I know, I know. More tropical plant photos and I haven’t even left yet. And it is snowing outside your window. How much more of this can you take?
I’m a jerk. Sorry.
One of the nicer aspects of being dumped three hours away from the hotel we thought we had booked and into a part of Cuba we knew absolutely nothing about was that the hotel, which in many respects embodied several of my resort nightmares, had their own botanical garden AND a food garden that supplied some of the hotel’s produce. This made me very happy. The obnoxious racket of pool bingo blaring over the loudspeaker and drowning out the soothing sounds of tropical birds and the crashing of ocean waves: not so much.
Here’s some pretty tillandsia, a fascinating group of plants that never fails to take my breath away.
And here are some more pictures I have taken on various occasions:
My pal Barry and I started a new, collaborative internet website (aka “blog” if you must) called Storefront Gardens, documenting the various shop window gardens we pass by in our day-to-day lives and travels.
Recently, while enjoying our new favourite espresso-based coffee beverage, cortados, we discovered a mutual fascination for these unusual botanical window displays. From the well-tended to the ratty disasters, we seem to love them all.
In a moment of caffeine-induced insanity, because what I need just before a big trip is ANOTHER project, I proclaimed that, “We should document them and start a blog about it!”
And then we did.
Thanks to Davin, my number one enabler, who went ahead and registered the site AND designed it for us.
I took this photo underneath the canopy of a very large tree fern last year in Cuba. In hindsight I realize that while the area was mountainous, the lower landscape was quite hot and dry. Some lower areas were tree-filled and lush, but when I look back on pictures it is apparent that the region was primarily scrubby grassland.
The only explanation I have for the success of a tree fern in this particular spot is that it was a part of a tended garden. Someone watered it daily!
On a previous trip to Cuba we saw tree ferns growing in the mountains but it has taken me this long to work out that tree ferns, being ferns, most likely prefer cooler, shadier, and moist locations. Duh!
Dominica on the other hand has a lot of rain forest. I expect to see several tree ferns growing wild up in the mountains. Exciting!
Nope, we haven’t left for the tropics yet, although it’s probably starting to look like it based on the pictures I’ve been posting. In this last week before we leave I’ve been looking back on a previous trip to Cuba in anticipation of the sort of flora and food we might see in The Lesser Antilles.
I took this picture in the countryside, just outside the gates of this cemetery. I had absolutely no idea what the tree was and tried to glean some information from two girls that were sitting nearby. My ability to speak Spanish is extremely limited and rather pathetic actually, but you’d be surprised by how much you can communicate with infant level language skills and hand gestures. The trick, I’ve found, is to be friendly, bold, and to not succumb to the frustration of feeling pathetic. The worst culture shock I have experienced was on our first trip to Mexico. I felt so helpless to communicate and was too nervous and self-conscious most of the time to even try. I lost out on a lot of learning and experiences due to a fear of looking like an idiot. Since then I have learned that most people are keen to try if you show real interest and effort.
The girls indicated that the plant was a noni tree, and seemed to suggest it was edible but I’m afraid that I did not try a taste when I had the chance. They seemed disinterested in the fruit, and I figured ingesting a fruit I was not familiar with in the middle of nowhere was probably not a wise idea. Let’s just say, I’ve had some bad experiences in this area before. Lesson learned.
Interestingly enough the fruit is also known as Indian mulberry, a name that is not surprising given that the noni does look like an over-sized, white mulberry. However, it is not related to mulberries and is instead related to coffee.
Wikipedia says noni trees are very drought tolerant and able to thrive in a wide assortment of soil conditions. We found this tree growing in very sandy soil about 30 feet or so from the ocean. I don’t think I saw another tree on that trip and I wonder if I will see it on any of the islands we will be visiting shortly.