The Gaïac Trees on First Stick Hill

The dry season is a great time to find Gaïac trees, and a drought is even better. What look like green hills during a wetter season dissolve into seas of brown. Grass dries up and dies down to its roots. Many trees and shrubs lose their leaves to conserve water. The intense green and dense, leafy crown of a Gaïac tree stands out during these times.

The Gaïac and other drought-tolerant native trees hold the line in the battle of green against brown. They make the island more beautiful when it is at its dustiest and undoubtedly help animals survive when there is little else to eat and little shade to be found. The island would be desolate without them—and better if we planted more.

I noticed a promising potential Gaïac near the top of First Stick Hill and made the trek up to see it. It wasn’t far, but was hot and steep. As a reward, I found a large Gaïac, perhaps a couple hundred years old. Its thick trunk bent around a huge slab of limestone and its crown spread gracefully downwind.

I noticed a couple interesting things. First, although there were plenty of dry Gaïac leaves below the tree, there were very few seeds. This is certainly not the case for most urban Gaïac I’ve visited. Perhaps they are washed downhill, but in that case it would seem like the leaves should be as well. Alternatively, perhaps the seeds are used more effectively in wild spaces—consumed by birds and other animals.

My second observation was the presence of a number of small Gaïac seedlings—perhaps a couple years old—mostly above the large tree. It is hard to imagine a tree dropping seeds several meters uphill, so perhaps this is another indication that the seeds are being consumed by the local animal community and then excreted.

Slightly down from the top of the hill on the west side I found another Gaïac tree, handsome, but much younger. Perhaps it is the child of the south side tree, perhaps not. Even on St. Martin wild Gaïac are out there, waiting to be discovered. There’s no better time to go hunting than now, before the rains return!

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