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.
Photo taken February 2007. Meanwhile here in Toronto we are waiting on yet another predicted snowstorm.
I have seen tree ferns in greenhouses but this one truly was as big as a large tree! Photographed at “Jardin Gran Piedre” in the Sierra Maestra mountains outside Santiago de Cuba.