I have seen these both cultivated and growing wild here in Dominica.
If I had to describe Dominica’s flora with one word, I think I would choose “giant.” Or possibly “huge.”
“Lush” is a good word but I’m not sure it can convey the kind of extreme lushness I am talking about. This isn’t North American lush, this is rainforest, tons of water and heat, things just grow and never stop growing kind of lush. This is plants covering every surface that isn’t moving lush.
The reason I chose “giant” is because not only is it extremely lush, but many of the plants are super-sized. We flew into Dominica about a week ago, arriving on the east coast, and were quickly introduced to the island’s lushness and hugeness by a rapid-fire drive through the interior to the west side. The bamboo we saw along the way were the biggest bamboo I have ever seen in my life. By far! Ferns of all types and sizes, many of which I can not identify completely covered the roadside cliffs. Tree-sized ferns are so commonplace here I’m already feeling a sense of normalcy about seeing them.
Along the way, I remarked to the driver that there was so much of interest growing, I couldn’t tell where cultivation ended and wildness began. The way he put it, just about everything is wild. Here it seems to be less about coaxing things to grow, and more about taming the growth you don’t want.
Imagine the weeding!
Here I am holding up a thick bamboo stalk I found laying on the side of a path. This is not the thickest bamboo I saw. Not by a long shot.
Davin found this gigantic seedpod lying underneath a tree. I’m sorry I can’t identify the tree, but can you believe the size of that pod?
Check out the size of this tree fern frond in comparison to my size. And no, I’m not wearing a cowboy hat, it’s just the way the hat is cocked in the photo. Sadly, I lost my second best hat two days ago and have been reduced to wearing the third best backup.
This is Davin holding a bunch of bananas. They are surprisingly heavy. I have a newfound respect for banana growers. HARD WORK.
Depending on where you are, you can find giant tillandsia filling many of the trees here. You will also find several that have fallen to the ground. Every time I see one I just can’t believe it. There they are, these plants I love, just laying there on the ground like it’s no big deal.
Here’s a photo of me taking a Polaroid of the same tillandsia for scale. HUGE!
And holding a smaller plant that had also fallen to the ground.
This massive thing is the spent flower stalk. With that kind of weight, it’s no wonder the thing fell out of the tree!
And finally, a perfect tillandsia log, all ready to go. It makes me laugh to imagine the work we put into achieving this effect at home (think floral wires and constant spritzing) when you can just pick one up off the ground here.
Sorrel or rum punch (sorrel spiked with rum) is a popular, refreshing drink in the Caribbean, especially during the holiday season.
Knowing this, I was particularly excited to get to the market and get my hands on some fresh sorrel so that I could find out how the drink compares when the flower calyces are fresh rather than dried.
In my minds eye I imagined market tables piled high with bright red blooms. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Instead the fresh flowers seem to be sold in bagged portions. It’s only day one as I am writing this (you will read this a few days later) so I’m holding out hope that there is a market stand somewhere on the island where the blooms are beautifully display instead of bagged.
The good news is that the flower calyces I bought were still fresh and crisp inside the bag. I paid about $2 EC (roughly $.80 US) for about 5-6 cups of flowers.
Turns out they make the most incredibly colourful, intense, and tangy drink. It’s so much more vibrantly red than the drink I make with dried flowers at home.
And look at the colour of the calyces when they are removed from the liquid!
It might be difficult to go back to dried next summer.
Here’s my standard recipe and the one I made today, but with so many tropical fruits and fresh spices available here I’m thinking of experimenting with some flavour combinations.
Do you have a favourite hibiscus/sorrel/rum punch/agua de jamaica recipe? Please share it.
Imagine one of these munching its way through your garden. I saw this one, and then I saw two others soon after!
Both terrifying (I was initially sure it must be poisonous and stepped back as if it might eat my face) and amazingly beautiful all at once.
Turns out it won’t eat your face or your entire garden, just the frangipani relatives if you have them.