Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pleas, Trees and the Bee's Knees

First of all, we have a missing dog, Buddha, who owns Anita. If you have gone out on Culebra's tour of bars and restaurants, she (Anita, not Buddha) has probably been your server at one time or another, you'll remember her gorgeous smile. She's out on the water too, so you might have met her there or have seen her and Buddha at the beach. Buddha's been missing a few days and Anita wants her back! Here's the deal.

"This is the missing Buddha. If anyone has seen her, please let me know. I'm offering a 250 dollar reward, no questions asked! ~ Anita" 

(please contact me at caribemj (@) gmail.com; I'll put you in touch with Anita) all photos courtesy of Anita

Let's get Buddha home!

Second up. I've gotten all sorts of information about the Gumbo Limbo tree after posting about my imbroglio with a manchineel. Thanks to you and you and you who sent me something new to learn! It seems the tree is a lot more interesting and complex than I ever imagined and I was already inlovetriqued with the ones in my yard. Any tree with a nickname Naked Indian would get my attention even if I wasn't already interested.

From the site In Rio Dulce:

Gumbo Limbo

(Bursera simaruba)
["chacah", ka-ka h", or "hu=kup" in Mayan] Also known as the Chino, Naked Indian, Gumbo-limbo or Turpentine tree, the berries are sought by fruit eating birds. The bark has a grayish resin which tastes like turpentine. The bark, gum, and leaves are much esteemed as home remedies. The resinous gum has been used as incense, adhesives for broken dishes, as a protective covering on canoes, and to repel insects and worms.
A fast growing perennial to 30-50 feet tall with yellow flowers on long slender spikes. Grows in zones 3-8. Taken as a tea, it is useful for liver, kidney and bladder problems. It is also a healing herb for mucous membranes and its astringent properties help stop bleeding. The plant also produces a yellow/gold dye. 

While this tree had started blooming before our deluge, it's gone wild since
From the St. John Beach Guide comes this tree trivia that you can astound your friends with. Not exactly the stuff of cocktail party chin-chin chatter in New York City, but around here it will make you look tres islandy tuned in smart. We don't require much.

The turpentine tree or gumbo-limbo gets its name from the turpentine-like smell of its resin. It is also called tourist nose tree because the reddish smooth bark continually sheds and can resemble the sunburned nose of a tourist. Another name for this tree is living fence post because branches could be cut and stuck into the ground where they will root and make a living fence.

The limbs on this tree are so softly bendy, it isn't hard to break one off to stick it in the ground, the trick is finding some ground wiithout a few thousand rocks in the way, but I will.

Every few years it seems I have a lot of tree planting going on, a good thing. This year it is moringa (thanks Pam and Chuck!), guanabana (thanks, Judy!), cashew (thanks, neighbor who doesn't know I steal from your tree) and avocado (thanks, compost pond). I have high hopes for all of them. While all are beautiful, they are also useable - and that is worth spending water on in my book. Shade, food, medicinal properties...what's not to like?

I planted three of the guanabana here and haven't figured out where the others will go yet. Half I gave to another friend who will try her luck with them up at her much more fertile land - with my jungle, you'd think my land was very fertile, but whatever grows out of the ground here has to be seriously hardy and adaptable to wind, salt, clay, and iguana chomping. Guanabana, also known - to me - as soursop, is a great tree. I didn't even realize it WAS a soursop until I looked up Guanabana, its Spanish name.

For the most definitive information on tropical fruit trees or bushes,  I always go to Julia Morton. I was told about her wonderful book Fruits of Warm Climates over 30 years ago and there probably isn't a year that has gone by since that I haven't referred to it for something (I used to refer to the actual book, but it went the way of 'could I borrow that and never give it back'). Luckily for all of us, the ENTIRE book is online, see the above link. Here is what Julia has to say about soursops.

Moringa - and I've told you all about that, but just in case you've forgotten:


This extremely fast growing woody species (Moringa oleifera, Moringaceae) doesn't look like much (actually, they can be quite beautiful - MJ), but it could open up a new category of crops: "vegetable trees." Moringa produces long pods with the appearance of giant green beans and the taste of asparagus. It also produces masses of very small leaflets that are boiled and eaten like spinach. Being so small, the leaflets sun dry in just a few hours and can then be put in a jar and stored for the off-season, a time when dietary minerals and vitamins are often scarce. In addition to providing these natural supplements, the moringa tree yields seeds that clarify turbid water. Compounds in its seeds make traces of silt and clay settle out as effectively as the alum our water departments use. In the rural tropics, moringa seeds could be employed to make water safer for drinking and cooking. Taken all round, this species could be a powerful new weapon against two great scourges, malnutrition and water-borne disease.

These are Cashew Trees 1 and 2. Crazy growing trees, they sit and sit in their cashew seed pod until boom, suddenly these big leaves and split cashew are out of the ground and reaching for the sky. A very fast sprouting, satisfying tree for the grower. I'm going to plant a lot more of these.

And last but not at all least, my compost pond avocado.

I've grown a few dozen avocados in my life, usually just for fun as I never stuck around many places long enough to see what happened and if I did, there were already avocado trees in my yard. But rarely do they look as pretty as this one, from a seed I just threw into this old pond liner that got passed along to me after a few other people had used it for growing things. I use it for compost. It decided to become its own weird garden with tomatoes and cantaloupe and onions and now this tree growing in it. Luckily there are huge drainage holes and lots of cracks in it for roots, so I'm not touching a thing except to pile on more leaves and discarded veggie scraps.  Randomness is a beautiful thing. It's the bee's knees!

Driving around with a friend yesterday, we passed this tree. I've never seen one like it and have no idea what it is but it sure is beautiful, whisper shouting "Spring! Spring is here!"

No whisper shouting here. A rooster and this hen were in the genipe tree outside my door, cawing and crowing and carrying on. It took a second to realize they were over my head.
Have a take time to tree Tuesday. Do something terra tactile.


  1. I think what you call a NAKED INDIAN is the antidote tree to the ChiChem or what you call Machineel

    1. Yes! I was told that by a few people, thanks! I never heard manchineel called ChiChem, more to learn every day.

  2. Careful with the "Naked Indian". There is a similar tree with the same type peeling bark but with different leaves. It is Euphorbia petiolaris and is just as toxic, if not more so, than Manzanillo or Manchineel. The trunk doesn't get as big as Gumbo Limbo but it sure looks similar. There isn't any in your yard :). But I have sen it in the woods of Culebra. Other common names are indio desnudo (Puerto Rico); broadleaf spurge (Bahamas); palo de leche, palo de yuca (Dominican Republic); bon garçon (Haiti); black mageniel (St. Martin. Am emailing u a photo of the leaves. Teresa

  3. Thank you so much, Teresa, not just for me but for everyone who reads this and can use and share the knowledge.