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Grand Cayman’s QEII Botanic Park

Jan Hintze

Jan Hintze

August 12, 2012

A few days ago I was on Grand Cayman Island, on my way to Panama for the Heliconia Society International Conference and my daughter took me to visit this garden. It is just beautiful, a credit to the Caymanese. It has been established for many years, and is also a refuge for the native blue iguana.

The Blue Iguana – a fairly large (1 metre) beastie, apparently can be dangerous. They didn’t look too blue to me, but apparently the mating season makes a difference. They look rather prehistoric, and lie about basking in the sun, but can move at considerable speed.

The garden has several sections, specialising in different aspects of local and exotic genera. There are orchids, palms, Heliconia, ginger, crotons, Datura and Brugmansia, all beautifully landscaped and maintained. It was rather unexpected, I must say, since other gardens I have seen in the Carribbean have been somewhat rudimentary, but this was excellent, with a pleasant visitors centre, well marked and maintained paths and a variety of collections.

One of the several small lakes scattered through the garden

One special feature was a food and medicine garden, complete with a small restored Caymanian House in the centre of the garden. The soil was almost pure sand, which is a difficulty in cultivation on the island, and no attempt has been made to grow grass or ground cover in between, which is a traditional way. There were many plants, all of which were labelled with common name, latin name and the use to which the plant was put.

One of the many beautiful heliconias in the garden, which was full of beautiful flowers. Heliconia orthotricha

The orchid garden is still under development, but there is a broad range of plants tied into the trees, with the aim of having some flowering at all times.

The palm garden contains a significant collection, although not all are native.

There is also an area of natural swamp, with pools of fresh and brackish salt water which is typical of a lot of the terrain on the island, and a large number of plants have adapted to this environment.

Now this ginger is certainly not native, since it comes from Asia, more particularly Indonesia. Tapeinochilus annanassae is a fabulously spectacular flower, and it is no wonder it is spread through Central America

The colour gardens are mostly stocked with exotics, but are landscaped beautifully, incorporating several small lakes which are interconnected. Flowering trees, shrubs, crotons, cordylines, all combine to make a beautiful and colourful spectacle.

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