The other day I posted about a datura that wasn’t a datura that I thought had been given the patois name “Agouti Umbrella,” but is not in fact the “Agouti Umbrella” even though it certainly looks like it could be one.
The fern-like moss shown in the above photo is the real “Agouti Umbrella” aka “Parasol Agouti.” In my defence, it doesn’t seem to make much sense does it? After all, the Brugmansia, which incidentally is labelled Datura in one of the books I have been using as a reference (confused yet?) is shaped like a large parasol covered in drooping umbrellas.
This teeny weeny little plant called Sellaginella that I saw growing in the forest, at a friend’s place up in the Valley (here is another source of contention. The idea that one would travel uphill to arrive at a valley continues to confound me), and as seen in the photo above, taken on our hike to the Boiling Lake, is the real “Agouti Umbrella”.
This has proven to be another lesson in the importance of scientific names. Case in point, I was introduced to several plants on the trip that I haven’t been able to show you because I can not identify them. Davin and I spent about three hours collectively attempting to identify a plant that we can’t find a single reference to both online or in books. All I have is the Patois or Creole name, and even that can get very confusing. A single plant can have a different Patois name depending on which island you are on, or even which community on any given island you happen to be visiting at the time. For example, there are nine varieties of yam on Dominica, and different Patois names for any given variety from village to village. As a result, I’ve pretty much given up trying to identify yams. It’s enough that I know the genus.
Added to that is the fact that I didn’t always hear the Patois correctly. I grew up with a grandmother who spoke Patois or “Kweyol” as it is sometimes called, (although she would never teach me) and who spoke with a pretty typical Dominican accent, and I still couldn’t understand what people were saying at times. It is a beautiful accent by-the-way. Very lyrical and sing-songy. So while I have my notes to refer back to, there have been many times when my spelling was way off the mark.
One of the books I have been using to make identifications, “Caribbean Wild Plants and Their Uses” by Penelope N. Honychurch, is helpful in that the index is organized by the scientific, English common, and Creole names. But it’s a small book and just about any plant that grows in the Caribbean is growing somewhere on Dominica. That’s a lot of plants to cover. They really need their own, comprehensive book.