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Nothing expresses the flowering excess of the tropics better than the aptly named flamboyant tree
No Frames Frames

Called the flame tree, this native of Madagascar dazzles the eye with its red flowers bursting out in June to mark the rainy season, profusely covering its umbrella-shaped head, so welcome for shady protection from the tropical sun.

Dropping its leaves for the drought season, the flamboyant still impresses the winter visitor with its two-feet-long green seed pods, becoming brown and used as rattles, the mature seeds shaking out its distinctive sound in the wind.

The example above comes from the grounds of beautiful Paradise Beach Resort, where this awesome display seems to be taking the ladies posing in front under its spell. Also shown is the common oleander, being used as a hedge as it often is.

There’s a nice specimen near the Virgin Queen in Road Town on Fleming Street near the top of Main Street. See this "flamboyant clad hillside" at St. Lucia.

Garden Landscapes.
The highly individualistic people of the islands, combined with a great variety of plantlife, indigenous and introduced, results in a mosaic of styles and places from careful to casual.

Visitors are happy to see their house and summer-garden plants growing outdoors.

FlamboyantTreesatLongBay2.jpg (8492 bytes)Landscaping practiced at resorts and guesthouses alike is likely to emphasize tropical flowering plants. Flamboyant trees are seen above at Long Bay Beach Resort.

Marina Cay seems like one complete flowering oasis.

And at Mahoe Bay, individual villa gardens transform this whole hillside valley into a spectacular Hillside Garden Valley.

Hibiscus. In addition to the Mahoe Bay villas, this beautiful flower graces the Anegada Reef Hotel and Peter Island’s Tradewinds restaurant. To graphic.

Bananaquits. A charming little bird only four inches long, seen as an flitting bundle of yellow belly, made strikingly bright by the contrast to its gray slate back.

Get out the sugar.

That’s all it takes to have a noisy group of these very active squeaking "party" birds, some hanging upside down to feed, some messing with the others.

Found everywhere from gardens to farms, and even in the rain forest feeding on cecropia fruits, bananaquits prefer nectar but will eat insects as well (picture, picture, perched on a St. John century plant, song).

To prepare for an extended breeding season and multiple clutches of two or three heavily spotted eggs, bananaquits slap together little globular nests of grasses and narrow leaves, all with side entrances to escape snakes. Look for their nests in the organ pipe cactus, useful for its spiny protection against the mongoose.

Hummingbirds. Nature’s fascinating "whirlybirds" hover precisely at the entrance of voluptuous deep flowers to probe with their long thin beaks for the profuse nectar on which they primarily feed. Also, their feather structure, rather than pigment, reflects and absorbs light to create color by "scattering" light across a dazzling rainbow spectrum in action. These adaptations provide an amazing spectacle combining beauty and flying virtuoso.

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Green Throated Carib

All green except some violet on its breast and a dark tail, the Carib is larger than another common hummingbird, the doctorbird, but frequents a similar variety of habitats, including dry woodlands and island farms as well as gardens (graphic art: David Thrasher). See a map of its Caribbean range and stamps honoring this island favorite.

Doctorbird. This feisty little hummingbird can be seen doing aerial combat, chasing others away from its flowers. Distinguished by its tiny crest, which in the male is a distinctive green or blue-green, the doctorbird is green on its back and light gray or brown below.

The female lines its thimble-sized nest with spider webs or milkweed fluff. She incubates and raises the young from two tiny white eggs laid between February and July.

To Ashore in the Islands

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