Category Archives: native species

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!

Fieldguide Friday – Wild Sea Island Cotton

I am ashamed to admit just how long it has been since I have featured a Field Guide Friday post.  That is all going to change now that I have a file folder full of local species identified (thank you Naqqi)!  First up, locally known as Wild Cotton or Sea Island Cotton, Gossypium hirsutum.  The photos above were taken in January of 2012 on the way to Southwest Bluff, an area where there were a great concentration, but if you are driving around Providenciales this time of year you are likely to see these fluffy white poofs by the side of the road in many areas.  Contrary to popular belief, it was not the British Loyalists who introduced this species to the Turks and Caicos.  It came long before, but by whom?  For a couple of hints, reference the wikipedia link above; “native to Central America” and “cultivated for over 5,000 years.”  A people who were weaving the cotton, not into clothing, but very cleverly into sleeping hammocks and mosquito netting. Have you figured it out?  Whether your certain or stumped, you must read this fascinating article to discover this and so much more: Back In Time Sea Island Cotton.
 Image above and images below via the brilliant botanist, B Naqqi Manco, who captured this thriving wild cotton in Lorimers, Middle Caicos in 2012.  Remarkable the white and pink colored blossoms stemming from the same plant!  This lovely looker seems to be spared entirely from the Cotton Seed Bug, Oxycarenus hyalinipennis.  Referencing this CAPS Survey Report; “In the
Western Hemisphere, it was first documented in the North Caicos Islands in 1991 (Slater
and Baranowski 1994); and by 2005, it had been observed throughout the Turks and
Caicos, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Hispaniola (Baranowski and Slater 2005).” 

The cotton industry in the Turks and Caicos was sadly quite short lived due to the invention of the Cotton Gin, the quality of the soil, and another unfortunate pest, the Boll Weevil.  I have often thought about creative uses for the cotton we still have growing on this island, someday I will hopefully have the opportunity to style with the fluffy stuff like this rustic-wedding-decor-creative-with-cotton!

Fieldguide Fridays – Bearded Cactus

 Easily spotted “bearded” tips of the Dildo Cactus, Longbay, image by Larry Steensland

 The most common species of cactus in the Turks and Caicos Islands is locally known as Dildo Cactus, Pilosocereus Royenii.  The tubular shaped branches often display white tufts at the tops, giving it another common name, “Old Man Cactus” or “Bearded Cactus.”  It is native to the Caribbean and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  They resemble trees in that they are often seen towering above the rest of the local vegetation reaching at heights over 20 feet tall.

A now labeled beautiful specimen on the  longbay-beach-barn nature trail.  Amazing that all those branches are supported by the single stalk.

Field Guide Fridays – Yellow Alder

This sunshine colored lovely is locally known as “Bahama Yellow Flower” or “Yellow Alder”.  This West Indian natives scientific name is Turnera Ulmifolia but our neighbors may refer to it as “Cuban Buttercup”, “West Indian Holly”, “Sage Rose”, “Sundrops”, “Marilopez”, or the curious “Ramgoat Dashalong.”    The bright blossoms only last a day but luckily this herb blooms throughout the year here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Bees and butterflies are frequent visitors to this sun loving shrub.  Here is what Micki from Big Coppit Key, FL writes:
“This plant is also known as “Yellow Alder” and “Sage Rose.” It is tenacious and grows just about anywhere: full sun, shade, dry or moist soil, acidic to alkaline; rich, average, or poor soil; and in the cracks of a sidewalk. It is very drought tolerant.
It does not appear to have many pests, or is not bothered by the ocassional nibble.
It can be grown from seeds and cuttings, but does not transplant well. It does not like having it’s feet tickled. The most effective way to transplant is to start it in a peat pot and, if you are going to plant it into the ground, put it in the spot you want it in and leave it alone. I tried to transplant a 2′ tall specimen keeping a generous amount of dirt around the root ball, but it went into transplant shock and died anyway.
I have learned it is very comfortable in containers and does not mind becoming root bound. In pots they can be moved around as they grow taller. My oldest Alder plant is about four years old and about 4 1/2 feet high and it has been moved around the garden as the seasons change.
They make beautiful background plants. They can get leggy and may require some staking, so trim the side growth by 1/3 to 1/2 to encourage it to get bushy.
On the down side, most nurseries in Florida do not offer them because they regard them to be weeds and crowd out other plants. I treat mine the same way as mints and ruella (Texas petunia): I pull volunteer plants and keep it contained.
On the up-side, this plant , according to Pub, has the potential to treat MRSA.
I hope this information helped fellow gardners decide if they want this “gypsy” in their garden.”
Information taken from daves garden
Another detailed account on this plants characteristics may be read on ntsavanna

Five Eco-Friendly Facts about Fleur de Lys

Thinking green is a constant consideration at Fleur de Lys Villa and we hope that our guests follow the same practice.  There are so many gorgeous vacation villas in the Turks and Caicos, choosing one can be time consuming and quite the challenge!  When we holiday, we like to make certain that we are making conscientious decisions when visiting a new place; where will our hard earned dollars get utilised the best?  What local businesses can we support to help make a difference in the community?  What foods are sustainable?  What local charities are in need of assistance?  All of these questions usually involve a great deal of research online to answer, and even then, one hopes that the information is honest.  We hope to make the process simpler and easier to access for our guests and visitors to the island who may be reading this post.  Living here for the last decade, we aim to keep current on these topics and are happy to share the information with like minded individuals who are looking to vacation as eco-friendly as possible.

Image from here

#1 CONSTRUCTION: Fleur de Lys Villa is not a five story hotel with massive energy consumption and excessive waste required to operate daily.  The villa is a four bedroom, not too big – not too small, just right sized home owned, operated, and maintained by . . . US!  Thats correct, we do all the landscaping, the cleaning, the greeting, the carpentry, the cabinetry, the handyman housecalls (unless time constraints or expertise require otherwise).  Both construction and Caribbean architecture enthusiasts, we designed the villa to function ideally in this climate and all the concrete foundations, block walls, insulated roofs, louvered shutters, bi-fold windows, dual doors, patios, pergolas, and balconies attest to that.  The layout and location were specifically designed to best utilise trade winds, keeping inhabitants cool in the summers and comfortable in the winters. 
Image from blisstree

#2 CONSUMPTION: Fleur de Lys is a conservative consumer.  All the water heaters are on timers, the split unit A/C’s are designated per room,  majority of lights are on dimmers, and appliances not in use are kept unplugged.  At an average cost of .50 per kw, energy consumption is not only an ECO concern but an ECOnomical one as well!  We encourage our guests to keep the water coolers unplugged as room temperature water is healthier and more hydrating and also to use the more beneficial Caribbean solar line drying versus the power guzzling dryer.   We weekly monitor all usage to make certain the precious island  resources of water and power are not wasted.

Images by Adam Sherwin for resource magazine

#3  REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE: We have highlighted above many ways in which we reduce consumption and waste at Fleur de Lys Villa but we also try to reuse our resources.  Our gutter drainage feeds a large cistern for collection of rain water, the grey water is recycled for irrigation, and food waste is composted, the nutrient rich soil later fed back to the hundreds of trees, plants, and flowers on property.  Avid DIY’ers, the villa is full of reused items, from discarded lumber to louver blades (shown pictured) to Bedroom sets and beyond.  We support the Campaign to Ban Single Use Plastic by  providing reusable shopping bags and aluminum drinking bottles at the villa for guests use and as of November we are very thrilled to contract TCI Waste and Disposal for our recycling needs! 
Image from here, wonderful demonstration of how every little decision should be cradled with thought

#4 ACT GLOBAL, BUY LOCAL: This is one of the most important and effective strategies for making the planet a cleaner, greener place.  Every person CAN make a difference; you and me, there is no doubt about that WE can change the world with what we BUY.  There will be no demand for pollutants the day we stop purchasing them!  We want you to consume wisely when you are in the Turks and Caicos.  Here is a list of recommended options but this blog is full of information on local people, charities, events, businesses, and organisations that could use support.  Feel free to do a search for an area or topic that might interest you, this volunteer-in-turks-and-caicos post is a great place to start.


Image from website below
big blue unlimited eco adventures – learn about TCI’s unique environment while having eco-friendly fun hiking, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kiteboarding or bicycling and support local businesses/people while island hopping.  You can be certain the staff will be sure to follow all rules and regulations put in place to protect the National Parks.  Ask questions, they are happy to oblige.

sail beluga– Sail away on board a unique catamaran that utilises solar power and very little fuel.  Twenty-five year veteran and Turks and Caicos Islands enthusiast, Captain Tim, is both a National Park protector and a wealth of history and information.

Image from wherewhenhow
Provo Ponies– Horseback riding on the beach.  Started as a rescue operation for abused and malnourished horses and ponies, over the course of seven years two have grown to a healthy stable of twenty-one!  Plus dogs, cats, chickens, birds, frogs, fish, and you may even find a rescue in care such as a piglet or baby donkey . . . animal lovers will not want to miss this!

-EATING- Look and ask for locally grown produce while grocery shopping; tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, basil, cilantro, mint, and other home growns you will find are far more flavorful than those that have traveled thousand of miles and burned hundreds of gallons of fuel to arrive at your plate.  Visit the Farmer’s Market at Fresh Bakery, the five-cays fishery for local catches, and the Conch Farm to learn about the island’s only export.  Before ordering or purchasing seafood, check SeafoodWatch to find out what is sustainable for the region.  Make requests at restaurants for tap water (a steripen is great for traveling), straw free drinks, and styrafoam and plastic free to-go containers.  We suggest bringing your aluminum water bottle with you and buying an eco-clamshell at home to travel with.  Ask restaurants what local dishes they suggest and inquire if they recycle and if not, why not?  Patronise the Greenbean-Cafe, a flagship eatery that boasts eco-friendly products and recycling bins within the restaurant.  Be sure to try TCI coffee, island scoop, Turks Head Beer, bambarra rum, and visit Flavors-Of-The-Turks-And-Caicos for a wide variety of locally made products sure to set the taste buds soaring.
Image from link above

-SHOPPING- Find all kinds of incredible locally made products while supporting a noteworthy organisation, the tci national trust (see their site for must see cultural and historical sites to explore) at their Souvenir Shop.  Attend the Graceway Gourmet Market the second Saturday of the month from 9am to 1pm for a great selection of local art, crafts, jewelry, accessories, eats, and treats.  When looking to buy any product, check the ingredients whether it is a food, a beauty product, or an article of clothing.  Stay away from ingredients that are toxic to us and to wildlife.  We use as many eco-friendly cleaning, landscaping, and amenities products as possible at the villa.  If you have a great product tip, please tell us about it!

Image from

#5 BIODIVERSITY:  Fleur de Lys Villa lies just steps away from one of the consecutively voted best beaches in the world, which lies on a sparkling, breathtaking beauty of an ocean that boasts the the third largest reef system in the world.   These are well known draws to the destination that have earned the Turks and Caicos the reputation as the new darling of the Caribbean, but what makes Fleur de Lys Villa stand apart from many villas is a unique attribute regarding her location.  No, it’s not the beach!  There will be no beach traffic peering in the windows to admire the furniture nor noisy passing boats to disturb an afternoon snooze.  It’s better than the beach in my book.  Fleur de Lys Villa  borders a nationally protected reserve which provides a spectacular looking glass into the biodiversity that thrives in this part of the world.  On any given morning you are likely to see a bahama_woodstar_hummingbird  gathering nectar from the firecracker flowers, a no-bigger-than-a-fingernail frog resting on a courtyard vine leaf, or a vivid green lizard sunning on the deck.  The courtyard and extensive landscaping were designed to create a lovely, relaxing haven for humans and the many wonderful Caribbean creatures we are lucky to share it with.  Villa guests enjoy unprecedented privacy, there are no neighbors or structures on the left and right flanking properties, and just past the pool lies a forest of buttonwood and red mangroves and one of the best bird watching areas in all of Leeward.  Please read the /wondrous-west-indian-wetlands post and this world wildlife profile to find out just how incredible and rare the Turks and Caicos ecoregion is.  Wetlands have many misconceptions, and we want to do our part to educate otherwise.  Did you know that wetland areas, like our reserve pictured below, actually help combat mosquito infestation, provide flood control, acts as filtration systems for pollutants, and are living nurseries to wildlife? This part of the world demands to be preserved and protected and one of our many joys and duties with living here is to do just that.  We are highly active members of the tci-environmental-club and founders of the TCI Rubbish Runners.

Fleur de Lys Villa circled, the long thin body of water south of the villa is a nationally protected reserve