The wild banana orchid is the national flower, selected from among 27
indigenous orchid species. Blooming in April and May, this orchid is found
on all three islands, but in different varieties. On Grand Cayman, look for
Schomburgkia thomsoniana , with one-inch white blossoms and purple
lips. On Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the Schomburgkia thomsoni-
ana var. minor is yellow in color with lighter purple lips. In all, 26 species of
orchids are found on the islands, with five not found anywhere else (don't
plan on viewing all the varieties, however; some are so small you'd need a
magnifying glass to spot them!).
The national tree is the silver thatch palm ( Coccothrinax proctoril ).
Named for botanist Dr. George Proctor, author of Flora of the Cayman Is-
lands (see Booklist , page 243), the palm has a silvery underside with light
green upper fronds. For all its beauty, this plant has far more than orna-
mental value, though. It has been used by islanders to form roofing, belts,
baskets, rope, and more. Palm rope has long been a bartering tool, traded
Another often-seen species is the bull thatch palm ( Thrinax radiata ). A
smallish tree that rarely grows taller than 20 feet, this palm looks much
like the silver thatch but its leaves do not have the silvery underside of
their cousins. You'll find bull thatch on both Grand Cayman and Little
Cayman, usually in low areas.
Royal palms ( Roystonea regia ) are often seen in resort landscaping; their
elegant, tall silhouette is easy to spot. Some of these trees soar to 80 feet
high, with a sleek trunk and beautiful long, green fronds. Dead royal
palms are often home to parrots.
Coconut palms ( Cocus nucifera ) are also a favorite landscaping tree.
They are easy to identify by the large coconuts in the top of these tall trees.
Casuarina ( Casuarina Equisetifolia ) look much like willowy pine trees
(so much so they're often called Australian pine) and are seen along the
Yellow mastic ( Sideroxylon foetidissimum ) is a native tree seen in the
woodland areas. On Grand Cayman, it grows near Frank Sound Road; on
Cayman Brac, it's seen in several areas on the bluff. When the tree flowers
(not every year), the bloom is yellow and is followed by a small fruit.
Sea grape ( Coccoloba uvifera ) is seen along the coastlines; it's easy to spot
with its clusters of grapes, which start as green and ripen to purple. The
grapes are edible and are used for jelly; the plant itself is beneficial to the
coast because its roots hold the sand during tropical storms.
Red birch ( Bursera simaruba ) has a smooth, red bark and yellow flowers.
Called just “birch” by residents, cuttings from these trees are often used to