Cayman Invasive Plants and Native Alternatives

Native species

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

Invasive Species

An invasive species is an introduced species that becomes destructive to the environment or human interests. An invasive species is a non-native plant or animal, which adversely affects the habitat it invades, ecologically or economically. Great movement of goods between countries, has facilitated the transport of plants and animals, across geographical barriers (oceans and mountains), allowing them to colonize new areas of the world. A breeding population becomes established in the new location without further intervention by humans and threatens local biodiversity.

Shifting baselines:

  1. A tendency to overlook slow, steady deterioration of ecosystems because they are less obvious than large scale alterations.
  2. A species which have been present for a number of generations to be perceived as native or to be mistaken for native species.

The shifting baseline undermines environmental awareness and erodes a concept of cultural heritage, promoting a misplaced attachment and valuing of the exotic, the immediate and the commonplace, above the natural, the traditional and the rare.

For example:

Casuarina tree, Weeping Willow, Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia)

Native Invasive Species

A native species that proliferates and becomes destructive following environment changes caused by human activities.

For example:

Maiden Plum (Comocladia dentata)

Shamrock (Tecoma stans)

Invasive Species in the Cayman Islands

Almond, Indian Almond – Terminalia catappa

Almond, Indian Almond is a fast-growing tree with conspicuously whorled horizontal branches, that is tolerant of strong winds, salt spray, and moderately high salinity in the root zone. It grows in freely drained, well aerated, sandy soils.

Bark: often has Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drillings – a winter visitor woodpecker to Cayman.

Leaves: Alternate, large, spirally clustered at the ends of branches. Fall, winter and spring seem to occur within a week or so. The leaves turn bright scarlet, dark-red, dark purplish-red, or yellow and, in a few days, are shed all at once, especially after a sudden rain. They are quickly replaced with purplish new foliage, soon becoming green.

Flowers: arranged in several slender spikes, greenish-white, very small, no petals, but 10-12 conspicuous stamens. The perfect (fruit-producing) flowers are towards the base, while those towards the apex are staminate (male only).

Fruit: a smooth, waxy, slightly flattened bony oval drupe with thin, edible flesh, ripens from green to yellow. It is 4-7cm long, 2.5-3.8cm wide, ellipsoid, more pointed at the apex than at the base, slightly flattened, with a prominent keel around both sides and the tip, contributing to its ability to float long distances in the sea.

Seeds: edible, rich in oil and have an almond-like flavor.

Seedlings grow from the copious fallen fruits.

Native to tropical Asia

 Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor p.416.

Kings 1938 GC 30, LC 55

Asian Colubrina, Asian Latherleaf – Colubrina asiatica

Asian Colubrina is a sprawling, scrambling, trailing shrub that grows rapidly in full sun. It is an aggressive colonizer, smothering surrounding vegetation, shutting out the light. It grows on all three islands.

Leaves: Alternate, shiny green with finely toothed, wavy margins.

Flowers: small, greenish with five petals

Fruit: capsule

It proliferated after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, as many trees had fallen.

Native to Eastern Africa, Southeast Asia, tropical Australia and the Pacific Islands

Flora of the Cayman Islands,Proctor p.472

Kings 1938 GC 349

Casuarina, Weeping Willow Australian Pine – Casuarina equisetifolia

 Casuarina, Weeping Willow, large, fast-growing, shaggy evergreen trees, have proliferated in Cayman in the last century. Highly salt-tolerant, they have become a well-loved tree, especially on beaches, but they are an invasive menace.  They grow tall, are shallow-rooted and topple easily in storms, exacerbating beach erosion. Their ‘needles’ form a dense carpet and exude a resin which prevents the growth of native plants, much more suited to the ecosystem, such as Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera), Coco-Plum  (Chrsyobalanus icaco) and Jennifer/Juniper (Suriana maritima).

Leaves: reduced to minute scales, encircling needlelike branchlets at regularly spaced nodes. The branchlets look like pine needles. If they fall on your car, they may damage the car’s air-conditioning system.

Flowers: unisexual, the plants are monoecious (separate male and female flowers are borne on the same plant).

Fruit: after fertilization the pistillate (female) flower-head becomes hard and cone-like.

Native to Australia.

Flora of the Cayman Islands,Proctor p.246

Kings 1938 GC 83


Logwood – Haematoxylum campechianum

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.

Leaves: Alternate, compound, with no terminal leaflet.

Flowers: small, bright yellow and very fragrant in January and February. They attract bees.

Fruit: flat and wing-like pod.

Native to Central America, it 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.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor p.384

Kings 1938 GC 416


Purple Allamanda (Cayman), Palay Rubbervine – Cryptostegia grandiflora

Purple Allamanda / Rubber Vine is a woody, trailing or climbing vine, a garden escape. The flowers resemble those of Purple Allamanda (Allamanda violacea), hence it’s Cayman common name.

Leaves: Opposite dark green, glossy with milky sap.

Flowers: showy, funnel-shaped, lilac-purple.

Fruit: thick, pointed woody follicle splits to discharge ‘milkweed’ parachutes, dispersed by wind or flooding.

Native to Africa (Madagascar). It was later grown in India to produce a poor quality rubber latex.

It is poisonous.

 Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor p.531

Scaevola, Beach Naupaka – Scaevola taccada = S. sericea

Scaevola taccada Feb28-14_i

Scaevola, Beach Naupaka is a large, bushy shrub, often forming dense hemispherical mounds. It is very salt-tolerant and is widely used in landscaping coastal properties. It crowds out native vegetation and has an extensive rooting system. It is difficult to control. The fleshy branches are easy to pull up by hand, but broken underground stem segments readily resprout if not completely removed.

Branchlets have white pith.

Leaves: closely Alternate, fleshy, often densely crowded.

Flowers: white half-flower with 5  petals, partially fused.

Fruit: a fleshy sub-spherical white drupe in clusters, produced in the first year or second year. The seeds are dispersed by birds and by water. Fruits may remain viable in salt water for up to a year, and can be spread along  the coast, canal banks and mangroves.

Native from East Africa to India, Southeast Asia, Australia, Pacific Islands

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor p.614

Scaevola plumieri & S.sericea Jul29-03

Cayman has a rare native Inkberry or Bay Balsam – Scaevola plumieri, Critically Endangered, with stiffer leaves, black fruits and similar white half flowers.

S. plumieri & Tournefortia gnaphalodes BT Aug.18-02 AS

Inkberry, Bay Balsam – Scaevola plumieri, Critically Endangered Cayman native and VERY INVASIVE Beach Naupaka, Invasive Scaevola – Scaevola taccada = S. sericea beyond it. Sea Lavender – Tournefortia gnaphalodes = Argusia gnaphalodes on the right. Bodden Town beach, Grand Cayman, Aug. 18, 2002

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor p.613

Kings 1938 LC 66

Wild Tamarind – Leucaena leucocephala

Wild Tamarind, a shrub or small tree, should not be confused with Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) a large tree, native to tropical Asia, with edible acidulous fruits that has become naturalized in Cayman. It colonizes cleared land rapidly and is difficult to eradicate. It is characteristic of secondary growth thickets, old fields and roadsides.

Leaves: Aternate, bipinnately compound, 10-20 pairs of leaflets

Flowers: small globose pin-cushions of radiating stamens, yellowish or white.

Fruit: clusters of flat green, then brown, pods, with numerous shiny dark brown seeds.

Native to Mexico and Central America.

Wild Tamarind is a nitrogen-fixer and therefore a good soil builder. Livestock like it, but it contains the alkaloid mimosine, which causes toxicity in horses, cattle, pigs, and sheep. Horses are especially susceptible. It may result in the loss of long hair – manes and tails, and loss of condition. This happened in Cayman to horses and ponies in a pasture on South Church St. Goats are not affected.

Flora of the Cayman Islands, Proctor p.397

Kings 1938 GC 78, CB 83


Alternative Native Plants

*Cayman endemic species, or variety

Cayman Common Name A-Z

Bastard Strawberry, Pale Lidflowers – Calyptranthes pallens

Bay Candlewood, Sea Oxeye Daisy – Borrichia arborescens

Bay Vine, Railroad Vine, Beach Morning Glory  – Ipomoea pes-caprae

Broadleaf, Geiger Tree – Cordia sebestena var. caymanensis*

Buttonwood (Green) – Conocarpus erectus

Cherry, Simpson’s Stopper – Myrcianthes fragrans

Cocoplum – Chrysobalanus icaco

Duppy Bush, Swordbush, Foliage Flower – Phyllanthus angustifolius

Fiddlewood – Petitia domingensis

Headache Bush, Jamaican Caper – Quadrella cynophallophora = Capparis cynophallophora

Inkberry, Bay Balsam – Scaevola plumieri Critically Endangered

Scaevola plumieri BT Sep11-10_AS

Mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni

Popnut, Portia Tree – Thespesia populnea

Sea Grape – Coccoloba uvifera

Sea Lavender – Tournefortia gnaphalodes = Argusia gnaphalodes

Smokewood – Erythroxylum areolatum

Strawberry, White Stopper – Eugenia axillaris


Scientific name A-Z

 Borrichia arborescens – Bay Candlewood, Sea Oxeye Daisy

Calyptranthes pallens – Bastard Strawberry, Pale Lidflowers

Chrysobalanus icaco – Coco-Plum

Coccoloba uvifera – Sea Grape

Conocarpus erectus – Buttonwood (Green)

Cordia sebestena var. caymanensis* – Broadleaf, Geiger Tree

Erythroxylum areolatum – Smokewood

Eugenia axillaris – Strawberry, White Stopper

Ipomoea pes-caprae – Bay Vine, Railroad Vine, Beach Morning Glory  

Myrcianthes fragrans – Cherry, Simpson’s Stopper

Petitia domingensis – Fiddlewood

Phyllanthus angustifolius – Duppy Bush, Swordbush, Foliage Flower

Quadrella cynophallophora = Capparis cynophallophora – Headache Bush, Jamaican Caper

Swietenia mahagoni – Mahogany

Thespesia populnea – Popnut, Portia Tree

Tournefortia gnaphalodes = Argusia gnaphalodes – Sea Lavender

More Native Plants

Red Mangroves – Rhizophora mangle – at Barkers, West Bay, Grand Cayman. Photo: Ann Stafford, Oct.22, 2006

Red Mangroves puzzle on

Red Mangroves puzzle on

Red Mangroves jigsaw puzzle – click on the thumbnail. Red Mangroves – Rhizophora mangle at Barkers, Grand Cayman.

Cayman Islands Native (Indigenous) Species Definition

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.

Some plants & animals have been introduced & become naturalized, they survive in the wild. If they are not native (indigenous), they will be noted as naturalized.

Cayman common names are almost always different from those used for the same plant when it occurs in other countries.

Fruit – could be a berry (many seeds), drupe (one central stony seed), capsule, pod etc. It does not necessarily mean an edible fruit for humans, but may be for birds

MINI-WOODLANDS  compiled by Ann Stafford

Correction: Ironwood – Chionanthus caymanensis is in the OLEACEAE family (not OLACACEAE)

Click here  Mini-Woodlands common names A-Z Sept. 28, 2005

Cayman common names usually differ from those elsewhere.

Click here Mini-Woodlands scientific names A-Z Sept.28, 2005

Grand Cayman’s birds suffered very badly as a result of Hurricane Ivan (Sept.11-12, 2004) & its aftermath, when there was little food or shelter. The preservation & re-planting of Cayman’s indigenous (& a few that have become naturalized & grow in the wild) trees & shrubs, in clusters, rather than singly, will create a network of mini-woodlands to aid the re-establishment of bird populations. Listed are different species that provide suitable roosts & nesting sites & a year-round supply of fruits for BIRDS.

Click here to see CaymANNature Flora pictures – both photos and scanned Virtual Herbarium images in Ann Stafford’s Gallery. They are arranged by scientific name A – Z.  FLORA – Cayman Islands

and work-in-progress Cayman HERBARIUM

Duppy PumpkinCionosicyos pomiformis, Family: CUCURBITACEAE, Mastic Trail, Ann Stafford, Aug. 3, 2006. High climbing vine, fruits green with whitish bands when immature, turning yellow, then bright orange, when ripe. Range: Grand Cayman and Jamaica.

Duppy Pumpkin – Cionosicyos pomiformis, CUCURBITACEAE
Orange fruits on high-climbing vine.
Ann Stafford, Mastic Trail, Aug. 3, 2006

Casearia staffordiae MT Jun22-01 ASCayman Casearia – Casearia staffordiae, Critically Endangered Grand Cayman endemic, first noticed on the Mastic Trail by Ann Stafford on June 22, 2001.

Casearia staffordiae fl, North Side Nov10-02 ASFlowers were found near Forest Glen, North Side on Nov. 10, 2002.

Cayman Casearia and Cayman Scolsanthus could not be botanically described until flowers and fruits were found. This took several years.

Casearia staffordiae fr Jan.9-05_909 ASFruits were found on this previously undescribed species on the Mastic Trail on Jan.9, 2005, over 2 years after flowers had been found, in a different location.

They were then determined by botanist Dr. George R. Proctor to be species new to science, Casearia staffordiae and Scolosanthus roulstonii. He named them after their discoverers P. Ann van B. Stafford and Frank E. Roulstone III, naturalists, in recognition of their efforts in conserving indigenous species.

Ann was looking for Rat Wood – Erythroxylum rotundifolium, on the Mastic Trail in June 2001. She thought she’d found it and photographed it, but it wasn’t Ratwood. She found tiny flowers on this rare plant that grows only in the Mastic region of Grand Cayman. In January 2005, Ann and friends eventually found little fruits. Dr. Proctor took a specimen to the United States National Herbarium at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Comparing it with close relatives of the genus Casearia, he determined that it was a previously undescribed species, a species new to science. He named it Casearia staffordiae. It is a very slow-growing Critically Endangered Grand Cayman endemic shrub.

KEW and OTEP – Cayman Islands

Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens and OTEP (UK Overseas Territories Environment Programme)CAYMAN ISLANDS

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

Casearia staffordiae Family SALICACEAE is on page 316 (and Plates 19 and 20) of FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor, published by Royal Botanic Gardens, KEW, 2012 and Scolosanthus roulstonii Family: RUBIACAE is on page 620 (and Plate 61). The botanical description in Latin is included for both species.

FLORA of the Cayman Islands

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

Flora of the Cayman Islands 2012, Kew Books

Plant Science Bulletin 59 (3) 2013

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

Dr. George R. Proctor, author of the Flora of the Cayman Islands, by Mahogany tree - Swietenia mahagoni in West Bay.Photo: P. Ann van B. Stafford, Grand Cayman, July 7, 2002

Dr. George R. Proctor, author of the Flora of the Cayman Islands, by Mahogany tree – Swietenia mahagoni in West Bay. Photo: P. Ann van B. Stafford, Grand Cayman, July 7, 2002

Dr. Proctor on the Mastic Trail, Grand Cayman. Photo: P. Ann van B. Stafford April 6, 2004.

Dr. Proctor, nearly 84 years old, with his specimen box, on the Mastic Trail, Grand Cayman. Photo: P. Ann van B. Stafford April 6, 2004.

George Proctor Returns to Jamaica

The Plant Press Vol.2, No.3, October – November 1999.

Department of Botany and the U.S. National Herbarium

National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

George Proctor Returns to Jamaica p.6

Click on CaymANNature Flora album to see Cayman Islands Flora pictures – both photos and scanned Virtual Herbarium images in Ann Stafford’s Gallery. They are arranged by scientific name A – Z.

Click on Cayman Herbarium  for scanned Virtual Herbarium images in Ann Stafford’s Gallery, to help with identification, showing OPPOSITE or ALTERNATE leaf arrangement on the stem. They are arranged by scientific name A – Z. There are page and plate # references for FLORA of the CAYMAN ISLANDS by George R. Proctor, 2nd. Edition, 2012 and Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Fred Burton, illustrated by Penny Clifford, 2nd. Edition, 2007.

Click here for   Cayman Islands PLANTS Red List 2007

Sling-shot, Wild Jasmine – Tabernaemontana laurifolia L.

Tabernaemontana laurifolia fl. fr Dec7-05 AS

Sling-shot, Wild Jasmine – Tabernaemontana laurifolia L, Family: APOCYNACEAE, Cayman native tree – Endangered.
Shiny OPPOSITE leaves, white latex, distinctive branching, grows in dry, rocky woodlands.
Flowers greenish-yellow, fruit 2 broad, fleshy follicles, seeds embedded in orange arils.
Grand Cayman and Jamaica only. Photo: Ann Stafford, Dec. 7, 2005.

Click here for more pictures & information: Sling-shot, Wild Jasmine – Tabernaemontana laurifolia


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: