By Anna Wootton
Dart’s first project in the Cayman Islands wasn’t real estate development, but horticulture.
Dart Nursery was founded in 1996, a 26-acre nursery that was once the largest collection of tropical plants in the Caribbean. To this day the nursery has thousands of varieties of plants, and its creation nearly 25 years ago has allowed our properties to benefit from lush, mature landscaping from the moment they open.
In advance of Nature Photography Day on 15 June, we have rounded up six of the plants you can see across our properties and the Cayman Islands as a whole. While we are all staying home to do our part in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, this also presents an opportunity to slow down and smell the roses. Or in our case, go for daily strolls around your neighbourhood and see if you can identify any of the plants listed below. We spoke to Dart’s Horticulture Manager Shannon Schmidt and Dart’s Senior Manager Landscape Design and Horticulture Whit Connors to learn more about these beautiful plants.
- Lantana camara (also known as Lantana)
Photos: Anna Wootton
You can find Lantana at Camana Bay, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and The Residences at Seafire, and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
While this photograph shows a variety of Lantana in a striking yellow and pink flower combination, “[t]here are over 150 species of Lantana in almost every colour,” explains Shannon. “Red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, white…some species have only one colour and some have multiple.” This versatile plant doesn’t just offer a range of colours, either. “Some are shrubs, some are compact, and some are trailing,” she adds.
Lantana can survive in cold temperatures, but it thrives in warmer climes. Native to Central and South America, this plant is widespread across the globe. In some regions it is invasive but this is not yet true in the Caribbean, Shannon says.
- Coccoloba uvifera (also known as Seagrape)
You can find Coccoloba at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and The Residences at Seafire (note the name of the resort’s popular Mexican restaurant – Coccoloba!), along the Harbour in Camana Bay, at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, the event site north of Seafire, The Beach Deck and at Coral Beach.
“You can find Coccoloba – or Seagrape trees – on nearly any beach or sophisticated landscape on Grand Cayman,” Shannon says. “It offers a sprawling broad canopy with oval- to circular-shaped leaves and muti-coloured exfoliating bark – it’s hard to miss!”
Native to the tropical Americas, Coccoloba can tolerate a wide range of conditions, including poor soils, and is drought tolerant once established, with a high tolerance for salt. It does prefer sun to shade, and its creamy white flowers are cross-pollinated by bees and other insects, and serve as nectar for butterflies. Its fruit ripens in spring and summer, offering nourishment for larger wildlife and humans!
- Bougainvillea sp. (also known as Paper Flower)
You can find bougainvillea on every Dart property, though Whit’s favourite is at boutique hotel Palm Heights on West Bay Road.
This is a highly versatile plant that comes in tree forms, as bonsai, in compact shrubs and in almost every colour you can imagine! It is also extremely low maintenance – always a plus for busy gardeners. “Once established, it doesn’t need much aside from occasional watering and some carefully planned pruning,” Shannon explains. The pruning does need to be approached with caution since the stems are covered in thorns! Bougainvillea also blooms on new growth, so if you prune it too often you will never get to enjoy the flower.
Native to South America, Bougainvillea is easy to find in the Cayman Islands thanks to its love for the sun. It is pest resistant (though iguanas do love to nibble on its leaves). Interestingly, what many think of as the flower, is actually a leaf. “The true flower is white, inconspicuous and hidden inside the bract,” Shannon tells us. “The bract – a modified leaf or scale – is the colourful portion or ‘paper’ that many think of as the flower.”
- Delonix regia (also known as Royal Poinciana or Flame Tree)
The majestic Royal Poinciana tree can be found at the Camana Bay roundabout, at Regatta Office Park, by the Arts & Recreation Centre in Camana Bay and also in Cayman International School’s campus, The Beach Deck, and at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and The Residences at Seafire.
This tree really “puts on a show,” Shannon says. It has a flamboyant and fierce appearance and can reach heights of 30 to 40 feet tall with a broad umbrella-like canopy of 40 to 70 feet, making it an excellent shade tree.
“In climates similar to Cayman, this tree is deciduous during the dry, drought season over winter, but in spring pushes out soft fern-like leaves followed by its show-stopping display of three- to four-inch flowers,” Shannon adds.
Native to Madagascar, the colour intensity of the tree’s flowers range from orange to deep scarlet, but another variety on Grand Cayman offers yellow flowers. Shannon shares that in the winter, when not flowering, the tree produces bean-like fruit pods up to two feet long, which gives it a visual interest as well as a soothing sound when the seeds chatter inside the pod when the wind blows.
- Plumeria pudica (also known as Bridal Bouquet or White Frangipani)
These can be found by Bismarckia Way in Camana Bay (just past Anytime Fitness and Jessie’s Juice Bar), at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and The Residences at Seafire, and in the surface parking lot behind Gelato & Co., Ryde and Starfish Village in Camana Bay.
Its beautiful white flowers are the most common variety of Bridal Bouquet or White Frangipani that one will find. However, Shannon noted, there is a hybrid variety from Thailand that is pink. “It is called ‘Sri Supakorn,’ but I have never seen it here,” she says.
The plant is native to Central and South America and performs best in warm climates where it will flower year-round if cared for properly. In colder climates, which Plumeria can tolerate to an extent, it will bloom in warmer months.
- Cocos nucifera (also known as Coconut Palm)
Palm trees can of course be found all over the island, but our most notable locations are the Camana Bay Island, where they are planted in such a way that there is a spot of shade to be found at any given point in the day, at all of our hospitality properties and at Regatta Office Park.
Known for being synonymous with tropical vacations and coconuts, palm trees are incredibly sturdy. “Some people do not realise how old and resilient palm trees really are,” Whit says. “Around us every day there are palm trees that are over a hundred years old and have been through many hurricanes and droughts. Some of the curved palm trees are very intriguing as they take decades to achieve a single curve in their trunk!”
About the author
Anna Wootton is the Digital Marketing & PR Manager for Dart’s business development and real estate companies and assets, including Dart Real Estate, Provenance Properties, Cayman Alternative Investment Summit (CAIS), Camana Bay and The Residences at Seafire. Born in the Cayman Islands, with British heritage and a Canadian passport, Anna is multinational with a Caymankind heart. Anna has a background in journalism and a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from University of British Columbia. She has worked for Dart for the past six years.