Thomas Newlands was a timber merchant. He surveyed Mary Bodden’s 1000 acres. Timber shipped to Jamaica via North Sound.  Williams p.19

Problems of Land Tenure

It was Jamaican merchants who exploited the market for the hard woods in the interior, and the turtle trade.

Williams p.21

1739 -1748 Anglo-Spanish wars – War of Jenkins’ Ear

Mahogany tree – Swietenia mahagoni, in a George Town, Grand Cayman garden. This magnificent tree was planted on Jan. 17, 1865.

West Indian Mahogany tree in George Town, Grand Cayman

Mahogany, West Indian Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni leaves and capsule containing the seeds.
Mature Mahogany capsule splits open to release the winged seeds for dispersal by wind.
West Indian Mahogany woody seed capsule has split open to release the winged seeds May 31, 2009
West Indian Mahogany leaves have turned a greenish rusty-gold and the fruit, woody capsules that split open from the bottom into 5 segments, are at the top of the tall tree., Dec. 22, 2021.
Unopened woody capsule
Mahogany tree that has shed its old bronze leaves May 5, 2022
Mahogany new leaves emerging May 8, 2022
Mahogany – more new leaves May 9, 2022

West Indian Mahogany tree with new, bright green leaves May 13, 2022
West Indian Mahogany tiny flowers June 24, 2007

West Indian Mahogany tiny flowers June 3, 2022

Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni

included Mahogany from Cayman.

Mahogany Furniture

Mahogany changed the British and European furniture industry.

Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) was one of the leading cabinet-makers of the 18th. Century.

Rococo style was used in Chippendale’s designs of Mahogany chairs with intricately pierced slats and for elaborately carved furniture.

Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) Biography, Furniture and Facts

What Materials are Used to Make Chippendale Furniture? | Laurel Crown

Probably one of the most distinguished British cabinetmakers of the 18th. Century, Thomas Chippendale launched a furniture style that is still one of the most sought-after antique furniture for collectors and admirers today. …. He was the mastermind behind a furniture style that was named after the artisan rather than the reigning monarch, which at that time was revolutionary.

Chippendale Mahogany Side Chair c.1760

Chippendale Mahogany Side Chair c.1760

An exceptionally fine 18th Century Mahogany Chippendale Side chair of superb colour and patina. The top rail crisply carved with scrolling leaf work and flowers, with finely carved tassel dropping from the centre. The superbly shaped pierced and carved interlaced splat flanked with roses. The well drawn cabriole legs are finely carved with an abundance of scrolls and curling leafs, terminating with a claw and ball foot. The carving extends from the shaped ear pieces at the top of the legs across the bottom of the front rail in a fine flower and ribbon pattern with punchwork to the background. A masterpiece from the pinnacle of the English chair making tradition,circa 1760

Chippendale George III Mahogany library desk c.1760

George III Mahogany library desk attritubed to Thomas Chippendale, c.1760. Sold for $168,750. Oct.17, 2017 at Christie’s in New York.

Chippendale George III Mahogany breakfront bookcase 1764

George III Mahogany breakfront bookcase by Thomas Chippendale, 1764. Sold for £2,057,250. on June 17, 2008 at Christie’s in London.

The English Mahogany Trade 1700-1793

by Adam Bowett November 1996

The Jamaica Trade: Gillow and the Use of Mahogany in the Eighteenth Century

By Adam Bowett

Mapping the Mahogany Trade in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Lecture by Adam Bowett, Yale University, November 2018

Furniture historian Adam Bowett outlines the development of the British and American mahogany trade from its tentative beginnings in the early 18th century to its climactic peak 150 years later. Bowett puts particular emphasis on the ways in which British colonial policy, combined with other commercial and economic factors, dictated the geographical spread of the trade, and considers the implications for current research on historic British and American mahogany furniture. Bowett has published widely in academic and popular journals and is the author of two books on English furniture.

Until 1760s over 90% of Mahogany imported to Britain came from Jamaica.

Cayman Exports

Mahogany, Fustic, Logwood, Turtles, Cotton and Silver Thatch rope were exported.

Christopher Colombus sighted Little Cayman and Cayman Brac on May 10, 1503 on his fourth and final voyage to the New World. He named the islands Las Tortugas (The Turtles) because of the abundance of turtles seen.
Green Turtle

1764 third week of February – Mahogany carriers arrived in Kingston, Jamaica from Grand Caymanoes

50 ton brig Success

30 ton sloop Eagle recently captured and renamed

Together they unloaded 80 tons of timber at Kingston.

Their escort sloop also called Eagle carried 30 tons of Mahogany.

1764 April 15 ton Greyhound to Kingston from Grand Cayman with 15 tons of Mahogany

1765      Royal Navy officers Remark Books provide information about Cayman. HMS Active anchored off Grand Cayman. Captain Robert Carkett noted that there were about 20 families, most of whom cut Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) and Fustic (Maclura tinctoria) which were exported to Jamaica.

1768 March 30  30ton sloop Diamond arrived in Kingston from Grand Cayman with 400 ft Mahogany, 260 pieces of timber and 2 tons of Fustic, then set sail for Honduras in ballast.

Fustic (Maclura tinctoria)

Fustic – Maclura tinctoria, Family: MORACEAE, is native to the West Indies and continental tropical America. It was exported for its yellowish dye, known as fustic or khaki, which was extracted from the wood.

1765 Cayman – 2 Walter brothers married 2 Bawden sisters in Jamaica, parish unknown.

Waide Walter Snr, mariner, married Rachel Bawden

Stephen Walter, mariner, married Sarah Bawden

1765 William EDEN from Wiltshire, England (b.1737- d.1801), arrived in Grand Cayman from Jamaica

1770s Settlers produced cotton for export, and for their own consumption and passing vessels – corn, yams, sweet potatoes, plantains, melon, limes, oranges and other fruits and vegetables. A few people of considerable property between them owned half a dozen sloops and schooners – for turtling and trafficking to Jamaica


Sea-island Cotton, Long-staple Cotton – Gossypium barbadense

Wild Cotton, Short-staple Cotton = Gossypium hirsutum

Wild Cotton, Short-staple Cotton – Gossypium hirsutum
Wild Cotton, Short-staple Cotton – Gossypium hirsutum

1773 Gauld survey map and notes, early settlers: population 450: “in all 39 families, consisting of at least 200 white people and above [the] same number of Negroes and Mulattoes.

1773 Gauld map of western Grand Cayman. Hogsties was later called George Town. My Barkadier on the 1735 Campbell-Middleton plat is marked as Landing Place on the 1773 Gauld map. It is now called George Town Barcadere.

21 families at Bodden Town (South Side), 13 at West End commonly called Hogsties (present day George Town), 3 at East End and 2 at Spot’s Bay.

Gauld map 1773

1773 There was a triangular trade between Jamaica, Cayman and British Settlements in Central America, especially British Honduras (Belize) and along the Mosquito Coast.

1783  Memorandum and sketch map seized by Spanish authorities in Cartagena from Robert Hodgson Jr, British Superintendent of Mosquito Shore, who had been captured en route to England.

Reciprocal trade, between the British and Spanish colonies was continued, even though such trade was not formally permitted. Grand Cayman was an important relay station in this indirect trade. Some ships arriving in Kingston carried logwood, cocoa and sarsaparilla.

Cocoa, Chocolate tree – Theobroma cacao wasn’t grown in Cayman. It is native to continental tropical America.

Cocoa arrived in the British Isles in the 1650s, which was more or less at the same time as coffee. With Cromwell’s forces Britain took over the control of Jamaica from the Spanish. At the time cacao plantations were already flourishing there, and these became the main source of British chocolate.

Sarsaparilla Smilax ornata = S. regelii is native to: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Nicaragua.

It has been introduced into Jamaica.

Sarsaparilla root was used, historically, in the treatment of syphilis.

Sarsaparilla – Smilax ornata

(Wire Wiss, Wiry Vine – Smilax havanensis is native to the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Cuba, Florida and Turks-Caicos Islands.)

Wire Wiss, Wiry Vine – Smilax havanensis fruit
Wire Wiss, Wiry Vine – Smilax havanensis flowers

Wiry Vine – the leaves were crushed and the juice taken for Malaria.

Wilfred Kings, Report on the Botanical Collection: Plants of Reputed Medicinal Value –

1938 Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Cayman Islands.

Miskito Coast / Mosquito Shore of Nicaragua and Honduras

1787 Miskito Coast / Mosquito Shore of Nicaragua and Honduras evacuation by the British, to Grand Cayman via Belize, of 300 or so settlers including 250 slaves. The population was substantially increased and new cotton plantations were established.

Caribbean Mosquito Coast (or Miskito Coast)

Fustic – Maclura tinctoria

Fustic – Maclura tinctoria, is dioecious. Male and female flowers grow on separate trees. Fustic was exported for its khaki dye.

Fustic tree – Maclura tinctoria, with Pistillate (female) flowers only, at the Agricultural Grounds, Grand Cayman
Fustic – Maclura tinctoria, (pistillate, female) fruits
Fustic – Maclura tinctoria (staminate, male) catkins
Fustic tree trunk – Maclura tinctoria

Logwood – Haematoxylum campechianum

1715 Logwood was introduced in to Jamaica by Henry Barham (father of Dr Henry Barham), Mesopotamia Sugar Estate, Westmoreland, Jamaica. The wood is ready to be cut into logs after 11 years, unlike Mahogany, which takes many years to reach maturity.

Logwood was introduced in to Grand Cayman, probably in the mid-eighteen century.

Logwood – Haematoxylum campechianum

Logwood heartwood is red when freshly cut.

Logwood heartwood is red when freshly cut
Logwood – Haematoxylum campechianum, showing the heartwood
Logwood logs were cut into 3ft lengths

Logwood doesn’t float, Mahogany floats.

Logwood blooms profusely in January and February. The sweetly-scented flowers attract bees.

It has become invasive.

Logwood has become naturalized and invasive in Cayman, displacing native trees

Logwood –

Description—The name of the genus comes from the Greek and refers to the blood-red colour of the heart-wood. Haematoxylon campeachianum is a crookedly-branched, small tree, the branches spiny and the bark rough and dark. The leaves have four pairs of small, smooth leaflets, each in the shape of a heart with the points towards the short stem. The flowers, small and yellow, with five petals, grow in axillary racemes.

Logwood and Brazilwood: Trees That Spawned 2 Nations

by Wayne P. Armstrong (Spring 1992)

Logwood – Haematoxylum campechianum

Brazilwood – Paubrasilia echinata synonym Caesalpinia echinata


Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata)

There are European records of true red dyes during the Middle Ages, primarily from the heartwood of an Asian tree called sappanwood (Caesalpinia sappan). Sappanwood is native to India, Malaya and Sri Lanka, and is cultivated throughout the Asian tropics. The wood was imported into Europe since medieval times, but only in limited quantities. The dye was a beautiful red, the color of burning coals (in Old French and English braise) and was called bresil or brasil by the early Portuguese traders. In 1500, Portuguese ships discovered and claimed the Atlantic side of South America that straddled the equator and the tropic of Capricorn. This massive land was called “Terra de Brasil” and later Brazil, because of the dyewood trees (Caesalpinia echinata) that grew there in abundance. Like the closely related sappanwood, the valuable dye from brazilwood (called brazilin) became a popular coloring agent for cotton, woolen cloth and red ink. As with precious cargoes of gold and jewels, Portuguese ships loaded with brazilwood were favorite targets of marauding buccaneers on the high seas.

Logwood – Haematoxylum campechianum

Meanwhile, the Spanish had discovered another leguminous tree in Yucatan with a deep red heartwood very similar to brazilwood. The tree became known as logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum), and by the late 1500s Spanish ships were exporting large cargoes of the valuable heartwood from the Yucatan coast. At this time it was common practice for British privateers to attack and destroy the Spanish vessels. In his book British Honduras (1883), A. R. Gibbs describes one such privateer, a Captain James, who discovered that the debarked heartwood sold in England for the enormous price of one hundred pounds sterling per ton. English political economist Sir William Petty estimated that the average value of merchandise a ship of the 1600s could carry in a year was 1000 to 1500 pounds sterling. A single load of 50 tons of logwood was worth more than an entire year’s cargo of other merchandise!

There were other natural red and purple dyes used in medieval Europe, including

madder ,


carmine, Tyrian purple, and the lichen dyes orchil and cudbear. Like sappanwood, they were all imported from faraway lands and were very expensive. Since these animal and vegetable extracts were considered to be superior permanent dyes, many English dyers vigorously opposed the cheaper, imported heartwood dyes from Mexico and Central America. Between 1581 and 1662 an Act of Parliament strictly forbade the use of logwood for dyeing. Although anyone violating this law was subject to imprisonment or the pillory, some dyers apparently discovered the colorfast attributes of logwood and used it under other names.

Red Bay

Red Bay was so-called because the sea water was stained by Mahogany logs floating on the water, awaiting shipment to Jamaica.

The reddish-brown color is produced by carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments which are found in the

roots, stems, flowers, fruit, and rarely, in the leaves.

1882 map of Grand Cayman west. Red Bay and Prospect are marked at the eastern end of South West Sound (now called South Sound)
Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands by George S.S. Hirst 1910. Passages through the reef were deeper 200 years ago.
Red Bay, South Sound, looking across to Prospect Point, July 7, 2020
Looking across Red Bay, South Sound, from Prospect Point Road, July 1, 2021.

Queen’s Platinum Jubliee and
Cayman Islands Coat of Arms –
Motto: He Hath Founded It Upon The Seas
Young Mahogany tree in Heroes Square, George Town

A Brief History of the Cayman Islands
by David Wells of the West India Committee
for the Government of the Cayman Islands

Big-Leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany –

Swietenia macrophylla

Big-leaf Mahogany Swietenia macrophylla King

Native to:

Belize, Bolivia, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil West-Central, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Nicaragua, Panamá, Peru

Introduced into:

Andaman Is., Bangladesh, Caroline Is., Cayman Is., Comoros, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Haiti, Jamaica, Laos, Leeward Is., Marianas, Nicobar Is., Puerto Rico, Seychelles, Solomon Is., Thailand, Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vietnam, Windward Is.

Big-leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany – Swietenia macrophylla
Big-leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany – Swietenia macrophylla – fruit, a woody capsule

Big-leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany – Swietenia macrophylla in the Dart Family Park, Grand Cayman. It was blown down by Hurricane Ivan in Sept. 2004.

Notes, References and Links

Cayman Cultural

Cayman history, architecture, step-wells, house-shaped gravestones (grave markers) in Grand Cayman cemeteries, Cayman traditional arts and crafts. Catboats – local woods used catboat construction, Silver Thatch plaiting, gigs, calavans, paintings, Miss Lassie’s house, Wattle and Daub houses and the woods that were used in their construction.

Historic Cayman

1802 Lt. Governor Nugent Letters On The Cayman Islands

Corbet Report

1802 Grand Cayman Census

pp. 8-13

1656 Jamaica – The Settlers From Nevis

pp. 14-16, including Bowden

British Honduras, later called Belize

British Honduras: An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Colony From its Settlement, 1670

British Honduras: An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Colony From its Settlement, 1670
British Honduras: An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Colony From its Settlement, 1670

In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783

by Michael J. Jarvis, 2010


In an exploration of the oceanic connections of the Atlantic world, Michael J. Jarvis recovers a mariner’s view of early America as seen through the eyes of Bermuda’s seafarers. The first social history of eighteenth-century Bermuda, this book profiles how one especially intensive maritime community capitalized on its position “in the eye of all trade.”

Jarvis takes readers aboard small Bermudian sloops and follows white and enslaved sailors as they shuttled cargoes between ports, raked salt, harvested timber, salvaged shipwrecks, hunted whales, captured prizes, and smuggled contraband in an expansive maritime sphere spanning Great Britain’s North American and Caribbean colonies. In doing so, he shows how humble sailors and seafaring slaves operating small family-owned vessels were significant but underappreciated agents of Atlantic integration.

The American Revolution starkly revealed the extent of British America’s integration before 1775 as it shattered interregional links that Bermudians had helped to forge. Reliant on North America for food and customers, Bermudians faced disaster at the conflict’s start. A bold act of treason enabled islanders to continue trade with their rebellious neighbors and helped them to survive and even prosper in an Atlantic world at war. Ultimately, however, the creation of the United States ended Bermuda’s economic independence and doomed the island’s maritime economy.

Merchants and Merchandise in Seventeenth Century Bristol

Bristol Records Society’s Publications

Vol. XIX

Appendix H    p.286

Merchandise imported into Bristol 9 Nov. 1654 – 27 Oct. 1655

Cotton wool (Barbados, Nevis)

Fustic (Barbados)

Ginger (Barbados, Nevis)

Indigo (Barbados, Nevis)

Wild Indigo – Indigofera suffruticosa, native to the Cayman Islands

Wild Indigo – Indigofera suffruticosa

Indigo – Indigofera tinctoria, introduced into the Cayman Islands, native to the Old World, but now naturalized in most warm countries, formally cultivated as a source of Indigo dye.

Wild Indigo – Indigofera suffruticosa

Indigo was not exported from Cayman.

Indigo – Indigofera tinctoria
Indigo – Indigofera tinctoria

St. John’s Indigo Years

While used for one reason or another in ancient cultures for thousands of years, the dye became commercially valuable in the Western hemisphere at the same time that the Caribbean islands were being colonized by Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries.

While short-lived, indigo production, along with tobacco, cocoa, coffee and ginger, dominated the plantation economies from Barbados to Hispaniola a hundred years before sugar and cotton would become the most lucrative crops in the region in the mid 1700s.

…. there is actually no blue color in any of these indigo-bearing plants. The green leaves (and sometimes stems) of “indigo” plants yield a yellow or greenish color that turns blue with the magic of oxidation, especially as induced by man.

Although the growing and harvesting of the plants was not particularly hard work, the processing was neither a pleasant nor healthy enterprise.

Lignum vitae (Barbados, Nevis)

Appendix I     p.288

Merchandise imported into Bristol  29 Sept. 1685 – 28 Sept. 1686

From America and the West Indies

Bristol imports from America and West Indies  29 Sept. 1685 – 28 Sept. 1686

The Trade of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century

Bristol Records Society’s Publications

Vol. XX

Glossary                                    p.192

Index of Persons and Places         p.195

Index of Selected Subjects          p.205

Bristol Harbour c.1850

Bristol harbor, published  c.1850, with ten sailing ships and rowing boats before the channel was filled in 1892–1938. Black and white etching showing the towers of St Stephen’s ChurchSt Augustine the Less Church and Bristol Cathedral,

Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands by George S.S. HIRST, 1910
A History of the Cayman Islands by Neville Williams, 1970
Founded Upon the Seas – A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People, 2003
FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor, 2012

Jamaican Family Search Geneaolgy Research Library Historical Background

Mahogany introduced into India

1795 Mahogany seedlings – Swietenia mahagoni, from Jamaica, were taken by the British to India and planted in the Botanic Gardens of Calcutta. The trees flourished, but several were destroyed in the great cyclone of 1864.


Pimento, Allspice

Pimento, Allspice Tree – Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.


Native to Mexico, Central American and the Caribbean

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.

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

Pimento in Grand Cayman (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

Pimenta dioica GT Oct12-03 AS

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

Pimento dioica Jul11-14_i AS

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

Pimenta dioica bark root Sep18-14_i AS

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

Pimenta dioica Jul12-14 AS

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.

Pimenta dioica frJan15-14_i ASThe green fruits turn black when ripe. George Town, Grand Cayman, Jan. 15, 2014.

Pimenta dioica School Rd Jul21-03 AS3 Pimento trees on School Road, George Town, Grand Cayman July 21, 2003

Pimenta dioica Jun20-06 ASPimento 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.

Pimenta dioica ALT Feb6-09 ASPimento 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.


Click here for more pictures and information:   Jamaican Pimento

Medicinal Plants in the Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands Medicinal and Healing Plants, Bush Medicine

and old-time remedies.

by Ann Stafford, CaymANNature, August 16, 2019

The information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be an endorsement of any of the old-time remedies. Some parts of a plant, ripe or unripe, may heal, while other parts of the same plant may be poisonous. There may be a fine line between kill and cure.

Abrus fr Jul17-11 ASLicorice, John Crow Bead, Rosary Pea, Crab’s Eyes – Abrus precatorius, the seeds contain ABRIN and  are extremely poisonous.

Ricinus communis fr Feb16-14_i_004 ASCastor Oil plant – Ricinus communis, the seeds contain the highly poisonous RICIN and can be fatal if swallowed. Heat inactivates ricin (a protein).

“The claims made for some of the plants may occasionally be justified by their chemical constituents. Some of them are, or have been, in the pharmacopoeias. On the other hand, in many cases the claims either have little justification or remain to be substantiated. Many of the doses used are of an unpleasant and even drastic nature. This may account for their popularity in view of the general impression that medicine must be unpleasant to be efficacious.”

Medicinal Plants of Jamaica by G.F. Asprey and Phyllis Thornton. Reprinted from the West Indian Medical Journal. Vol. 2 No. 4. Vol. 3 No. 1. 1953

Medicinal Plants JAMAICA 1953_Asprey, Thornton


By  F. Asprey, M.Sc., Ph.D. (B’ham.), Professor of Botany, U.C.W.l. and Phyllis Thornton, B.Sc. (Liverpool), Botanist Vomiting Sickness Survey. Attached to Botany Department, U.C.W.I. Reprinted. 86 pages.

CI Caribbean map

Caribbean Sea


decoction – boiled; the liquor resulting from concentrating the essence of a substance by heating or boiling, especially a medicinal preparation made from a plant.

dioecious – male and female flowers grow on separate plants.

infusion – steeped; a drink, remedy, or extract prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid.

monoecious – separate male and female flowers grow on the same plant.

Cayman Common Names

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.

RosemaryCroton linearis is a common culturally significant Cayman shrub. It is called Pineland Croton or Granny-Bush in the US). It should not be confused with the culinary woody, perennial herb,  Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis, native to the Mediterranean region, or the variegated leaf landscaping shrub, Croton – Codiaeum variegatum.

Croton linearis, Anaea cubana egg Feb.4-04 AS


1938 Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands HERBARIUM

Links to photo albums:

CaymANNature Flora photos

CaymANNature Flora_2 photos

Cayman Medicinal Plants and Cultural Uses

Wilfred Kings

Wilfred Kings was invited to join the 1938 Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Cayman Islands by Gemmell Alexander on March 21, 1938 in the capacity of Botanist, as their Botanist was unable to join the Expedition at last moment.

Report on the Botanical Collections

from Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman

Wilfred Kings    Sept. 1938

Grand Cayman               May 13 – May 17 and June 11 – Aug.10Grand Cayman map

Cayman Brac                 May 18 – May 28

Little Cayman                May 28 – June 11

LC CB Sister Is map Acorn r

Kings saw Mr Alston at the British Museum (Natural History), explained the situation, and that he was not a Specialist in any capacity. They were satisfied that he should go merely as a Collector.

Nat. History Museum, LondonNatural History Museum, London, England

Mr Charles Elton and Dr Hobby in a interview at the Hope Department of Entomology, Oxford, were also willing for Kings to work in that capacity. Charles ELTON

Lawrence Sheriff School, Rugby, Governors granted Kings a leave of absence for the term, where he was the Geography Master. Kings eventually joined the party in Grand Cayman on May 13, 1938.

The Collection, as far as the Flowering Plants and Ferns were concerned, was almost entirely in duplicate.

FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. PROCTOR, 2012 Extracts from p.19 and 21

‘The Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Cayman Islands, a party of five under the leadership of W.G. Alexander, carried out fieldwork from April 17 to August 27, 1938. The primary objects of attention were plants, insects, reptiles, and fishes, but nearly all animal taxa received some attention. The official botanist of this group was Wilfred W. KINGS, who joined the expedition about a month later than the others; he had been especially recruited from Lawrence Sheriff School, Rugby, because Oxford had no available botanist at that time. Before his arrival, some plant-collecting was done by C. Bernard LEWIS, whose interests were otherwise chiefly zoological. Kings gathered a large collection of material from all three islands; until recently, these excellent specimens constituted the major basis of our knowledge of the Cayman flora. The main set of the Kings collection is deposited at the British Museum (Natural History) in London, while duplicate material can be found in several other herbaria.

Lewis, then an Oxford student (a Rhodes Scholar from the United States), later became Director of the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston; he collected further Cayman  plant specimens during the 1940s. His continued interest in the Cayman Islands has been a constant source of encouragement during the writing of this book.’

‘Collectors of Cayman Islands plants

Wilfred W. KINGS   May-Aug. 1938. 645 specimens seen in Herbaria at British Museum, (Natural History), Gray Herbarium of Harvard University and Missouri Botanical Garden.

Bernard LEWIS Apr. 1938, Dec. 1944, Mar. 1945, Dec. 1945. 45 specimens seen in Herbaria at British Museum and Institute of Jamaica.’

TROPICOS Missouri Botanical Garden, Collector W. Kings 1938

Oxford University Expedition1938

 Report on botanical collections from the Cayman Islands


extract:  Plants of reputed Medicinal Value

Medicinal Plants Kings_1938_p8 _top

Myriopus volubilis = Tourne. v Aug.24-10 JL AS

Medicinal Plants Kings_1938_p8_bottom

Medicinal Plants Kings_1938_p9_top

Harmful plants

Medicinal Plants Kings_1938_p9_harmful

Comocladia dentata CWR Sep5-13_i ASMaiden Plum – Comocladia dentata. DO NOT TOUCH – poisonous sap, skin irritant

Kings GC 115, Lewis 3612.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.487. Pl.44.

A to Z Cayman common name

Aloe Vera, Alloways, Bitter Aloes, Sempervivie, Sempervirens, Sinkle Bible – Aloe vera

Kings GC 122

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.174

Aloe vera C.Crossing Feb.17-19 AS

Aloe vera McC_1

Aloe vera McC_2

Aloe vera McC_3

Aloe Vera gel Sep.6-19 Kirks r

Aunt Eliza Bush (Twining Soldierbush)Myriopus volubilis syn. Tournefortia volubilis

Shrubby vine

GC 140, LC 12.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.559

Myriopus volubilis = Tourne v Jun.28-02 AS

Aunt Eliza Bush LMcC

Myriopus volubilis = Tourne. v, Malvaviscus arb, Nov.5-15 AS

Basil, Tea Basil, Pimento Basil – Ocimum campechianum syn. O. micranthum

Kings GC 213; LC 6.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.591

Ocimum campechianum Nov.10-02

Basil Ocimum camp = Micra LMcC

Ocimum campechianum Jan17-10 AS

Ocimum campechianum = O. micranthum

Basil, Sweet BasilOcimum basilicum

GC 135

Ocimum sp Basil Oct.4-19 EllaSweet Basil – Ocimum basilicum,  very aromatic, growing in a Cayman garden, Oct.4, 2019

Basil Sweet Ocimum basilicum LMcC

Ocimum sp Basil Oct.5-19

Bay VineIpomoea pes-caprae brasiliensis

A trailing vine, pantropical on sandy seashores.

The sticky upper surfaces of the young leaves were placed between sore toes, Kings 1938.

Kings GC 67; LC 18; CB 19.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.552

Ipomoea pes-caprae Aug.5-18 AS

Birch, Red Birch; (Gumbo Limbo – US) – Bursera simaruba

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.484

Bursera simaruba May11-17 AS

Birch. McCubbin

Bursera simaruba bark Jul.18-04 AS

Birch dominoes Mar.05

BroadleafCordia sebestena var. caymanensis

Kings GC 63; LC 4; CB 89.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.567

Cordia sebestena var caymanensis May31-02 ASCordia sebestena fruits gr May 31-02 ASBroadleaf – green, unripe fruits

Broadleaf, McCubbin

Cordia sebestena fruits white May 31-02 ASBroadleaf – white, ripe fruits

Castor-oil Plant, Castor Bean Plant, – Ricinus communis

Kings GC 128, 145; LC 108; CB 80, 81.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.457

Ricinus communis fls fr Mar17-15_139 AS

Castor Bean McCubbin_1_t

Castor Bean McCubbin_2

Castor Bean Plant, Lorna McCubbin 1995

Facts about Ricin

Cat ClawVolkameria aculeata syn. Clerodendrum aculeatum

A shrub with spiny, arching branches and white flowers. The leaves were boiled as a remedy for coughs.

Kings GC 133, 148.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.584.

Volkameria aculeata syn. Clero acu May26-11 AS

Caymania, Sweetheart Desmodium adscendens

The Cayman Islands have several species of Desmodium –  D. gangeticum, D. triflorum – Creeping Tick-trefoil, D. incanum – Chick Weed, D. tortuosum – Twisted Tick-trefoil, D. adscendens – Caymania, Sweetheart.

The seedpods have hooked hairs (the inspiration for Velcro) and cling to clothing, humans, animals, birds – hence the name ‘Sweetheart’.

D. adscendens (Sw.) DC. (accepted name) range: tropical South and Central America, the Caribbean and tropical Africa. It is a lawn weed in Cayman.

Desmodium adscendens fl, fr Nov22-09 AS

Desmodium adscendens fl fr Nov22-09 ASCaymania, Sweetheart – Dedsmodium adscendens, showing flowers and seedpods.

Desmodium adscendens – Useful Tropical Plants

‘The plant has become a weed in many areas of the tropics and is often considered to be invasive. Because of the abundant small uncinate hairs on most species, the seedpods cling most tenaciously to clothing, to any part of the human body, and also to the feathers and hair of various animals, thus ensuring a wide dispersal of the plants.
Plants can flower and produce fruit all year round.

This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

In Cayman, it is marketed as ‘Caymania’.

Desmodium adsc Caymania Sep.3-19

Caymania – Desmodium adscendens

Desm caymania about

Desm caymania about_2

Cerasee – see Serasee – Momordica charantia

Momordia charantia - Serasee Nov.30-01 AS

Cochineal, Scotchineal, (Prickly Pear) – Nopalea cochenillifera syn. Opuntia cochenillifera

Kings GC 340; CB 33.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.259

Nopalea cochenillifera Cochineal Sep.3-06 AS

CoconutCocos nucifera

Kings CB 52, 53.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.165

Coconut Botanic Park lake Jul16-17

Cocos nucifera fr Sep.23-19

Coconut Oil $9.80

Cow-itchMucuna pruriens

Kings GC 228.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.371

Mucuna pruriens Cow-itch lvs Aug.23-18 AS

Mucuna pruriens pods Feb16-04 AS

Cow Tongue, Long Strap Fern – Campyloneurum phyllitidis syn. Polypodium phyllitidis

A fern that grows on trunks or mossy bases of trees, in sheltered woodlands, uncommon in the Cayman Islands. The leaves were boiled for colds.

Kings F 2, F 2a, F 26, F 41, F 42.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.53. Fig.11, Pl.3

Campyloneurum phyllitidis = Poly phyll Jan.5-03 AS

Campyloneurum phyllitidis = Poly phyll, Vanilla Oct.17-07 AS

Cure-For-AllPluchea carolinensis

A bushy shrub, used as a tea for colds, and hot as a poultice for strains or dislocations. Usage not recorded in Cayman.)

Kings GC 357.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.645.

Pluchea carolinensis fls Apr.6-17

DandelionSenna occidentalis syn. Cassia occidentalis 

A shrub, the seeds were parched or roasted, ground and used to supplement coffee or as a coffee substitute.

Root dried and used for loss of appetite (Kings 1938)

Kings GC 220.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.388.

Senna occidentalis Nov.23-02 AS

Senna occidentalis Jan.3-02 AS

Dashalong, Ramgoat Dashalong, Cat-bush, (Yellow Alder) – Turnera ulmifolia

Kings GC 391;  LC 102;  CB 25

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.320, Fig.113.

Tunera ulmifolia Jan11-13_i AS

Daslalong. McCubbin

Dogwood, (Fish Poison Tree) – Piscidia piscipula

A small tree. The bark, especially of the roots, has narcotic and poisonous properties. In some places, it was used to relieve toothache, and in Jamaica, to cure mange in dogs.  The crushed bark and leaves, thrown into water, would stupefy most nearby fish, which floated to the surface.

Kings GC 318.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.378, Pl.29.

Piscidia piscipula fls Apr.28-04 North Side AS

Piscidia piscipula fl Apr25-04 AS

Dogwood McCubbin

Piscidia piscipula fl fr Apr28-04 AS

Piscidia piscipula fr May30-16_157 AS

Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, Paperbark tree –  Melaleuca quinquenervia (not Eucalyptus globulus)

They belong to the same Family: MYRTACEAE.

Melaleuca not Eucalyptus globulus Jan.7-18 ASThe tree over-hanging Shedden Road, long thought to be Eucalyptus globulus, has been identified as Melaleuca quinquenervia.  Eucalyptus Building on the right.

Melaleuca, not Eucalyptus

Cayman Compass Aug. 21, 2018

Melaleuca quinquenervia Jan.7-18 AS

Melaleuca quinquenervia lvs fls Apr.4-12 ASFlowers and leaves of Melaleuca quinquenervia.

Melaleuca quinquenervia Jul.15-11 AS

Melaleuca quinquenervia trees are native to New Guinea and Australia; they are widely established in Central and South Florida, where they have become invasive.

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. 2019-08-30.

‘Edible Uses

The essential oil obtained from the leaves is used as a flavour component in foods such as baked goods, candy, condiments, dairy desserts, meat and meat products, non-alcoholic beverages and relishes.

An infusion of the leaves and flowers is used to make a tea. Steeping the flower in water is said to impart an agreeable sweetness to the water. The bark is used as a wrapping when baking foods.


Cajeput oil obtained from leaves and twigs of this and related species by steam distillation is used in medicine and local remedies.

The foliar leaf oils of M. Quinquenervia fall into 2 classes, based on their chemical composition. One chemotype is rich in nerolidol (90%); the other is 1,8-cineole (30-70%) and sometimes viridiflorol (0-60%). It is the cineole-rich chemotype that is the source of niaouli oil, which is produced in New Caledonia. Niaouli oil is similar to cajuput oil in composition and medicinal use.

Melaleuca, Eucalytpus Tea Tree Oil Sep.13-18Tea Tree Oil (Melaeuca alternifolia), closely related to Melaleuca quinquenervia, and Eucalyptus Oil (Eucalyptus globulus) on the shelf of a local supermarket.

Cajeput oil is produced by steam distillation of fresh leaves and twigs of the Cajeput tree (Melaleuca leucadendra) and the Paperbark tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia). Don’t confuse cajeput oil with Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) or Niauli oil (Melaleuca viridiflora).

Fever Grass, Lemon Grass – Cymbopogon citratus

Cymbopogon citratus Fever Grass Mar.16-18 AS

Fever Grass. McCubbin

Cymbopogon Lemon Grass Sep.11-19 Kirks $

Cymbopogon citratus

Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. 2019-08-30.


Lemon grass is a bitter, aromatic, cooling herb that increases perspiration and relieves spasms. The essential oil obtained from the plant is an effective antifungal and antibacterial. The essential oil contains about 70% citral, plus citronellal – both of these are markedly sedative.
Internally, the plant is used principally as a tea in the treatment of digestive problems, where it relaxes the muscles of the stomach and gut, relieving cramping pains and flatulence.. It is particularly useful for children, for whom it is also used to treat minor feverish illnesses.
Externally, especially in the form of the extracted essential oil, the plant is a very effective treatment for a range of skin conditions including athlete’s foot, ringworm, lice and scabies. It is also applied to ease the pain of arthritic joints.’

Fowl Berry, Blood BerryRivina humilis

A perennial herb, with crimson berries. Fowl Berry leaves were used for treating ringworm. They were heated over the fire, rubbed together and applied to the affected area.

Kings  GC 71;  CB 47, 75, 101.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.248. Pl. 13.

Rivina humilis fl, fr Nov.30-01 AS

Bloodberry Plant is poisonous

Poisonous – The entire plant is poisonous, especially the leaves. Although birds will eat the berries, they are also somewhat poisonous to humans.

GoatweedCapraria biflora

Kings GC 65a.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.598

Capraria biflora fl, fr Aug.16-19 AS

Click here:  Useful Tropical Plants – Goatweed – Capraria biflora

for uses and cautions.

Headache BushQuadrella cynophallophora syn. Capparis cynophallophora

Kings GC 142.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.333. Fig.118, Pl. 23.

Quadrella Headache Bush fls May14-17 AS

Headache Bush. McCubbin

Quadrella cynophallophora = Capparis cynophallophora Mar.28-15 AS

Quadrella cyno fr Sep.12-16_i AS

Heart Plant, Duppy Gun, Minnie Root – Ruellia tuberosa

Herb with numerous tuberous-thickened roots. These were used in a mixed tea for blood disorders.

Kings GC 103.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.611, Fig.229.

Ruellia tuberosa Jun.18-05 AS

Ruellia tuberosa May25-03 AS

Duppy Gun – the capsules shoot the seeds out explosively when wet.

Heart Plant McCubbin

Ruellia tuberosa roots Sep.10-19

Ruellia tuberosa is a Ayurvedic Medicinal Plant

Ruellia tuberosa

Medicinal applications
In Suriname’s traditional medicine it is used as an anthelmintic, against joint pains and strained muscles; bladder diseases.
Also used as an abortifacient, The root is used against kidney diseases and for whooping cough. An infusion is used for cleansing the blood.
The root and leaf for alleviating retention of urine.
The leaves contain apigenin and luteolin while the seed oil yield myristic, capril and lauric acids.

Horseradish Tree, Maronga – Moringa oleifera

see Moringa

Juniper, Jennifer – Suriana maritima

Kings GC 22, 264; LC 85; CB 57.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.475, Fig.172, Pl.42.

Suriana maritima Blow Holes Jan.23-04 AS

Juniper McCubbin

Suriana maritima Skipper Jan31-08 RRA

Leaf-of-Life, Curiosity Plant – Kalanchoe pinnata syn. Bryophllum pinnatum

Kings GC 35a, 97a, 117, 146; CB 69.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.352.

Kalanchoe pinnata lvs Feb.23-15_i_003 AS

Leaf-of-Life info_1

Leaf-of-Life info_2

Kalanchoe fls Leaf of Life Feb10-06 AS

Lemon Grass, see Fever GrassCymbopogon citratus

Cymbopogon Lemon grass Nov.3-13 AS

Licorice, John Crow Bead, Rosary Pea, Crab’s Eyes – Abrus precatorius

The roots of this pantropical, sometimes high-climbing vine, with pink flowers, contain glycerrhizin, which also occurs in commercial licorice. The seeds, scarlet with black spot, contain abrin and are extremely poisonous. The poison acts only through the blood stream, a small amount introduced into a wound could be fatal. However, it is destroyed by digestive juices and by boiling.

Kings GC 182a; CB 87.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.366, Fig.132, Pl.27.

Facts about Abrin

The seeds were used to make jewelry and as weights by jewel merchants,

2 seeds = 1 carat (1 carat weighs 1/24 oz.)

FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor 2012 p.366. Fig.132, Pl.27.

Abrus precatorius Mar.21-19 Liguinea AS

Licorice, Wild L.McC 1995

LimeCitrus X aurantifolia

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.493.

Citrus aurantifolia Jun.28-02

Lime McCubbin

Moringa, Maronga, Horseradish Tree  – Moringa oleifera

Kings GC 231

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.339

Moringa oleifera fls fr HSA Jun.2-19 AS

Moringa oleifera Aug.11-19 AS

Moringa oleifera supplement K $19.99 cr

Moringa – WebMD

Overview Information

“Moringa is a plant that is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. It is also grown in the tropics. The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and root are used to make medicine.

Moringa is used for “tired blood” (anemia); arthritis and other joint pain (rheumatism); asthma; cancer; constipation; diabetes; diarrhea; epilepsy; stomach pain; stomach and intestinal ulcers; intestinal spasms; headache; heart problems; high blood pressure; kidney stones; fluid retention; thyroid disorders; and bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections.

Moringa is also used to reduce swelling, increase sex drive (as an aphrodisiac), prevent pregnancy, boost the immune system, and increase breast milk production. Some people use it as a nutritional supplement or tonic.

Moringa is sometimes applied directly to the skin as a germ-killer or drying agent (astringent). It is also used topically for treating pockets of infection (abscesses), athlete’s foot, dandruff, gum disease (gingivitis), snakebites, warts, and wounds.

Oil from moringa seeds is used in foods, perfume, and hair care products, and as a machine lubricant.

Side Effects & Safety

Moringa is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth and used appropriately. The leaves, fruit, and seeds might be safe when eaten as food. However, it’s important to avoid eating the root and its extracts. These parts of the plant may contain a toxic substance that can cause paralysis and death. Moringa has been used safely in doses up to 6 grams daily for up to 3 weeks.”

Moringa tea Jul.6-18

Mulberry, Hog Apple, NoniMorinda citrifolia

Kings LC 112.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.628.

Morinda citrifolia, Noni fr Jul.16-17 AS

Morinda citrifolia Mulberry L.McCubbin Mar.15, 1995

Naseberry, Neesberry, Sapodilla – Manilkara sapota

Tree with copius white latex. A tea was made from the leaves to treat the common cold.

Kings GC 347.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.346.

Manilkara sapota – Useful Tropical Plants

Old Lady Coat TailPriva lappulacea

Kings GC 87, 153.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.573.

Priva lappulacea fr Aug.21-19 AS

Old Lady Coat Tail Priva lappulacea McCubbin Mar.15, 1995

Pepper CinnamonCanella winterana

The bark, and silky leaves, when broken, are very pleasantly, distinctively, aromatic.

Critically Endangered, culturally significant, Cayman Islands native tree. The wood was used to make Catboat sculls (oars).

Native to Florida & the West Indies, south to Barbados

Kings  LC 15;  CB 48.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.225. Fig.77, Pl.10

Canella winterana Jun.14-17 AS

Pepper Cinnamon L.McCubbin Mar.1, 1995

Useful Tropical Plants – Canella winterana

Canella winterana fr Jan12-07_tPepper Cinnamon – velvety, crimson berries are eaten by birds

Periwinkle, Burying-Ground Flower, Ramgoat Rose – Catharanthus roseus syn. Vinca rosea

An erect herb, originally described form Madagascar, now cultivated and escaping in nearly all warm countries.

Kings GC 51, 221, 222; CB 60.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.519, Fig.191.

Catharanthus roseus pink May 26-19 AS

Periwinkle McCubbin

Catharanthus roseus white May26-16 AS

PomegranatePunica granatum

Not native to the Cayman Islands, it is sometimes planted horticulturally.

Kings GC 295.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.411.

Punica granatum Pomegranate fls Jun.30-02 AS

Pomegranate McCubbin

Providence Mint, Sage – Lippia alba

Kings CB 51.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p

Lippia alba Apr.23-15_300 AS

Providence Mint McCubbin

Quacori / Quacou, Velvet Leaf – Cissampelos pareira

Dioecious, slender, twining, often high-climing, vine.

Leaves used in cases of fish poisoning (Oxford Expedition).

Velvety leaves used for shining glass lampshades (Boosie Arch).


Kings GC 120.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.235

(Note: Velvet-leaf is the Cayman common name for the shrub Melochia tomentosa.

Kings GC 423; LC 95; CB 15).

Cissampelos pareira Sep.13-16 Liguinea AS

Cissampelos pareira fr Oct.22-06 AS

Cissampelos pareira – Useful Tropical Plants

Extract:   “People take an infusion of the bitter rhizome, and sometimes of leaves and stems, to cure gastro-intestinal complaints such as diarrhoea, dysentery, ulcers, colic, intestinal worms and digestive complaints, and also urogenital problems such as menstrual problems, venereal diseases, infertility, uterine bleeding and threatening miscarriage.  rhizome decoction or pounded leaves are also widely taken or externally applied as a febrifuge and stomachic, and is employed against cough, heart trouble, rheumatism, jaundice, snake bites and skin infections such as sores, boils, scabies and childhood eczema.

Juice from macerated leaves and stem is mixed with a little water and used as an anti-conjunctivitis or as a treatment for sore eyes. Leaves and stem are macerated in water an used as an anti-infective agent.”

Red Top, Hippa Cassini, (Scarlet Milkweed, Bloodflower) – Asclepias curassavica

Perennial herb, a wildflower found in pastures, said to be poisonous to livestock. Larval food plant of Milkweed butterflies, Danaus spp – Queens, Monarchs and Soldiers in Cayman.

Kings GC 152, 328.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.527, Fig.195.

Asclepias curassavica Nov.3-06 AS

Asclepias curassavica – Bloodflower

Rosemary (Cayman and Jamaica) Croton linearis ;  (Pineland Croton or Granny-Bush – US) Rosemary is a dioecious, pleasantly  aromatic shrub, a multipurpose plant. The leaves were steeped to make tea for striction,  as a tonic, boiled to make a tea for diabetes or smoked as tobacco to relieve asthma.

Kings GC 52, GC 392;  LC 9;  CB 49.

FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor 2012 p.452. Fig.163. Pl.38. Note: The Cayman shrub, Rosemary, should not be confused with culinary woody, perennial herb,  Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), native to the Mediterranean region, or the variegated leaf landscaping shrub, Croton (Codiaeum variegatum).

Croton linearis Feb.11-19 AS

Croton linearis Rosemary L.McCubbin

Rosemary _ Rosmarinus officinalis Sep.11-19 KirksCulinary Mediterranean Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis, grown in Cayman and for sale in local supermarket.

Sage, BlackVarronia bullata ssp. humilis, syn. Cordia globosa var. humilis

A sprawling, much branched shrub. The little, white flowers attract butterflies.

Kings GC 126a.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.570.

Cordia globosa fr Jul.24-17 AS

Sage, Black Cordia globosa McCubbin Mar.15, 1995

Cordia globosa Sep.28-19 AS

Varronia bullata = Cordia globosa lvs Oct.3-19 AS

Sage, White, Sweet Sage – Lantana camara syn. Lantana urticifolia

Kings GC 112, 314.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p

Lantana camara fl & fr Jun28-02 AS

Sage, White Lantana camara McCubbin Mar.15, 1995

Lantana camara Jun2-02 AS

Scorn-the-Ground, Mistletoe – Phoradendron spp.

Small, parasitic shrubs on broad-leaved, woody plants. There are 3 species in the Cayman Islands: P. quadrangulare, P. trinervium, P. rubrum. Berries (yellow, red or orange) used for female ailments.

Phoradendron Feb.5-19 GT ASScorn-the-Ground – Phoradendron sp. on Cabbage Tree (Blolly) – Guapira discolor, in George Town, Grand Cayman.

Scorn-the-Ground, Mistletoe – Phoradendron quadrangulare

Kings GC 14, 150, 365, 388?; CB 91

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p

Phoradendron quad Jun26-09 LV_680 AS

Scorn-the-Ground, Mahogany Mistletoe – Phoradendron rubrum

Kings GC 165; LC 36, 43.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p

Phoradendron BBH Jan.28-13_i AS

Scorn-the-Ground McCubbin

Scorpion Tail, Bastard Chelamella – Heliotropium angiospermum   White flowers

Lewis 3856; Kings LC 41; CB 67

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p

Heliotropium angiospermum Mar.5-17 AS

Scorpion Tail McCubbin

Scorpion TailHeliotropium indicum   Annual, blue flowers

Kings GC 275.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p

Heliotropium indicum May17-09 AS

Heliotropium indicum Apr29-09 AS

Sea BeanCanavalia rosea

Trailing or twining vine, leaves have 3 leaflets, flowers pink or rose, fading to bluish-purple. Flowers may be used as flavouring.

Pantropical, especially sandy areas near the sea.

Kings GC 68; LC 23; CB 13

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.372.

Canavalia rosea fl fr, Jan.11-04 AS

Canavalia rosea – Useful Tropical Plants

‘The root is diuretic. It contains a bitter and purgative principle. It is steeped in vinegar and used for gargles.
An infusion of the seed is used as a purgative..
The juice from the petioles is applied to puncture wounds from thorns or other sharp objects.
A decoction of the leaves is used in the treatment of rheumatism.
A paste of the leaves is used as a treatment for boils.’
The dried leaves have been used as an entheogen, a component to some ancient rituals.
The seeds are ingested or smoked with the dried leaves as a marijuana substitute.
There is an increasing in following for its use as a marijuana substitute.

The young seeds and pods are edible when cooked. The mature seeds may be toxic.

Sea LavenderTournefortia gnaphalodes syn. Argusia gnaphalodes

Kings GC2 63; LC 56; CB 102.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p

Tournefortia gn = Argusia gnaphalodes Pedro Feb16-14_i AS

Sea Lavender McCubbin

Sempervivie, Sempervirens, Sinkle Bible – see Aloe Vera, Alloways, Bitter Aloes – Aloe vera

Aloe vera Aug.30-19 AS

Serasee,  Cerasee – Momordica charantia

Climbing vine with tendrils, yellow flowers, fruit bright orange, seeds embedded in crimson pulp.

GC 223.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.330

Momordia charantia fr aug12-12_007 AS

Serasee _1 L.McCubbin Mar.15, 1995

Serasee _2 L.McCubbin Mar.15, 1995

SoursopAnnona muricata

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.224.

Annona muricata fr. Jun.1-03 AS

Soursop McCubbin

Strong Back, Kidney Bush, Wild Coffee – Psychotria nervosa

Kings GC 316.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p

Psychotria nervosa Apr23-05 Agape AS

Strong Back McCubbin

Psychotria nervosa fr Mar19-17 CWR AS

TamarindTamarindus indica

Kings GC 81; CB 6.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.393.

Tamarindus indica Mar17-02 AS

Tamarind McCubbin

Tamarindus indica Aug.6-19 AS

Tea Banker, Mint – Pectis caymanensis

Critically Endangered mat-like herb with a woody taproot and bright yellow flowers. The leaves have a distinctive, lovely lemony scent.

Kings GC 58

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.663, Fig.255, Pl.64.

Pectis caymanensis Oct.30-02 AS

Pectis, Capt Carl Bush house Oct.30-02 AS

Pectis caymanensis Capt Carl Bush Oct. 30-02

Cayman Islands Department of Environment FLICKER Bulletin No. 4, Dec. 2009,         Tea Banker – Pectis caymanenisis pp.4-8:

Click here:  Flicker_4 Dec 2009 Pectis

Tea Banker, Mint   Pectis caymanensis (Urb.) Rydb. 1916 . Synonyms: Pectis cubensis of Hitchcock, 1893, not Griseb., 1866  Pectis cubensis var. caymanensis Urb.,1907   Family: ASTERACEAE  (COMPOSITAE)

History Tea Banker 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.’ 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.

Plantae Utowanae 1898-1899


The Antillean Cruise of the Yacht Utowanae

Plants collected in Bermuda, Porto Rico, St. Thomas, Culebras, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Cuba, The Caymans, Cozumel, Yucatan and the Alacran Shoals

by Charles Frederick Millspaugh MD, Curator of Botany, Field Museum, Chicago

Dec. 1898 to March 1899

Pectis p.109

Pectis caymanensis PIX AS Oct-06

Tea Banker McCubbin

Pectis habitat SS Dec1-13_i AS

Pectis caymanesis r_600 PIX AS Dec2-06

Thistle, Thorn Thistle, Poppy Thistle, Yellow Prickly Poppy –  Argemone mexicana

Kings GC 129, 161.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p. 236

Argemone mexicana opp Ugland Mar.22-19

Thistle, Poppy Thistle McCubbin

Argemone mexicana Feb.17-19 AS

Thorn Apple, JimsonweedDatura stramonium

‘Grows as a weed everywhere. The leaves are dried in the sun and smoked as cigarettes by asthmatical subjects. Its medicinal properties have been so frequently demonstrated all over the world that it is unnecessary to enter into further description.’

Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands by George S.S. Hirst, published in 1910, reprinted in 1967, p.373.

George Stephenson Shirt Hirst was born in Sindh, India, in 1872 and died 1912, age 40. He was both Commissioner and Medical Officer of the Cayman Islands from 1907-1912. Hirst Road is named after him.’

Datura stramonium – Wiki


Thorn Apple – “leaves dried and smoked by asthmatical subjects; known throughout the world.” An Adventurer’s Guide to the Cayman Islands, the Islands Time Forgot, by George I. Hudson 1967.

Tittie Molly; Coastal Spurge – Euphorbia mesembryanthemifolia syn.Chamaesyce mesembryanthemifolia

A subwoody herb or miniature shrub that grows on sandy seashores or in ironshore pockets. All parts of the plant are poisonous and can be fatal if eaten.

The white latex from a broken stem was used to remove warts.

Kings GC 23, 272;  LC 93;  CB 26.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.468.

Euphorbia mesembryanthemifolia Aug.8-19 AS

Tittie Molly McCubbin

Euphorbia mesembryanthemifolia Jan11-04 AS

Tobacco Berry, Wild Tobacco, Snake Berry – Crossopetalum rhacoma

Crossopetalum rhacoma EE Aug.8-10 AS

Crossopetalum rhacoma Feb28-14_i AS

Vervine, Worry Vine, (Blue Bush); (Porter Weed) – Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

A tea made from it is said to foam like porter.

Leaves OPPOSITE or whorled, an annual weed of open waste places & dry sandy thickets & clearings. Larval food plant of Caribbean Buckeye butterfly – Junonia genoveva & nectar flower for several butterflies.

Kings GC 121 (Water Vine), GC 290, GC 291.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.573, Fig. 213,  Pl.55.

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis Nov13-13

Vervine L.McCubbin Mar.1995

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis SS Feb.17-19 AS

Vitex, Chaste Tree, Monk’s Pepper, Lilac Butterfly Bush – Vitex agnus-castus

native to Mediterranean Europe and Central Asia, grown horticulturally in Cayman.

The peppercorn-sized fruits and other parts of the plant are used as a herbal remedy to treat a variety of ailments.The flowers attract butterflies.

Vitex agnus-castus Sep.15-19 AS

Vitex agnus-castus Sep.6-19 Kirks rVitex (Monk’s Pepper) peppercorn-like fruits are sold in Cayman.

What is Vitex Agnus-Castus?

‘The Vitex agnus-castus fruit, also known as chasteberry or monk’s pepper, is about the size of a peppercorn. It’s produced by the chaste tree, which acquired its name because its fruit was likely used to decrease men’s libido during the Middle Ages.’

Vitex agnus-castus WebMd

‘Overview – Uses – Side effects – Interactions – Dosing

Vitex agnus-castus tree is a shrub that is native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia. The shrub has long, finger-shaped leaves, blue-violet flowers, and dark purple berries. The fruit and seed are used to make medicine.’

Vitex - Buckeye butterflies Nov.22-04 ASBuckeye butterflies nectaring on Vitex, Lilac Butterfly Bush, after Hurricane Ivan, 2004.

Water Hyssop, Herb of GraceBacopa monnieri

Leaves opposite, fleshy; stems creeping, rooting at the nodes, much branched and forming mats. Flowers pale blue, mauve or white. It grows in wet pastures, damp lawns and beside fresh or brackish pools, is widespread in both New and Old World Tropics and has many different common names around the world.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012  p.601

Bacopa monnieri fls Jun25-15 Safehaven_i AS

Bacopa monnieri hasn’t been recorded as a medicinal plant in Cayman.

It is a known larval food plant of the White Peacock butterfly (Anartia jatrophae), but in the Cayman Islands this butterfly’s larval food plant is unknown.

Bacopa monnieri is used in Ayurvedic traditional medicine to improve memory and to treat various ailments.

Water Vine – (see Vervine)

Leaves used to induce vomiting.

Kings GC 121.

Wiry Vine

Leaves crushed and juice taken for Malaria.

Kings GC 7.

Wormwood, Running Wormwood, Geranium – Ambrosia hispida

Kings GC 260, 319; LC 25, 26.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.647.

Ambrosia Pedro bluff Aug.7-17

Wormwood McCubbin

Ambrosia hispida Aug.7-17 Pedro AS

Ambrosia hispida Mar.25-15 AS

Yellow Root, Rhubarb Root – Morinda royoc

Kings LC 112.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor, 2012 p.628.

Morinda royoc fl fr Jun.20-08 AS

Yellow Root McCubbin

Morinda royoc fl fr May31-19 AS

Morinda royoc root Sep.11-19 AS

Harmful Plants in Cayman


Look Don't Touch_1 Sep19-06 Jul-10

Look Don't Touch text_1 r

Look Don't Touch_2 Sep19-06 Jul-10

Look Don't Touch text_2 r

Licorice, John Crow Bead, Rosary Pea, Crab’s Eyes – Abrus precatorius

Look Don't Touch text_3 r

Chionanthus post Lorna in cottage Jan.19-03Lorna McCubbin in Cousin Cora’s Cottage, Boggy Sand Road, West Bay. She compiled HEALING PLANTS of the CAYMAN ISLANDS, March 15, 1995.

Proctor MT Apr6-04

George R. Proctor

FLORA of the Cayman Islands

Red List book 2008


Adams, C.D.,  Flowering Plants of Jamaica, (1972), University of the West Indies

Adams, C.D., The Blue Mahoe and Other Bush, (1971), McGaw-Hill

Burton, Frederic J., Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands  The Red List, (2008), Kew

Carrington, Sean, Wild Plants of Barbados (1993), McMillan Caribbean

Cayman Islands Herbarium at the National Trust for the Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands National Archive

Hirst, George S.S.,  Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands, (1910)

Honychurch, Penelope N., Caribbean Wild Plants and their Uses, (1986), Macmillan Education Ltd

Kings, W., Report on the Botanical Collections, Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Cayman Islands (1938)

Levy, Jewel, Old-time bush medicine a treasured tradition, 2016, Cayman Compass

McCubbin, Lorna, Healing Plants of the Cayman Islands, (1993)

Proctor, George R.,  Flora of the Cayman Islands, (2012),  Kew

Taylor, Walter Kingsley,  Florida Wildflowersin Their Natural Communities (1998), University Press of Florida

Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern.

by P. Ann van B. Stafford, August 16, 2019

Cayman Islands History

The Cayman Islands were first sighted by European explorers on 10 May, 1503, owing to a chance wind that blew Christopher Columbus’ ship off course. On his fourth trip to the New World, Columbus was en route to the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) when his ship was thrust westward toward “two very small and low islands, full of tortoises (turtles), as was all the sea all about, insomuch that they looked like little rocks, for which reason these islands were called Las Tortugas.”

The two islands were Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. A 1523 map showing all three Islands gave them the name lagartos, meaning alligators or large lizards, but by 1530 the name Caymanas was being used. It is derived from the Carib Indian word for the marine crocodile, which is now known to have lived in the Islands. This name, or a variant, has been retained ever since.

An early English visitor was Sir Francis Drake, who on his 1585-86 voyage to these waters reported seeing “great serpents called Caymanas, like large lizards, which are edible.” It was the Islands’ ample supply of turtle, however, that made them a popular calling place for ships sailing the Caribbean and in need of meat for their crews. This began a trend that eventually denuded local waters of the turtle, compelling the local turtle fishermen to go further afield to Cuba and the Miskito Cays in search of their catch.

The first recorded settlements were located on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, during the 1661-71 tenure of Sir Thomas Modyford as Governor of Jamaica. Because of the depredations of Spanish privateers, Modyford’s successor called the settlers back to Jamaica, though by this time Spain had recognised British possession of the Islands in the 1670 Treaty of Madrid. Often in breach of the treaty, British privateers roamed the area taking their prizes, probably using the Cayman Islands for replenishing stocks of food and water and careening their vessels. During the 18th century, the Islands were certainly well known to such pirates as Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Neal Walker, George Lowther and Thomas Antis, even after the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, was supposed to have ended privateering.

The first royal grant of land in Grand Cayman was made by the Governor of Jamaica in 1734. It covered 3,000 acres in the area between Prospect and North Sound. Others followed, up to 1742, developing an existing settlement, which included the use of slaves.

On 8th February 1794, an event occurred which grew into one of Cayman’s favourite legends, The Wreck of the Ten Sail. The convoy of more than 58 merchantmen sailing from Jamaica to England found itself dangerously close to the reef at Gun Bay, on the east end of Grand Cayman. Ten of the ships, including HMS Convert, the navy vessel providing protection, foundered on the reef. With the aid of Caymanians, the crews and passengers mostly survived, although some eight lives were lost.

The court martial of the fleet’s leader, Captain Lawford, revealed that a current had unexpectedly carried the fleet 20 miles north of its course. The incident underscores how common shipwrecks have been in the history of the Islands, and how much Caymanians themselves have depended on the sea.

The first census of the Islands was taken in 1802, showing a population on Grand Cayman of 933, of whom 545 were slaves. Before slavery was abolished in 1834, there were over 950 slaves owned by 116 families. Emancipation paved the way for development of a homogeneous society.

Though Cayman was always regarded as a dependency of Jamaica, the reins of government by that colony were loosely held in the early years, and a tradition grew up of self-government, with matters of public concern decided at meetings of all free males. In 1831 a legislative assembly was established comprising two houses: the eight magistrates appointed by the Governor of Jamaica and ten elected representatives or vestrymen.

The constitutional relationship between Cayman and Jamaica remained ambiguous until 1863 when an act of the British parliament formally made the Cayman Islands a dependency of Jamaica. When Jamaica achieved independence in 1962, the Islands opted to remain under the British Crown, and an administrator (in 1971 the title became Governor) appointed from London assumed the responsibilities previously held by the governor of Jamaica.

Cayman Islanders have a tradition of hardiness and independence of spirit, which sustained them through many difficult years when their home was sometimes referred to as “the islands time forgot.” In those years, they earned a livelihood at sea, either as turtle fishermen or as crew members on foreign-owned ships, or by working in North and Central America. In 1906 more than a fifth of the population of 5,000 was estimated to be at sea, and even as late as the 1950s the government annual report said that the main “export” was seamen whose remittances were the mainstay of the economy.

Since those days the economy has grown in remarkable fashion, to be a model envied in other parts of the region. Over the last 30 years, governments have pursued policies aimed at developing the infrastructure, education, health and social services of the Islands, fostering the stability which is an important factor in the continued growth of Cayman’s two main industries, tourism and financial services.

(Article courtesy of UK Overseas Territories Association)

Smith Barcadere – Smith Cove, Grand Cayman

by Ann Stafford

Historic area

People came from West Bay by boat to Smith Barcadere. They cut ‘tops’, the new, unopened leaves of the Silver Thatch Palms that were plentiful on the large estate (60 acres) of James Samuel Webster.

180725 Smith Barcadere, Jul.25-18

Smith Barcadere aka Cove Nov2-11_024 AS

map Grand Cayman western_r

Silver Thatch Feb.11-20 AS

Silver Thatch Palm – Coccothinax proctorii, Cayman Islands endemic tree, Cayman Islands National Tree, Endangered, culturally significant.

Silver Thatch tops Sep24-06 ASSilver Thatch tops – the unopened fronds.

Tops were cut on the old moon, after the full moon.

Smith was shipwrecked on the Spotts reef. He was the carpenter on the ship that brought Rex Crighton’s ancestor, Alexander McKeith Crighton (1822-1892), to Grand Cayman in the 1850s.

Smith built a sea-going vessel from the salvaged timbers of the ship that wrecked and timber from trees that grew in the heavily-wooded Smith Barcadere area. It is not very far by sea from Spotts to Smith Barcadere.

map Grand Cayman western_SW

The South Sound reef ends at Sand Cay. Smith Barcadere, a sandy cove where there is a break in the ironshore, is just to the north of it, with water of sufficient depth to launch a ship.

Alexander McKeith Crighton (1822-1982) was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

At the age of 19 (1841) he became chief mate, sailing on clipper ships from England to Australia. He was later transferred to the tea trade and promoted to Captain. He came to Grand Cayman (1850s) after being shipwrecked off the coast of Cuba.

Alexander Crighton was a valuable immigrant because he had a thorough knowledge of navigation, which he was pleased to impart to others. He trained and taught many Caymanian seamen and opened the first navigation school in the islands.

Many men from his school became well-known captains here, and some emigrated to the United States and became captains there.

Alexander Crighton was also a merchant and one of the first surveyors in the Cayman Islands. He married Ann Brett Coe (1832-1899), and together they had six children. They lived at Crighton Square at Spotts.

Wall of Honour book p.24

1868  James Samuel Webster, J.P.  was born in Bodden Town, the son of William Bodden Webster, who became Custos (Chief Magistrate) in 1879. James married Antoinette Arabella Eden. They had five sons and one daughter. James, a successful businessman, moved his family to George Town in about 1900.

1891 Jamaica Exhibition

“gave Caymanians an opportunity of showing something of their way of life and their trade to their fellows in the Caribbean……

The exhibits included dyewoods*, mahogany and ironwood, that was as durable as metal, and the beautifully grained manchioneal.  There was bulrush starch, a product peculiar to the Caymans, and a full range of baskets, hats, lines and ropes made from the dried leaves of the thatch palm. Though the turtle was pre-eminent in the Cayman section of the exhibition, Edmund Parsons, the custos, hoped that a trade could be established in sponges and sea shells.”

* Fustic (Maclura tinctoria) native, and Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum)  introduced from Central America, naturalized in Cayman.

A History of the Cayman Islands by Neville Williams, 1970

Jamaica International Exhibition 1891

Jamaica Exhibition 1891

Webster House_1894, #359 S Ch St_tThe Webster House, built in 1894, was the temporary National Trust for the Cayman Islands Visitor Centre, following Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, when the Eastern Avenue / Courts Road Visitor Centre was badly damaged.

Webster House_1894 #359 S Ch St annWebster House, 359 South Church St.

Webster House

Life and Adventure in the West Indies

by Vaquero, 1914

Vaquero was the pseudonym of Dr Richard Keatinge, Cayman Islands Government Medical Officer for most of 1906.

He had a camera.

Chapters II and III    In the Cayman Islands

1906 Photographs by Vaquero

Vaquero Dr house, pony, servant 1906_tDoctor Richard Keatinge’s house in George Town, his servant and pony.

Vaquero_1914 p18 Smith's Barcadere, EE spring_tDr Richard Keatinge, GMO, swam at a small, sandy cove called Smith’s Barcadere, just out of sight of the road, about a mile and a half from his house in George Town.

Vaquero South Sounders 1906_tCottages and people at South Sound, 3 miles from George Town

Vaquero Landing place GT Court House_tLanding place at George Town, Hog Stye Bay. The large white building is the Court House.

Webster JS building, Museum May14-17The old Court House is now the Cayman Islands National Museum. The J. S. Webster building was on the right. It later became the Viking Gallery and then Bayshore Mall.

Webster building, maket Hog Stye Bay c.1926_tWebster building, left, (later the Viking Gallery, then Bayshore Mall), Goring Avenue, and the Market at Hog Stye Bay, c. 1926. Photo: N.L. Booker, in the book by his daughter, Aarona Booker Kohlman 1993: Under Tin Roofs – Cayman in the 1920s.

1916  J. S. Webster moved with his family to Kingston, Jamaica.

The Webster Shipping Line

An incomplete record and history of the Webster Shipping Line, founded by J. S. Webster, great-grandfather of Alex Webster, in Kingston, Jamaica.

Bush, Charles 1864-1942_t

Capt. Charles Christopher Bush (1864-1942) was in partnership with J.S. Webster and in charge of what is known today as Smith Barcadere and Websters Estate.

Silver Thatch, Birch, Academy Way Apr.25-20 ASPeople came by the boatload from West Bay. They cut Silver Thatch ‘tops’ (the new unopened fronds) and collected Mangoes. They used to back them down to Smith Barcadere and return to West Bay by boat.  They had no money, they paid in rope.

Rope-makers were paid 25 cents for 100 fathoms of rope (600 feet)

Capt. Malcolm CARL Bush (March 9, 1903 – July 26, 2004), son of  Capt. Charles Christopher Bush (1864-1942), Cayman Islands National Archive, Oral History. 

Bush, Capt Carl house, Pectis Oct.30-02 ASCapt. Carl Bush’s house on South Church St (next to Sand Cay Apartments). Tea Banker – Pectis caymanensis, Critically Endangered little mat-like herb with a lovely, lemony smell, grew plentifully in the sand. The house, built c. 1931, has since been demolished and Tea Banker has disappeareared.

Carl Bush’s House

Mango, Silver Thatch Apr.23-20 ASSilver Thatch Palm – Coccothrinax proctorii, Cayman endemic, Cayman Islands National Tree, and Mango tree – Mangifera indica, naturalized in Cayman, grows wild, (first introduced into Jamaica in 1782).

Catboats 1.60 stamp unloading cargo Aug31-11_200Catboats: unloading cargo. Cayman Islands $1.60 stamp, Aug. 31, 2011.


Thatch rope was made in 3 sizes:

Head-rope – small

Big rope – medium

Hauser – large

It was shipped to Jamaica.

Silver Thatch rope shipping r

West Bay rope-making lives on

rope-9 Billy Banker WBWest Bayer Billy Banker: b.1935


“There were a few silver thatch palms in West Bay, [but] all that land now is subdivisions, mostly,” he said. “But you really needed a lot of those tops to make rope, which were collected on the full moon, or a few days after.

You would need a lot of land to have enough trees, so many families would take their catboats down to South Sound, or Newlands and other places and cut the tops there, where there were a lot of silver thatch palms growing.”

Rope-4 the cogThe cog holds the three strands together while the rope is twisted.

“We would take the rope to the store, where we would exchange it for household supplies. We never sold it for money. The stores would sell the rope on.”

Jamaica needed a lot of rope in 1945 after its fishing fleet was devastated by a hurricane in 1944, making for a huge year for Cayman rope exports which totaled 1.5 million fathoms.

Silver thatch rope, said Mr. Banker, was very good for saltwater due to its resistance to rot, but not well suited for freshwater. The ropes were used for fishing boats and sailing boats, mostly for anchors, sails and tying up.

Eventually, synthetic rope took the place of rope made of natural materials, bringing an end to Cayman’s little domestic industry.

Mr. Banker says he cannot remember any rope being made by the time he left Cayman at 19, in 1954, to go to sea as a messman.


DID YOU KNOW THAT? 58 Tidbits of Cayman’s History….

By Captain Paul Hurlston

The first sea going vessel ever built in Grand Cayman was built at Smith’s Barcadere by a carpenter who was shipwrecked on Spotts Reef. He was the carpenter on the vessel that brought Rex Crighton’s ancestors to Cayman. Tidbit 36

Dolly Well    There was a well in South Sound called “Dolly Well” located in Webster’s Estate somewhere in the back of Lemuel Hurlston’s old house on Antoinette Avenue. It was round and not very deep and where all South Sounders got their water. It has since been filled in. Tidbit 13

Dolly Well location_77 Antinette Ave May4-20South Sounders got their water from the Dolly Well, across the road from Smith Barcadere.

Hurlston House 764 S Church St ASCapt. Paul Hurlston (born 1931) grew up in his family home, close by Smith Barcadere. The house, built c.1922, still stands (764 South Church St).

Smith Barcadere ironshore Aug.1-18 ASLooking towards Hurlston family home, where Capt. Paul Hurlston grew up.

Hurlston Family Home

180725 Smith Barcadere

Rough seas

Smith Barcadere Mar3-10 ASMarch 3, 2010

Smith Barcadere rough seas Dec14-10 ASDec. 4, 2010

Smith Baradere rough seas Jan23-16 ASJan. 23, 2016

Smith Barcadere ironshore rough Jan23-16 ASJan. 23, 2016

Smith Barcadere iroshore rough Feb7-16 ASFeb. 7, 2016 Smith Barcadere ironshore


Wedding Cove Oct.20-11_tWedding at Smith Barcadere, Oct. 20, 2011


Rare, Critically Endangered Trichilia trees (Trichilia havanensis)

Trichilia – an attractive shrub or small tree – is almost extinct in Grand Cayman. A few survive in the George Town area, including Smith Barcadere, and Walkers Road where property owners have preserved them.

Trichilia hav Smith Barcadere Jul.12-18 AS

A beautiful stand of these trees grew by Burger King on Walkers Road. They were cut down and replaced with common, non-native landscaping plants. They also grew in the airport vicinity, but they too, were cut down.

They haven’t been recorded on Little Cayman or Cayman Brac. Trichilia havanensis is native to Cuba, Jamaica and continental tropical America.

Trichilia havanensis fls Mar.7-05 AS

 Trichila very rarely flowers and fruits, so propagation by seed hardly happens.

Trichilia havanensis Jul.25-18 AS

Their main means of reproduction is by root runners, such as at Smith Barcadere, where it is hoped that they will be preserved in their natural habitat for future generations.

Trichilia havanensis bark Apr.4-02

Trichilia trees have a distinctive bark.

Trichilia havanensis is protected under Schedule 1 Part 2 of the Cayman Islands National Conservation Law.

Trichilia hav Barcadere Aug.3-18_15.21 ASTrichilia trees, Critically Endangered, original growth on Smith Barcadere beach ridge.


October 5, 2016    National Trust for the Cayman Islands Statement on the proposed development of the north side of Smith Barcadere (also known as Smith Cove)


There is a rare plant on the Smith Cove site (Trichilia havanensis), almost extinct on Grand Cayman and considered critically endangered, growing on the wooded section of the lot that is slated for development.  This plant is protected under Schedule 1 Part 2 of the National Conservation Law.  It is common elsewhere in the Caribbean and was probably once quite common in the area south of George Town between Walkers Road and South Church.

Trichilia havanensis Aug.3-18 Walkers Rd ASTrichilia trees (original growth), conserved, form a hedge for a private property on Walkers Road.

Silver Thatch Palm – Coccothrinax proctorii Cayman Islands National Tree

Coccothrinax Pedro Dec5-07 AS

Cayman Islands endemic, Endangered

Silver Thatch: Cayman’s Verdant Trees So Fair

Only the newest unopened leaves (“tops”) could be used for making rope.

Silver Thatch Palm

Extract: Thatching was not always restricted to roofs. Before the days of electricity, kitchens and cookrooms were often separate constructions, to reduce the risk of fire. Some had thatched walls, which created a cool cooking area. With the availability of corrugated zinc roofing in the 1920’s, thatched roofs and thatching skills have now become rare.

Silver Thatch Palm leaves were also used to weave hats, baskets and fans. Shoes known as “wompers” were made with a flat leather sole and held on the foot by straps -like a thong – of thatch rope. Nowadays, hats and baskets are in demand in tourist and craft shops. Many of them are still made by those who were taught their skills over fifty years ago!

Items made from Silver Thatch Palm lasted far longer than similar products made using other materials available at the time. The tree’s real value, however, lies in the ability of its dried leaf to resist the effects of salt water.

Silver Thatch rope 2.28pm Aug18-13

This proved particularly important in the rope-making industry. Cayman had relatively few natural resources that could generate income, but the thatch rope was highly prized in Cuba and Jamaica for use in the shipping, fishing and sugar industries. While the men were away at sea, or busy with their farms, the women and children would make rope.

Broadleaf fls, Seagrape Feb.11-20 AS

Sea Grape – Coccoloba uvifera (Critically Endangered) and Broadleaf – Cordia sebestena var. caymanensis (Cayman Islands endemic variety) (Vulnerable) at Smith Barcadere. Both are culturally significant native trees.

Cordia sebestena fls fr May 15-19 ASBroadleaf – Cordia sebestena var. caymanensis. Cayman Islands endemic shrub or small tree, with rough, Alternate leaves that were traditionally used to polish turtle shells. Versatile Broadleaf grows in varied habitats.

Cordia sebestena called Geiger Tree (US) or Red Cordia, is widely distributed in coastal thickets in Florida, the West Indies and the eastern coasts of continental tropical America. It is used in landscaping.

Cordia sebestena – Geiger Tree, Florida

Popnut, Sea Grape Barcadere May20-15 ASSea Grape – Coccoloba uvifera (Critically Endangered) and Popnut – Thespesia populnea (Endangered) native trees, both culturally significant.

Sea Grape lvs Apr.29-20 platesSea Grape – the large round leaves were used as plates.

Popnut May20-15 ASPopnut trees were used in boat-building. The trunks and branches often grew already curved.

Thespesia populnea NSE Jul.1-15_i ASPopnut / Plopnut, (Seaside Mahoe in Jamaica, Portia Tree in USA) – Thespesia populnea, belongs to the same plant family as Hibiscus. Popnut, an extremely salt-tolerant, fast-growing, pan-tropical tree, has heart-shaped leaves and pretty pale yellow flowers with maroon centres. The whole flower turns maroon later in the day before dying. Popnut was used in Catboat construction in the Cayman Islands, where it is Endangered.

Volkameria aculeata syn. Clero acu May26-11 AS

Cat Claw – Volkameria aculeata synonym Clerodendron aculeatum, a shrub with showy little white flowers.

Volkameria aculeata sapling location Feb.14-20 ASCat Claw was cut down, but has started growing back, Feb. 14, 2020.

Ironshore plants grow in a harsh, rocky habitat

Borrichia arborescens Cove Mar.7-19 ASStunted Buttonwood – Conocarpus erectus and Bay Candlewood, Seaside Oxeye – Borrichia arborescens

Borrichia arborescens fl Cove Mar.7-19 AS

Buttonwood, Rhachicallis, Sea grape Ironshore Aug.1-18 ASJuniper, Sandfly Bush – Rhachicallis americana, a little shrub with bright yellow flowers,  and Sea Grape – Coccolba uvifera, and Buttonwood – Conocarpus erectus, both stunted, due to the harsh environment of the ironshore, with waves crashing over them when the sea is rough.


Dysdercus andreae, Thespesia Apr13-12 ASSt. Andrew’s Cotton Stainer (Love-bugs) – Dysdercus andreae, on Popnut / Plopnut, (Portia Tree, Seaside Mahoe) – Thespesia populnea.

Saint Andrew’s Cotton Stainer: Damaging Pest or Colorful Curiosity?

by William M. Ciesla

Dysdercus andreae, Gossypium Apr10-12 ASSt. Andrew’s Cotton Stainer – Dysdercus andreae on Wild Cotton, Short-staple Cotton – Gossypium hirsutum (which doesn’t grow at Smith Barcadere).

From 1780s cotton was grow in Grand Cayman. 1802  Thirty tons of cotton per year were exported from Cayman, but cotton had peaked by 1810.


Smith Barcadere Memorial May15-15 AS

James Samuel and Antoinette Arabella (née Eden) Webster

(1868-1954)                                                   (1866-1939)

James Samuel Webster was the great-grandson of John Webster who was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1777. He arrived in Grand Cayman (Bodden Town) in 1803 and married Elizabeth Bodden, daughter of William ‘Governor’ Bodden II. John died on Jan. 18, 1805, age 28.  John and Elizabeth had two sons, William Smith Webster and John Michael Webster.

180725 J S & AA Webster memorial Jul.25-18

Inscription:  In Memory of James Samuel Webster and his wife Antoinette Arabella (née Eden). This bathing cove, formerly called Smith’s Barcadier, is dedicated by their son William Burnett Webster and their grandsons, James George Eden McMurray and David McMurray to the people of Georgetown and the stranger in their midst.

James Samuel Webster (1868-1954)

Antoinette Arabella Eden Webster (1866-1939)

180725 J S Webster memorial Bathing Cove

William Burnett Webster (1909-1992)

(James George Eden McMurray)  William George Eden McMurray (1939-1999)

David McMurray aka Jerry Webster (1941-1987)

[William Burnett Webster, George McMurray and Jerry Webster were the Registered Owners of the Webster Estates private roads, Antoinette Avenue and Websters Drive.]

180725 J S Webster memorial Know Know Jul.25-18

Webster Memorial  Sea Grape and Popnut trees in the background.

180725 I sought my God

180725 Webster Mem Know Know

Smith’s Cove Memorials

South Sound photos

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.

South Sound began at Old Crewe Road and ended by Capt. Denham Thompson property, now Pure Art.

Stepwells and old stonewalls, turtle nests and shipwrecks, mangroves and dyke roads, Sand Cay and Pull-and-Be-Damned Point, Grand Old House and Miss Lassie’s House, Smith Barcadere (aka The Cove), the J. S. Webster Estate, Silver Thatch and rope-making, English Point and Portuguese Point, Rugby, Tennis and Squash Clubs, butterflies and bugs, Whistling Ducks and Hickatees, herons and egrets, schools and churches, Valentine’s Mile and Fun Runs …

South Sound area

Right of Way Land for Public Purposes Jul.9-03_t

The old South Sound to George Town footpath (a 6ft. Right Of Way that no longer exists), was edged with native Birch trees (Bursera simaruba), naturalized Mango trees and barbed wire, before Walkers Road was built.

Right of Way 6ft. Block 15B May.21, 1996 ann

Birch Tree Gate Apr.25-20 AS

Birch Tree Gate location, on the old South Sound to George Town footpath, at the junction of Hinds Way, Academy Way and Aspiration Drive.

Walkers Road and Smith Road were named after the engineers who built them.


Media links

Emotions run high as government unveils its concept for a redeveloped Smith Barcadere to the public.

Cayman 27 TV News   July 12,  2018

Emotions run high as government unveils its concept for a redeveloped Smith Barcadere to the public.

George Town South MLA Barbara Connolly and other officials introduced the nuts and bolts of the plan Tuesday night at a well attended public meeting.

Those in attendance provided no shortage of feedback for their consideration once the floor was turned over to public comment.

“There’s nothing here carved in stone, this is just a concept,” said A.L. Thompson, who chaired the two and a half hour meeting.

The public got its first look at government’s planned redevelopment of Smith Barcadere. …

Community meets to discuss development of Smith Cove

Cayman Compass   July 8, 2018

A passionate crowd showed up at the South Sound Community Centre Tuesday night for a meeting about the redevelopment of Smith Cove, also known as Smith Barcadere.

George Town South MLA Barbara Conolly was on hand to share the plans for a refurbished beach site, and the community turned out en masse to provide its feedback….


Special thanks to:

Tricia Bodden, Cayman Islands National Archive.

Capt. Paul Hurlston (b. 1931) for his wealth of knowledge, grandson of Capt. Charles Christopher Bush (1864-1942) and nephew of Capt. Malcolm Carl Bush (1903-2004).    Capt. Paul grew up next to Smith Barcadere.


Life and Adventure in the West Indies (Cayman Islands in 1906), by Vaquero 1914

Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands by George S.S. Hirst, 1910

A History of the Cayman Islands by Neville Williams, 1970

Capt. Malcolm Carl Bush, Oral History, Cayman Islands Native Archive, 1990

Under Tin Roofs – Cayman in the 1920s by Aarona Booker Kohlman, 1993

Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Frederick Burton, 1997, 2007

Flora of the Cayman Islands by George R. Proctor, 2012

Founded Upon the Seas – A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People by Michael Craton and the New History Committee, 2003

Wall of Honour, The  book, Quincentennial Celebrations Office, 2003

Find A Grave

Spotts Cemetery Memorials

South Sound Community Cemetery

Smith’s Cove Memorials

Miss Eden Bay Cemetery


When doing the research, I have come across some inconsistencies in facts, names or dates.










Ironwood, Candlewood and Other Cayman Bush

Uses of some Plants that grow in the Cayman Islands

by P. Ann van B. Stafford, January 2018

Ethnobotany is the study of a region’s plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of a local culture and people.

Chionanthus cay CWR Feb19-12 AS

Ironwood – Chionanthus caymanensis, Endangered Cayman Islands endemic

Chionanthus cay fls May1-11_AS crIronwood flowers

Chionanthus, Wittmackia, Liguinea May31-19 ASIronwood tree with Old George (Wittmackia caymanensis = Hohenbergia caymanensis), a giant Bromeliad, in its branches, and Silver Thatch palm – three Cayman endemic plants, and Naseberry (Sapodilla) Manilkara zapota naturalized, in a George Town garden.


The CAYMAN ISLANDS were discovered by Columbus over 500 years ago. Permanent settlement came later. 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 don’t 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.


Cayman Native (Indigenous) Species

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

Cayman Endemic Species

An Cayman Islands 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.

Cayman Common names

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.

Ironwoods PIX AS 2007

Cayman common name / other common name(s)

Amyris elemifera Oct1-06 AS

Candlewood / Torchwood – Amyris elemifera Endangered

CaymANNature Flora photo album

CaymANNature Flora_2 photoalbum

Cayman Herbarium images album

1938 Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Cayman Islands photo album


Dioecious –      plant with separate male and female flowers on different plants

Monoecious –  plant with separate male and female flowers on the same plant

Polygamous –  plant bearing perfect and unisexual flowers on the same plant

Kings  –            the island and plant collection number (GC Grand Cayman, LC Little Cayman, CB Cayman Brac) of Wilfred Kings, botanist on the 1938 Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Cayman Islands

Cultural and ecological uses

some plants may be in more than one category

  • Boatbuilding
  • Construction
  • Export
  • General Utility
  • Healing
  • Look, Don’t Touch
  • Other Cayman Plants



Schooner stamp 1938

1938 King George VI 5/- (Five shilling) Cayman Schooner stamp

Western Union - schooner, builder H E Arch

The Western Union, a schooner launched by Heber Elroy Arch in Key West in 1939, is undergoing a US$900,000 overhaul that will allow it to remain seaworthy for another decade or two. The ship, built and designed by a Caymanian, originally featured Cayman mahogany to round out its frame.

Cayman designed schooner Aug. 1, 2017


Shipbuilder Heber Arch was one of 11 children of James Arch. The family worked together in crafting boats that would traverse the Atlantic.


Catboat stamps FDC Aug31, 2011Cayman Islands Catboat stamps First Day Cover Aug. 31, 2011

Catboat Kenny, JE Aug.2-14 AS

Cayman Catboats at the Cayman Catboat Club, Aug. 2, 2014

Catboat woods_1 AS

Catboat Woods_2 AS

Catboat tools Aug.2-14 AS

Tools used for making Catboats

Bitter PlumPicrodendron baccatum Endangered

Flowers dioecious, without petals. The wood is very hard.

Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and the Swan Islands.

Kings GC 131,  LC 77.

Picrodendron GT May 24-19 ASBitter Plum tree in George Town by the Hospital crossroads

Picrodendron GT trunk May. 24-19 AS

Picrodendron trunk Jan3-13 AS

Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Swan Islands.

Picrodendron fr Aug7-11 ASBitter Plum has a compound leaf with 3 distinctively-shaped leaflets.

Cedar, West Indian CedarCedrela odorata Critically Endangered

West Indian Cedar is related to Mahogany, and should not be confused with the evergreen conifer Cedars of the genus Cedrus, such as the magnificent spreading Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani).

Cedrela odorata Apr.1-04Cedar tree in George Town, April 1, 2004

Cedrela odorata fr 26May05 ASCedar, West Indian Cedar – Cedrela odorata, mature woody capsule fruits and wind-dispersed winged seeds

FiddlewoodPetitia domingensis, Family: VERBENACEAE (LAMIACEAE), Endangered. OPPOSITE leaves.  Birds love to eat the fruits, particularly Mockingbirds and White-crowned Pigeons. The wood is heavy and very hard and was used for making fence posts and in shipbuilding. Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor 2012 p.584, Plate 56.

Petitia domingensis fr Dec8-06 AS_262
Fiddlewood – Petitia domingensis

Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni

Mastic, Yellow MasticSideroxylon foetidissimum Critically Endangered

Mastic, one of Cayman’s largest native trees, is the English common name used within its range – Central America, the West Indies (Mastic Ironwood, Mastic-bully – Bahamas) and US (southern Florida – False Mastic, Wild Mastic, Jungle Plum). It is very unusual for the Cayman common name to be the same as that in other countries, particularly the US. Mastic was used for boat-building, construction and furniture. The wood is hard, heavy, strong and durable. The heartwood is bright orange, surrounded by a yellowish band of sapwood.

Sideroxylon foetidissimum Mar.4-12 trunk MT ASThe buttressed trunk of the mighty Mastic tree, afterwhich the Mastic Trail is namedSideroxylon foetidissimum Mar.4-12 MT AS


Pepper Cinnamon – Canella winterana

PomperoHypelate trifoliata Endangered

Pompero is an extremely slow-growing shrub or small tree and has a short, thick trunk with low, wide-spreading branches.

Hypelate trifoliata Jul.6-09 Winters ASIt has a compound leaf with 3 distinctive leaflets, and small white flowers.

Hypelate trifoliata lvs May 25-19 AS

The wood very hard, heavy, close-grained, a rich dark brown and a hard timber to work. It was used for posts, shipbuilding – ribs, mostly in large vessels, and Catboat keel and keelson and tool handles.

Hypelate trifoliata bark Jun19-11 AS

Pompero has other names: Plumperra and Wild Cherry. It is called White Ironwood in the US.

Pompero is sometimes infected with Witches’ Broom fungus in Cayman – Moniliophthora perniciosa (= Crinipellis perniciosa).

Moniliophthora perniciosa on Hypelate trifoliata Mar.30-03 AS

Popnut, PlopnutThespesia populnea


Popnut PIX AS Nov-06

Sea Grape – Coccoloba uvifera Critically Endangered

Coccoloba uvifera Sea Grape SMB Jul.19-18 AS

Coccoloba uvifera Safehaven Jun.25-15 AS

Spanish Elm – Cordia gerascanthus



Candlewood / Torchwood – Amyris elemifera Endangered

Amyris elemifera fls Sep9-12

Lime Kiln Jan23-03 t

Cabbage Tree – Guapira discolor


Cabbage Tree / Blolly, Beefwood – Guapira discolor

Guapira discolor wattles Jan23-03_AS

Guapira discolor fr Jun20-08 AS

Blolly, Beeftree – Guapira discolor

Cherry – Myrcianthes fragrans, Endangered

Myrcianthes fragrans Nov.6-16 AS

Cherry / Twinberry, Simpson’s Stopper – Myrcianthes fragrans, attractive, pinkish bark, opposite leaves, strongly aromatic when crushed. Cherry was used for wattles.

Myrcianthes fl Jun.30-02

Myrcianthes fragans – Twinberry, Simpson’s Stopper

Ironwood – Chionanthus caymanensis, Endangered Cayman Islands endemic, Family: OLEACEAE,   leaves arranged in exactly Opposite pairs. 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. 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.
Chionanthus lvs Nov13-06_848 AS

Chionanthus cay fls LH May1-11 ASIronwood flowers

Chionanthus post baseIronwood posts, Cousin Cora’s Cottage, Boggy Sand Road, West Bay.

Mastic, Yellow MasticSideroxylon foetidissimum Critically Endangered

Sideroxylon foetidissimum fls Jun.20-06 ASMastic leaves have a long stalk and a minute inrolled pocket at the base of blade on upper side. The small, strongly scented flowers are yellowish.

Sideroxylon foet A Ebanks Jan14-14_i_2 ASMastic fruit, a yellow drupe, has a large single seed covered with a thin, fleshy pulp.

Sea Grape – Coccoloba uvifera, Critically Endangered

Sea Grape

Silver Thatch – Coccothrinax proctorii, Endangered Cayman Islands endemic

Coccothrinax Pedro Dec5-07 ASSilver Thatch trees growing on Pedro St James bluff. They grow extremely slowing, about one inch per year. The underside of the fronds are silvery.

Spanish ElmCordia gerascanthus, Family: BORAGINACEAE, Endangered.

In the Cayman Islands, Spanish Elm was used in general construction and for making oars.
Greater Antilles, Mexico, Central America and Columbia.

Cordia gerascanthus fls_853 Mar19-05 AS

Strawberry, (White Stopper – US) – Eugenia axillaris

Shrub or small tree with aromatic leaves, difficult to distinguish from Bastard Strawberry, (Pale Lidflower – US) – Calyptranthes pallens Endangered, except when flowering or fruiting. Strawberry wood was used to make wattles for traditional Cayman Wattle and Daub houses, and for fish pots. It also makes a good walking stick.

Florida, West Indies, Mexico and northern Central America in sandy or rocky thickets and woodlands.

Kings GC 285

Eugenia axillaris fls Jun.14-05 AS


Eugenia axillaris_fr_Jan27-07_ASStrawberry fruits, black when ripe, are edible, but not particularly paletable.

Wattle and daub Catboat Club Aug.2-14 AS

Wattle and Daub construction, Cayman Catboat Club

WATTLE & Daub Houses - Wattles Oct.03 AS

 Wattle & DAUB Houses - Daub Oct. 03 AS


Coconut PalmCocos nucifera.

There was a thriving Coconut industry on the Sister Islands – Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The coconuts were husked before being exported. The trees succumbed to a disease – lethal yellowing.

Coconuts Jun.17-19 AS

Cotton, Wild Cotton, Short-staple Cotton – Gossypium hirsutum  var. punctatum

Cotton was exported from 1780s. It was the most valuable cargo between 1802 and 1804. All of the cotton plantations were in south central Grand Cayman, averaging about 100 acres.Gossypium hirsutum GT Mar.21-14_i

Cayman’s cotton industry declined after 1810.

Gossypium hirsutum Feb13-03

Wild Cotton, Short-staple Cotton – Gossypium hirsutum

FusticMaclura tinctoria (dye wood), Critically Endangered, Family: MORACEAE

Maclura tinctoria female AG Jan.13-02 AS

Fustic wood is tough and close-grained. It was exported from mid-1700’s to early 1800’s for khaki or fustic, a yellowish dye extracted from the wood, which was used for dyeing cloth for military uniforms and schoolboys clothing. It grows in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, the West Indies and continental tropical America.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor 2012 p.241, Fig.84.

Kings GC 408

Maclura tinctoria trunk May 18-19 AS

Fustic is DIOECIOUS – male and female flowers grow on separate trees, fruits form from female (pistillate) flowers only.

Maclura - female fl Oct.8-03 AS

Maclura tinctoria - staminate, Nov1-03 AS


LogwoodHaematoxylum campechianum (dye wood), introduced from Central America. Logwood is a small, thorny tree with a deeply fluted trunk and wide spreading branches. It grows fast and aggressively colonizes in low-lying damp ground, that is not too salty. The wood is hard, heavy and slow to rot and is still used for fence posts.

Haematoxylum campechianum Logwood Aug.23-18 AS

haematoxylum campechianum fl feb.2-06

Bees make honey from Logwood flowers. Logwood, native to Central America, is naturalized in the West Indies, where it was introduced early in the 18th. century as an export for its bluish-black dye from the red heartwood. It was a source of dye formerly used for textiles and which is still highly valued as a bacteriological and cytological stain.

Logwood is invasive in Cayman

MahoganySwietenia mahagoni, Endangered. 1730s – 1740s The first formal land grants were made in Cayman, mainly to cut Mahogany. Mahogany furniture had become popular in Britain and Europe and Mahogany surpassed turtle as Cayman’s most valuable product.

Swietenia mahagoni _45 Lois Jan.4-04

The same huge Mahogany tree in East End, before and after Hurricane Ivan (Sept. 2004)

Swietenia mahagoni Carla Jan.12-05

Red MangroveRhizoraphora mangle Near Threatened

Red Mangrove trees contains tannins and were barked from the early 1900s to 1930s in Cayman. This was shipped to Jamaica and thence to Europe for tanning leather. The barked trees died afterwards.

Red Mangrove Oct22-06 AS

Rhizophora mangle fl Jul.4-02Red Mangrove flowers – 4 white petals, 4 yellow sepals

Red Mangrove propagules BNP May 29-11 ASRed Mangrove propagules – elongated torpedo-like seedlings that develop from brown, oval fruits while they are still attached to the tree.

Satinwood, Yellow Sanders – Zanthoxylum flavum Critically Endangered

Dioecious or polygamous (bearing perfect or inisexual flowers on the same plant) tree, Florida, Bermuda, West Indies, extremely rare on all three Cayman Islands.  Satinwood was highly prized for its yellow, satiny lustre that took a high polish and was used in cabinetry and furniture.

Zanthoxylum flavum fl Jul.16-02 AS

The compound leaves have pellucid dots with oil glands.

Zanthoxylum flavum fr Sep25-11_170 t

Zanthoxylum flavum, Papilio larva Jul.25-10 AS

Satinwood is a larval food plant of the endemic Grand Cayman Swallowtail butterfly – Papilio andraemon tailori (two caterpillars in the photo).

Satinwood – Zanthoxylum flavum

‘The tree has an excellent, ornamental timber that was highly desired for inlay, fine furniture etc. It was so heavily exploited that large trees are now almost unheard of.’

Silver Thatch Coccothrinax proctorii (rope), Endangered Cayman Islands endemic

Cayman Islands National Tree

Silver Thatch tops Sep24-06 AS

Silver Thatch rope 2.28pm Aug18-13

Silver Thatch rope shipping r Rope made from the ‘tops’ Silver Thatch palm was exported to Jamaica.

General Utility

Banana OrchidMymecophila thomsoniana

Cayman Islands National Flower

Myrmecophila_1 Jun3-13 AS

Myrmecophila thomsoniana minor LC May29-17 AS

Calabash (or Gourd) tree – Crescentia cujete, Family: BIGNONIACEAE. The sprawling tree bears large green fruits, gourds (up to 25 cm in diameter) – the woody outer shells were traditionally used to make water containers, soup bowls, plates and for bailing boats. Florida, West Indies and continental tropical America.

Crescentia cujete Nov12-02

Crescentia cujete fl Sep13-02Calabash, Gourd tree, has trumpet-shaped flowers that sprout directly from the branches and trunk and are pollinated by Buffy Flower bats.

Cedar, West Indian Cedar – Cedrela odorata Critically Endangered

Cedar has large, compound leaves (similar to Maiden Plum) and aromatic, reddish wood, soft but durable, resistant to attack by insects. In addition to boat-building, Cedar was used for cigar boxes, musical instruments, light construction, veneer and plywood.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, West Indies and continental tropical America.

Kings GC 337

Cedrela odorata May29-19 fence GT ASCedar tree growing through a fence in George Town.

Cedrela odorata: Useful Tropical Plants

Coconut PalmCocos nucifera

Coconut Botanic Park lake Jul16-17Coconut Palm trees by the Lake at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

Corato, Cordo, Corto – Agave caymanensis* Vulnerable Cayman Islands endemic to the three Cayman Islands

Corato grows in dry shrubland, especially at the drier eastern ends of each island. Corato is a large, fleshy, rosette plant with massive, succulent, spine-tipped leaves. It develops a woody trunk at maturity. The flowers are yellow, and small vegetative bulbils, miniature plants, are produced on the inflorescence after flowering.

Agave cay CWR Trail May4-16

Like all Agaves, it is monocarpic, flowers only once in its lifetime and dies afterwards.

Agave cay young Nov10-15 CWR AS

Corato leaves were dried and used for scrubbing floors. People didn’t have soap powder. The leaves were cut and pounded, to make them soft. Ashes and water were poured on them to make LYE water for doing laundry.

Agave caymanensis Corato May 15-19

GuavaPsidium guajava

Shrub or small tree, naturalized in Cayman, has 4-angled branchlets and leaves with numerous pellucid dots. The fruit is a pinkish or yellowish edible berry with numerous small seeds. Gigs (spinning tops) were made from Guava wood.

Guava grows in the American tropics; it is grown for its edible fruits and becomes naturalized.

Kings 385

Psidium guajava fl Apr.8-03 AS


Gigs Mahog & guava Feb10-07 ASGigs (spinning tops) made from Mahogany and Guava wood

Mastic, Yellow MasticSideroxylon foetidissimum Critically Endangered

Mastic was used for boat-building, construction and furniture

Sideroxylon foetidissimum fls May17-19 Health City ASMastic tree, flowering, at Health City, Grand Cayman, May 17, 2019

Naseberry, Sapodilla – Manilkara zapota

Kings GC 347

Sapodilla, Naseberry – Manilkara zapota – Useful Tropical Plants

Silver Thatch Coccothrinax proctorii (rope), Endangered Cayman Islands endemic

Silver Thatch PIX Oct-06

Sisal, Sisal HempAgave sisalana – introduced, naturalized, invasive

Dark brown, very sharp pointed spine at the tips of the leaves. Edgar Samuel McCoy (born in 1851) was a pioneer of the Sisal industry in Grand Cayman.

1910 Hirst’s Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands: Many acres have been laid out in Agave sisalana and many more will be laid out shortly  ……  Sisal bears after 3 years, whereas coconut bears after at least 6 years. The Sisal plant is unaffected by drought or hurricanes, while the coconut is seriously affected by both.

Agave sisalana Feb25-14_159 ASSisal tends to persist after cultivation.

Slingshot, Wild JasmineTabernaemontana laurifolia Endangered

White latex

Dry rocky thickets and woodlands

Grand Cayman and Jamaica only

Tabernaemontana Slingshot May23-14_i AS

Tabernaemontana laurifolia fl. fr Dec7-05 AS

Smoke Wood – two species grow in Cayman, one is common, the other is rarer.  They have similar leaves, white flowers and red fruits (a drupe). Smoke Wood was one of the woods burnt in smoke pots, cans filled with smouldering wood to ward off mosquitoes, an introduced menace. There was no mention of mosquitoes in early records. None of the three species of Erythroxylum in Cayman contains cocaine, which is obtained from the leaves of Erythroxylum coca that grows in the Andean region of South America.

Smoke WoodErythroxylum areolatum

Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Greater Antilles, Mexico, and northern Central America, in rocky woodlands.

Kings GC 204a, GC 333

Erythroxylum areolatum Smokewood Jul.4-18 ASThe wood is hard, heavy, fine-textured and very durable. It was used for fence posts.

Erythoxylum areolatum & beetle May31-02 ASTwo faint parallel lines can be seen on either side of the main vein on the underside of the leaf. A beetle pollinates the white flowers.

Erythroxylum areolatum fr. CL Jun.9-02 AS

Erythroxylum areolatum fr Sep.13-02 ASSmoke Wood fruits of both species are bright red when ripe.

Smoke WoodErythroxylum confusum Critically Endangered

grows in seasonally flooded sinkholes.

Grand Cayman, Bahamas, Cuba and Jamaica.

Erythroxylum confusum Sep14-13 ASSmoke Wood (Erythroxylum confusum) with Resurrection Fern (Polypodium polypodioides) growing on the corky-looking bark of its trunk at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on the Woodland Trail.

Resurrection Fern fronds curl up in dry weather and look dead, but open up and become green after rain.

Kings F 32, F 32-a, F 36, F 45

Erythroxylum confusum Apr.4-05 Cave Tr AS

Strawberry (White Stopper – US) – Eugenia axillaris

Eugenia axillaris May28-19 new lvs ASCalavans (traps) were made from trees with straight, durable limbs such as Strawberry, Cabbage or Shamrock. The new, young leaves of Strawberry are pinkish-red.

Calavan Deal Ebanks Jan.29-05 ASCalavan (trap) made by Deal Ebanks

Wash WoodJacquinia keyensis Endangered

Wash Wood (called Joewood in the US), extremely slow-growing and salt-tolerant, was used to wash clothes. The bark was scraped off, the trunk chopped – tapped, and a container used to collect the beige sap. The sap was mixed with lye water – well-water which had been mixed with ashes, allowed to stand & strained off.

Jacquinia keyensis fl SMB Sep4-05 AS

Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, and Jamaica, in coastal scrub-lands and thickets.

Kings GC 172

Jacquinia key L Salt Crk bluff Sept27-06 ASWash Wood habitat, North Sound, West Bay

Cayman Cultural Trees – Stamps

Wash Wood 15c stamp Feb.23-06Wash Wood – Jacquinia keyensis 15 cent stamp, release date Feb. 23, 2006

Wash Woods PIX AS Aug.06

Wash Wood, Proctor’s JacquiniaJacquinia proctorii Critically Endangered

Cayman Islands and Jamaica

Kings GC 334

Jacquinia proctorii fr Canaan L May29-05 AS

Wild CinnamonCroton nitens Endangered

Aromatic leaves, minutely pellucid dotted, (not to be confused with Pepper Cinnamon – Canella winterana, which also has aromatic leaves).

Dry rocky woodlands

Jamaica, Swan Islands, Mexico and Central America

Croton nitens fl, fr.Apr19-11Flowers, fruits and bright orange dying leaf

Croton nitens fl Jun5-05 AS

Wild Cinnamon wood used for making fish-pot frames, the wood sinks and is durable in salt water.


The information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be an endorsement of any of the old-time remedies. Some parts of a plant, ripe or unripe, may heal, while other parts of the same plant may be poisonous. There may be a fine line between kill and cure.

decoction – boiled; the liquor resulting from concentrating the essence of a substance by heating or boiling, especially a medicinal preparation made from a plant.

infusion – steeped;  a drink, remedy, or extract prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid.

Medicinal Plants and Cultural Uses photo album

Aunt Eliza Bush, (Twining Soldierbush) – Myriopus volubilis = Tournefortia volubilis

Kings GC140, LC 12

Aloe Vera “Sempervivie”, ‘Alloways” – Aloe vera

Basil “Tea Basil” , Pimento Basil, (Least Basil) – Ocimum campechianum = O. micranthum

Kings GC 213; LC 6.

Basil “Sweet”Ocimim basilicum

BirchBursera simaruba

BroadleafCordia sebestena var. caymanensis

Cordia sebestena May4-10_007 AS

Castor Oil Plant, Castor BeanRicinus communis. Family: EUPHORBIACEAE.
A wide-branching shrub 2-5 m tall, with watery sap and ALTERNATE leaves, native to Africa. It is monoecious: separate female (upper) and male (lower) flowers are borne on the same plant. The fruit, a capsule, is usually spiny and the seeds mottled. The seeds and leaves have been used since ancient times as a purgative and emollient. It was one of the most popular and revered plants in Cayman. Habitat: old fields, roadsides, open waste ground, gardens.
Warning: the seeds contain the highly POISONOUS phytotoxin RICIN and can be fatal if swallowed. Heat inactivates ricin (a protein).

Ricinus communis fr Feb16-14_i_004 AS

Ricinus communis fls fr Mar17-15_139 AS

Castor Oil Plant, Castor Bean – Ricinus communis

Castor Oil Plant – Ricinus communis

Cochineal, “Scotchineal”Nopalea cochenillifera (syn. Opuntia cochenillifera)

A cactus naturalized in Cayman, edible fruits.

Nopalea cochenillifera Sep.3-06 AS

Kings  GC 340; CB 33.

CoconutCocos nucifera

Kings CB 52, CB 53

Coconut SS Propect Pt Sep29-16Coconut Palm on South Sound beach, looking across to Prospet Point, an area of early settlement.


CowitchMucuna pruriens

A herbaceous vine that grows over other vegetation.

Mucuna pruriens Cow-itch lvs Aug.23-18 ASThe distinctive compound leaf has 3 leaflets, the mid-veins of the 2 side leaflets are off-center.

Mucuna pruriens fl buds Jan.22-06 ASFlowers are a dull dark purple. The velvety-brown seed pods are covered with stinging hairs which cause intense itching. They cannot be washed off.  Naturalized in Cayman, pantropical

Applying flour to the affected area relieves the itching.

Mucuna pruriens pods Jan13-08 AS

Cow-itch – Bush Medicine – Cayman Islands National Museum

The hairs of the pods were used to get rid of intestinal worms. This remedy was dreaded by Cayman children. “We were dosed with this thing made by scraping the pods on the cow-itch plants. That was mixed with green banana which had been boiled in milk with some sugar in it. We would have to eat the wretched thing.”

Mucuna pruriens pods Feb16-04 AS

Kings  GC 228

DandelionSenna occidentalis

Dandelion, Coffee Senna, Stinking Bush, Septic Weed – Senna occidentalis (syn. Cassia occidentalis), Family: FABACEAE (LEGUMINOSAE, subfamily: CAESALPINIOIDAE).
An erect shrubby annual herb, to about 1 m tall, often subwoody near the base.
Compound leaves that have an unpleasant odour when crushed, flowers yellow, pods oblong-linear, slightly curved. The dried root was used for loss of apetite. The roasted and pulverized brown seeds were used as a substitute for coffee. It is the larval food plant of the Cloudless Sulphur butterfly – Phoebis sennae.

Kings GC 220

Senna occidentalis Jan.3-02 AS
Dandelion – Senna occidentalis

DashalongTurnera ulmifolia, Family: TURNERACEAE.

Tunera ulmifolia Jan11-13_i ASDashalong leaves were boiled to make a tonic tea, for liver and kidney trouble and for coughs and colds. It is the larval food plant of the Mexican Fritillary butterfly (Euptoieta hegesia).

Dogwood, Jamaica Dogwood, Fishfuddle Tree, Fish Poison Tree – Piscidia piscipula, Family: FABACEAE, Endangered. Leaves Alternate, compound, odd-pinnate. Pink flowers in panicles, pod greenish-yellow, straw-coloured at maturity, with papery wings.

Piscidia piscipula fl Apr25-04 AS
The bark, especially of the roots, is well-known for its narcotic and poisonous properties. It has been used to relieve toothache and for curing mange in DOGS. If the bark and leaves are crushed and thrown into water, most nearby fish will become stupified and will float on the surface. The fruit has been used in South America for arrow poison.
Piscidia piscipula fr May30-16_157 ASDogwood – Piscidia piscipula Note: Care must be taken with the use of this plant. Cayman Islands National Archive Oral History: A tea made from bark and leaves was ‘just nice”. Sap will draw a prickle from a finger.

Jamaica Dogwood, Florida Fishpoison tree – Piscidia piscipula

EucalyptusEucalyptus globulus, Family: MYRTACEAE. used as a balsamic, a hypoglycaemic and an antiseptic. The terpenoid volatile oil, cineol, is an expectorant and has a stimulating effect. Used as an inhalant.

Leaves of Eucalyptus “were made into a tea and the leaves were steeped in the bath and that was used to bathe you and steam you, for bad cold or pneumonia”. Eucalyptus oil is one of the active ingredients of Vicks VapoRub.

The bark was burned to ward off mosquitotes.

Eucalyptus, Blue Gum – Eucalyptus globulus, KEW

Eucalyptus globulus Jan.7-18_50.44 ASEucalyptus – Eucalyptus globulus, Shedden Road, opposite the Eucalyptus Building.        The tree pictured above has been misidentified and is probably the Paperbark tree – Melaleuca quinquenervia, in the same family: MRYTACEAE.

A tree of another name is still as sweet

Fever GrassCymbopogon citratus

Headache BushQuadrella cynophallophora syn. Capparis cynophallophora

Quadrella cynophallophora = Capparis c. Oct17-13 AS

Headache Bush leaves were chopped, crushed, put in a bottle and used as smelling salts for headaches. Crushed leaves were applied externally for toothache.

Kings GC 142

Quadrella cynophallophora = Capparis cynophallophora Mar.28-15 AS


Quadrella cyno fr Sep.12-16_i AS

Headache Bush is a larval food plant of the Great Southern White butterfly – Ascia monuste.

Heart PlantRuellia tuberosa


Juniper, Jennifer  (Bay Cedar – US) – Suriana maritima

An attractive bushy pantropical seashore shrub. In Cayman, the bark was rubbed off to make a poultice to deaden the pain of toothache.

Kings GC 22, LC 85, CB 57

Suriana maritima Blow Holes Jan.23-04 AS

Suriana maritima Jul9-13 t

Suriana maritima Skipper Jan31-08 RRAJuniper, Jennifer (Bay Cedar) is a larval food plant of the Cuban Grey Hairstreak (Strymon martialis) and Drury’s Hairstreak (S. istapa) butterflies and a nectar plant for several butterflies.

Bay Cedar – Suriana maritima – Natives for Your Neigh(borhood

Lavender, Sea LavenderTournefortia gnaphalodes (syn. Argusia gnaphalodes) Family: BORAGINACEAE. Dense, mound-like shrub, narrow leaves ALTERNATE, fleshy, velvety, silvery-grey. The fragrant white flowers attract butterflies. Seacoasts and saline shores, particularly sandy beaches. Bermuda, Florida, West Indies, and coasts of Yucatan, Cozumel, Belize and Venezuela. Photo: Ann Stafford, Pedro bluff, Grand Cayman, Feb.16, 2014. FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor 2012 p.559, Fig.208, Pl.52.
In Cayman, a tea was made from boiled leaves for stomach problems and nerves

Tournefortia gnaphalodes Pedro Feb16-14_i AS

Sea Lavender – Tournefortia gnaphalodes (syn. Argusia gnaphalodes)

Sea Lavender – Tournefortia gnaphalodes

Leaf-of-Life, Curiosity Plant, (Cathedral Bells) – Kalanchoe pinnata (syn. Bryophyllum pinnatum), Family: CRASSULACEAE. Succulent perennial herb to 1m tall, leaves have scalloped edges, native to Madagascar, naturalized throughout the tropics.
In Cayman, the leaves were used to treat coughs, colds and sore throats, and to bathe swellings, sprains and bruises. It is called Leaf-of-Life, because when leaves fall on the ground, new plants sprout from the scalloped edges and take root.

Kalanchoe pinnata lvs Feb.23-15_i_003 AS

Leaf-of-Life, Curiosity Plant – Kalanchoe pinnata

LimeCitrus X aurantifolia

Liquorice, Wild,  “John Crow Bean” – Abrus precatorius


Mulberry / NoniMorinda citrifolia

Mulberry, Hog Apple, Noni, Duppy Soursop; Indian Mulberry – Morinda citrifolia is a shrub or small tree, naturalized in Cayman, leaves Opposite, flowers white. Fruit a fleshy, compound berry (synocarp), irregular shape, creamy-translucent when ripe, with a foetid odour. Native to tropical Asia and Australia, naturalized in the American tropics.

Mulberry / Noni leaves were used as a poultice for wounds to relieve pain, and as a treatment for rheumatic joints, fevers and headaches.

Kings LC 112.
Morinda citrifolia, Noni fr Jul.16-17 AS

Old Lady Coat TailPriva lappulacea


Naseberry, Sapodilla – Manilkara sapota


Pepper CinnamonCanella winterana  CANELLACEEAE Canella Family

Critically endangered. Florida and the West Indies south to Barbados

Canella bark was used as an aromatic stimulant and tonic. In the 1700s, the inner bark was exported from the West Indies to Europe as a substitute for cinnamon. The outer bark is toxic.

The wood was used for Catboat sculls (oars).

Flora of the Cayman Islands by George R. Proctor, 2012 p.225, Fig.77, Plate 10.

Canella winterana Jun.14-17 AS

The tree provides food and cover for wildlife.

Canella winterana fr Feb15-04 AS

Pepper Cinnamon – Canella winterana

PeriwinkleCatharanthus roseus

PomegranatePunica granatum

Providence MintLippia alba

Rhubarb RootMorinda royoc

RosemaryCroton linearis

Note: The Cayman shrub, Rosemary, should not be confused with culinary woody, perennial herb,  Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), native to the Mediterranean region, or the variegated leaf landscaping shrub, Croton (Codiaeum variegatum).

A dioecious, pleasantly  aromatic shrub, Rosemary (Pineland Croton or Granny-Bush – US) is a multipurpose plant. The leaves were steeped to make tea for striction,  as a tonic, boiled to make a tea for diabetes or smoked as tobacco to relieve asthma.

Croton linearis Feb.11-19 AS

Rosemary brooms were made to sweep the interior of the house.

Rosemary is the larval food plant of the Cuban Red Leaf butterfly – Anaea troglodyta and Drury’s Hairstreak butterfly  – Strymon acis and is a butterfly nectar plant.

Sage, Black – Cordia globosa var. humilis

Sage, White – Lantana camara

Scorn-the-GroundPhoradendron quadrangulare and P. rubrum    Mistletoe-like parasitic plants that grow on Cabbage Trees  (Guapira discolor) in Grand Cayman,  Rosemary (Croton linearis) in Little Cayman and Bull Hoof (Bauhinia divaricata) in Cayman Brac. P. rubrum grows on Cabbage Trees  (G. discolor)  and also on Mahogany.

The berries were used for women’s ailments (1938 Oxford University Biological Expedition).

Phoradendron quad Jun26-09 LV_680 ASScorn-the-Ground – Phoradendron quadrangulare, Kings GC 14, GC 150, GC 365, GC 388,  CB 91

Scorn-the-Ground – Phoradendron rubrum, Kings GC 165, GC388, Lewis GC 14,                   LC 36, LC 43

Phoradendron BBH Jan.28-13_i AS

Phoradendron CWR Feb.7-17 ASScorn-the-Ground – Phoradendron sp, Colliers Wilderness Reserve Trail

Scorpion TailHeliotropium indicum

SeraseeMomordica charantia

Momordia charantia fr aug12-12_007 AS

SoursopAnnona muricata

Strong Back, Kidney Bush, (Shiny-leaved Wild Coffee) – Psychotria nervosa, Family: RUBIACEAE, Vulnerable. Shrub up to 2.5m tall. Butterflies nectar on the white flowers, birds eat the fruit – red drupe. The leaves were used as a medicine for back trouble, a tea was made for kidneys and as a tonic.
Florida, the West Indies and continental America, variable.
Cayman plants grow is rocky woodlands. Culturally significant plant, suitable for use in landscaping.
Wild Coffee (Florida) does not contain caffeine. Seeds used as coffee substitute resulted in “only bad taste and terrible headaches”.
Flora of the Cayman Islands 2012 by George R. Proctor, p.629, Fig.240, Pl.62                  Kings GC 316, Lewis GC 33a

Psychotria nervosa Apr23-05 Agape AS

Psychotria nervosa fr Mar19-17 CWR AS

Strong Back, Kidney Bush / Wild Coffee – Psychotria nervosa

Wild Coffee – Psychotria nervosa

TamarindTamarindus indica

Tamarindus indica Mar17-02 AS

Tea Banker Pectis caymanensis Critically Endangered

P. c.  var. caymanensis Cuba and the Cayman Islands 
P. c.  var. robusta Grand Cayman endemic

Pectis caymanensis PIX AS Oct-06