A tree apparently unknown in this country has been found on Cayman Brac. Muntingia calabura (Jamaica Cherry) was found by Brac hikers who could not identify it. Proper identification was made in April, 2015 by F.J. Burton, author of Wild Trees of the Cayman Islands. A specimen has been submitted to the National Herbarium.
The tree is not a cherry and most Jamaicans are not familiar with it. No birds were seen eating the fruit this year but birds may find it later.
There is an empty sub-division in a section of Stake Bay Bluff Forest. The site is called Dolphin Estates although it is an inland site. Paved streets make it a lovely area to walk, run, ride a bicycle or push a carriage. Coordinates for the first tree (a second has been found) are
N 19 Deg . 41’ 51.7”
W 79 Deg. 50’ 36.7”
HOW DID IT GET HERE?
Cayman Brac is the closest of our three islands to Cuba so seed transport by bird from that location is possible. The ready soil of newly made roads is another factor. The roads were first cleared from the forest, and then built up with crushed rock from the Brac quarry operation. Both specimens found so far are roadside specimens.
It is possible the seeds may have landed in the quarry itself, then been trucked to the site with the road fill. But if so the tree should also be found on Grand Cayman since huge amounts of Brac quarry rock are shipped there
Another theory is that work permit holders could have brought the seeds on their boots from their home countries– Jamaica, Honduras or even the Philippines, where the tree was introduced in the early 20th Century. But again, more trees would then be on Grand Cayman. Therefore the bird theory (e.g. White-crowned pigeon) is plausible.
The berries will never prove popular, being somewhat musky and overly sweet.
Jwp May 2015