St. Martin looks like a tropical paradise, especially during the winter. Fall rains paint St. Martin in beautiful greens from hill to valley. But life isn’t that easy for plants on St. Martin. The ones that do well here are super tough and adapted to survive. Here are three plant stories that everyone should know.
St. Martin is a dry island. It is easy to forget during the green fall and winter seasons. The spring dry season pushes plants to the limit, and they all have strategies for survival. Some lose their leaves to save water. Some have deep roots to tap into hidden water, others have shallow roots spread out to catch as much as they can from a passing shower. Every single plant on the island has found a way to live through the dry season. Years of drought, which have become more frequent, can even push the best adapted plants over the edge.
Mangroves are protectors of both land and sea. Mangroves are a group of trees adapted to live in and near saltwater areas. Along coastlines, they absorb the power of incoming waves and keep beaches from washing into the sea. They also trap soil and leaves that wash down from the hills. This provides food for crabs and other pond animals. It also protects coral reefs. Without mangroves, nutrients from the land would wash out to sea and feed algae that would smother the coral. Living between land and sea, mangroves are vital to life both above and beneath the water.
From seaside scrub to forested hill, every landscape we see has been changed by humans. During the colonial period, especially when sugar cane was grown, natural vegetation was cut to make way for agriculture. Virtually every wild space on St. Martin is actually growing back after being cleared. As agriculture has declined, many spaces that were once farmed or grazed by livestock are slowly returning to a more natural state. But this process can take hundreds of years, and even a beautifully regrown forest will probably not have the same richness and mix of species as what was once there.
What St. Martin plant story do you think everyone should know? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or [email protected].