Wednesday, May 9, 2012
MAY 9, 2012 FLOWERS OF THE CARIBBEAN
Have you ever been to an island and really noticed its flowers? Most who have been to Hawaii have noticed the many species of orchids that grow in this state. The Caribbean islands have an array of plants and flowers that you will never see in the states. Barbados is one of these islands. I studied at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown. I also stayed in Holestown and Speighstown. I had met a gentleman named Lindsay while studying there. Lindsay's father was an Ambassador from the United Kingdom. When Lindsay found out I loved old movies, he and his father invited me to lunch to met the American actress who won an Academy Award in 1934 for It Happened One Night. Her name was Claudette Colbert.
I will never forget that lunch at her house in Speighstown nor the conversation and seeing her Academy Award on the mantle above the fireplace. Years later in New York, I went backstage to say hello to her and her co-star Rex Harrison both of whom were starring in Noel Coward's Private Lives. She fondly remembered my Barbados visit to her home. I have been blessed in my life
Her house was beautifully landscaped. The sea was a mere 10 feet away from her door. The gardens were full of Hibiscus. Along the sea coast were these pods from the Albizia lebeeck plant. I remember the flowers as cream colored and fan shaped. Then there is the Pride of Barbados (photographed above).
Because of the terrain of this island there are many varieties of plants on all of its coasts. There are sea cliff communities, sand dunes, wetlands, a moist forest and even coastal woodlands. There is an area full of mangroves. I wish I had known more botany at that time but I was completly absorbed in my study of medicine. There are more than 3000 species of native cultivated flowering plants. There are two books which appeared in the literature: a 1965 book called Flora of Barbados and the six volume collective of The Flora of the Lesser Antilles. Today I found the book Wild Plants of Barbados.
The flora and fauna get altered every time a coastal area is developed with hotels. An example is that Holestwon had few hotels when I was there, but today there are many and the fauna of that region is dramatically reduced. This happens a lot on these islands. On islands with less hotels, as the island of Mustique, there is no disruption of the flora and fauna.
One day I hope to retire. I want to go back to all the islands I have visited and study plants, especially Grenada, Mustique and Bequi. Let's not forget St. Vincents, Petit St Vincents, and Young Island.