How do you spell the sound your bicycle tires make as they skid to a halt on a gravelly path? That is the sound I would like to spell now. This onomatopoeia is the sound my sister and the tour guides heard as I braked to a sudden stop on my rented mountain bike on a rail trail in Bermuda. “Don’t worry”, my sister said to the guide, “she will catch up, she probably found a plant.”
I have been on a couple cruises in the past. My trip to Alaska and one to Belgium and Holland were aboard smaller ships. This was my first cruise on an enormous ship (though the smallest in this company’s fleet) and our destination was Bermuda.
This five day August cruise had us out on the open Atlantic for 2 days out and 2 days back and just over one day in Bermuda. This included sleeping time. So we had about 16 hours of time on the island.
In this time my sister and I managed a bike ride along the Bermuda Railway Trail National Park and enjoyed the aquatic wonders of a kayak excursion, to do some window shopping and a eat nice meal off-ship. Not bad for a few short hours.
Find plants I did. This is the one that had me screeching my tires:
Sure I have seen plenty of night blooming cereus in greenhouses and conservatories and even bright sunny windows of friends’ homes. But the flowers on this plant were enormous, far larger than I have seen any in person. And they were just hanging out there over a wall for the entire world to see. Glorious cactus flower. I believe this is a type of night blooming cereus flower just finishing up its bloom, but am unsure of the scientific name. Notice the bee – pollinators seem to like it as well.
We biked to Heydon Chapel. The smallest church on the island dating back to the 1600s. (We also checked out the world’s smallest drawbridge along the way) We toured the chapel’s interior and the walked around outside. Like on most islands, residents have to conserve water and catch fresh water where they can and even this small church has a rain water catchment system and a cistern.
This stunning White Spider Lily (Hymenocallis) was blooming at the front of the chapel.
But what fascinated me the most was learning about the Bermuda Cedar (Juniperus bermudiana). It looks familiar at first glance, resembling our native Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Upon closer inspection it certainly is different. This evergreen tree is endemic to Bermuda, only occurring on this island. A horror story of invasive species, what used to be a dominant species all over the island and vital to island society is now decimated to a small population due to the introduction of a juniper scale insect. The decimated Juniper population led to a decline of the native species who depended on it. A native cicada is now extinct and a native bluebird is in decline because of the missing junipers. Rarely have I been on tours where every guide I encountered wanted to make sure we knew the consequences of an invasive introduced insect. It is a sad tale and not so unfamiliar here – think Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and the latest, Spotted Laternfly, in the United States. Because Bermuda is a small island I am sure the effects were felt more immediately and dramatically than we tend to notice declines in the United States. Rest assured however that the repercussions are no less significant just because there is more land, or more diversity. There is also hope in this story and a model for moving forward after this type of ecological devestation. Bermuda encouraged the propagation of this species. Seedlings of surviving trees, due to an inherent resistance to the scale insects, were made available to residents and planted in parks and preserves. Though the population no longer resembles the dominating forests that used to occur on the island, they are present and thrive when protected from invasive plants and insects. It is a lesson we should all heed and start taking a closer look at our native plants, their associated wildlife and threats to them looming on the horizon.
Our travels also took us to Scaur Hill Fort which offers protection in a different sort of way today. Here you can find large specimens of the Bermuda Cedar. More about Bermuda’s native plants and those endemic to Bermuda.
Finally we headed back towards the tour company’s home base. Back on the rail trail, through a tunnel created by a Banyan tree.
Though we saw a lot in our short amount of time there. I am anxious to go back. To stay a while and explore even more. After all, there are the Bermuda Botanical Gardens to explore.