Two new species of plants have been found in the Island over the last three years.
Officers of the Forestry Department discovered the first almost three years ago, during an inventory in the Dolphin Head Mountains/Retirement Forest Reserves. The unusual flowering/fruiting Erythrina was sent to the Institute of Jamaica for certification. The Institute identified the species as ‘Erythrina berteroana’, a tree that was previously thought endemic to Cuba and Central America.
The plant has several uses and can be grown for ornamental purposes, fence posts and fuel wood. It is also a close substitute for cork and props for vanilla plants in vanilla plantations. The wood can be used for carving and the young leaves and beans of the plant can be prepared and eaten similar to string beans, while the seeds can also be used to make cosmetic jewels (chains and bracelets).
In addition, the leaves and the bark of the Erythrina berteroana can be used to stupefy and catch fish and shrimp. The tree is approximately 10 metres tall and has prickles on the trunk and branches. The leaves are compound and consist of three leaflets. The flowers, which the plant carries, are alternately arranged and range from a pink to red hue.
The second plant specie, Crotoa poecillanthus, was discovered approximately one year ago in the Cockpit Country off the Troy to Clarke’s Town Trail in an area known to locals as ‘Africa’.
Verified by the Institute of Jamaica, the Crotoa poecillanthus was for centuries considered endemic to Puerto Rico. In the entire Cockpit Country only five trees were found. The plant is a small evergreen tree reaching heights of six to 12 metres with irregular spreading branches and crown.
The leaves are brown and folded when young and healthy with silver, green and brown on the lower surfaces. The bark is brown with prominent lenticels.
Additional information is currently being gathered on both plant species to ascertain their flowering and fruit cycles, pollinating agents or seed distribution mechanism.