Category Archives: Field Guide Friday

Field Guide Friday – Butterfly Weed

Images via B. Naqqi Manco
Asclepias Curassavica, locally known as butterfly weed, is a flowering plant in the milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae.  As one would guess, the sap of this plant is milky (and rumored to be poisonous, especially damaging to the eyes).  It’s local name references it’s attractiveness to butterflies, as well as birds and bees, who like to visit the blossoms.  It is a nice addition to a flower garden, typically growing 2-4′ tall and flowering from spring until fall.  I love the wispy nature of these flyaway seed pods, so pretty!

Field Guide Friday – Big Sage Lantana

Image via wildernessarena 
In honor of Easter, Lantana Camara, Big Sage, or West Indian Sage, the only species to date that reminds me of candy.  The clustered flowers come in a kaleidoscope of colors, some varieties all on the same bloom, from white to purple, yellow, red, pink, orange, even blue.  I love the strong fragrance of this plant; the flowers, the leaves, the stems, everything is highly aromatic.  But though you may be tempted to a little taste of this lovely, be aware, the entire plant is highly toxic!  The green berries are the most poisonous and can actually be fatal to humans or animals. 
Image via b. Naqqi Manco
This species, part of the Verbenaceae (Verbena family), is a small tropical perennial shrub that may grow up to ten feet.  The stem and leaves are hairy and the species is known for it’s hardy nature, even considered invasive in some parts of the world.  It likes full sun and well drained sandy soil, has some salt tolerance, and is known to revive after you may think it dead (another reason it is appropriate for Easter).  It requires little water, is mostly immune to pests or disease, and has extreme heat tolerance, to the fact of being called fire resistant.  It will grow and quickly colonize burnt areas. The flowers bloom all year long and will attract butterflies to the garden to pollinate, or as you see below, hummingbirds.
Above and below images via one of our Fleur de Lys Villa guests, Mathew, in the courtyard last February.

Based on the coloring I would guess this is a male Bahama Woodstar hummingbird. 

Our current guests, also bird watching enthusiasts, we bid farewell to today as the head back home to British Columbia.  This family has been a real treat to host at the villa, they really enjoyed all the nature surrounding Fleur de Lys and Turks and Caicos.  Much gratitude to the Radley’s, bon voyage and we hope to welcome you back to Turks and Caicos in the future.

Field Guide Friday – Brahmi Herb

 Images via B Naqqi Manco
This pretty little bell shaped flower comes from the Brahmi herb, Bacopa monnieri.  These images were taken from North Wells, Grand Turk, a perfect location for this wetland inhabiting species.  They can tolerate brackish waters or muddy shores, mostly residing in the east in Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and China.  It has been used for over 3,000 years in Ayurvedic medicine, please read an interesting recent study on it’s effect on human memory here. Some of the southern states, and we here in the Turks and Caicos, are lucky this lovely lives here!  Besides medicinal, common uses for the species are for aquariums and ponds.  If you happen upon one, many have reported success with propagation from cuttings.

Field Guide Friday – Golden and Yellow Poinciana

 Above and below image of the Golden Poinciana via B. Naqqi Manco
Many of us living in Turks and Caicos would recognize the Flamboyant or Royal Poinciana, Delonix Regia.  Locally known as the Flame Tree for good reason; with it’s fiery crimson colored masses of flowers in full bloom, this stop in your tracks striking tree is highly conspicuous.  But it’s yellow flowering sisters, the Golden Poinciana, Delonix Regia var. Golden, and Yellow Poinciana, Delonix Regia var. Flavida are far more rare.

Delonix Regia originated in Madagascar’s dry deciduous forests but it’s great beauty soon had it spreading to any tropical or subtropical region that could sustain it.  In the Caribbean one should begin to see blooms in May, lasting through to September.  The rest of the year the tree is a far cry from it’s former glory, looking rather gaunt but easily recognizable with it’s grey smooth branches forming a natural umbrella canopy, feathery fern or mimosa looking leaves, and relatively large, long dark seedpods.

I caught sight of a Yellow Poinciana while doing a site visit at a clients in 2010, the first and last I have ever seen locally.   Above you can see a comparison between the Royal on the right to the Yellow on the left.  Incredible how overpowering the blooms are on the Royal, and how sparse they are on the Yellow, despite the two trees being approximately the same height and likely planted at the same time and maintained in the same fashion.

So what’s your favorite?

Field Guide Friday – Passionflower Vine

 Image above via passionflow, all images below via B Naqqi Manco
I had planned a few weeks ago, in honor of yesterday, that the Field Guide Friday post for today would be the Passionflower Vine, a member of the Passiflora family.   I thought surely the name must come from it’s exotic shape, accompanied by some dashing romantic narrative.  Would you have guessed that in actuality it is handed down from Christianity?
“Early explorers and missionaries to this hemisphere, specifically to South America, named these dramatic vines Passiflora or passion flower to help in their conversion of native Americans to Christianity. They saw and used the beautiful intricate flower parts to tell the story of the death of Jesus, making the story more memorable to listeners. The legend they told is that the passion flower’s ten petals and sepals represent the ten apostles present at the crucifixion. The filaments portrayed the crown of thorns, or the halo about Jesus’ head. The stamens, of which there are five, suggest the five wounds to Christ’s hands, feet and torso. Other parts of the flower and leaves are also used to represent aspects of Christ’s passion.”
 Quotation from virtualherbarium
This ruby colored lovely is the Passiflora cuprea, or red passionflower vine. Many species of passionflowers are often known to need a large bee (perhaps our big black carpenter bee here in the TCI), hummingbird, bat, or wasp to effectively pollinate due to their unique structure. These vines can reach 30-40 feet in length, making them useful for colorful arbor climbers and dappled shade makers.  They appear to be undemanding, liking well drained soil with sun to partial shade, and as they bloom nearly all year producing a pleasant fragrance, a gardener would receive an abundant return for their care.

The below beauty is the White passionflower vine, Passiflora pectinata, the most common of passion vines in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  They are an unforgettable flower, only fitting that they have such a significant namesake!