Category: Plants

Get Free Native Plants for Your Backyard at Amuseum Naturalis

Get free native plants at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter.

Anyone looking to add some green to their yard or neighborhood can get free plants at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter. The free plant stand is located just in front of the Amuseum, and is stocked with an assortment of native plants and trees. The plants are provided by the Les Fruits de Mer association.

“Native plants are great for native animals, and after the destruction of Hurricane Irma, we still need to replace plants that were lost,” said Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “St. Martin is the most densely-populated island in the Caribbean, so there is not a lot of open space. Adding native plants around our homes can help make up for a lack of wild spaces.”

Native plants help local birds and other native animals.

Les Fruits de Mer’s native plants nursery is one of several plant projects at Amuseum Naturalis. Promoting native plants helps local species and hopefully reduces demand for imported plants, which may arrive with unwanted pests. The project is funded by donations and a grant from BirdsCaribbean’s Hurricane Relief Fund. This fund has provided support for birds and nature on islands impacted by the hurricanes of 2017.

Other plant projects at Amuseum Naturalis include a native plant trail, a bush tea and bush medicine garden, and plantings of traditional food crops. Amuseum visitors are invited to learn all about plants and plant use on St. Martin. They are also welcome to share knowledge about plants and how they are used. The association will also give away seedlings of heritage plants used in bush teas.

“Please come by and pick up some free plants,” invited Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “You can also visit the Amuseum for free while you are there! And please continue to share what you know about local plants and how they are used, so this knowledge can be passed on to future generations.”

The free plant stand was built from reclaimed materials by Waste2Work.

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum sharing all that is special about St. Martin. It is open 9am to noon Tuesday to Saturday, and is located at The Old House on the hill above Le Galion beach in French Quarter. The free plant stand is in front of the Amuseum and accessible at all times.

Experimenting with the Tree of Life


The Lignum Vitae, also known as Gaïac, is a beautiful tree native to the Caribbean that is now endangered due to overharvesting, primarily for its extremely hard wood. This slow-growing tree has beautiful blue flowers and intricately-packed branches in its wide crown. It is sometimes described as a small tree, but this may be primarily because so few old, large trees are left.

In order to promote this wonderful heritage tree, I have been experimenting in order to develop best practices for germinating seeds, growing seedlings and transplanting them into permanent locations. Here are some images and notes about the germination process.


Small, orange fruits contain two seeds each. The seeds themselves are covered in a red, fleshy coating called a sarcotesta.


I started by separating seeds by the presumed age, based on how much of the sarcotesta remained.


I attempted germination by keeping them in damp paper towels.


After a week or so, the seeds retaining a sarcotesta began to mold and none germinated, even after several weeks.


Seeds without a sarcotesta (because it had worn off before I collected them, or because I had removed it) did not mold, but they didn’t germinate, either.


It turns out, the key is to remove the black casing around the seed. This time-consuming, but not too difficult to do with a pocketknife. To make the process easier, it seems that exposing the radicle, the embryonic first root, is all that is necessary, so one can scrape off just the casing around the rounder end.


Prepared this way, the seeds germinate surprisingly quickly, usually in just a couple days. So far, the best process I have found is to soak the seeds in water for a day or so: this helps remove any fleshy sarcotesta so the seeds won’t mold. It may also help kickstart the germination process. Once the seeds are clean, I scrape the round end to expose the radicle and leave them in moist paper towels in a warm room. So far, the majority of seeds prepared this way seem to be germinating.

(I got some very useful info from this 1966 article: Seed Germination and Seedling Growth of Guaiacum sanctum)