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HomeNewsArchivesCREATING A COMMUNITY FOREST ON ST. CROIX

CREATING A COMMUNITY FOREST ON ST. CROIX

For many years, it has become increasingly apparent to botanical and horticultural professionals that there is a pressing need for greater public access to information concerning the native trees of St. Croix. Since the clearing of the island's forests for sugar cane production over two centuries ago, many of the once abundant native species have
faded from public awareness. Today, when land areas undergo residential or commercial development, all too often the native trees are removed and replaced with more familiar introduced species such as mahogany, flamboyant, etc. These imported plants are installed simply because many local residents and developers are not sufficiently familiar with the beauty, diversity, and potential uses of our own native varieties.
An increased awareness, and the resultant use of these native trees, has several important implications for the future. First, individuals and community groups planting, maintaining, and preserving their own local trees develop sensitivity toward important conservational issues. Second, by enlarging the numbers of the rarer species in community
settings, a safeguard will be provided against their local extinction due to loss of habitat or natural disasters. Third, emphasizing the uniqueness and utility of our natural vegetation may help curb the island's continuing tendency to become simply a landscaped replica of the Southeastern United States' urban areas.
It is hoped that the information contained in this book will retrieve many of these native species from current day obscurity, and revitalize a public interest in conserving and displaying St. Croix's unique botanical heritage.
As St. Croix continues to develop as an urban and commercial center, its once forested areas will increasingly be replaced by businesses and residential sites. In order for the island not to loose an integral part of its natural heritage, it will become vital that homeowners and businesses replant the developed areas with trees, thereby constructing an urban or community forest around themselves.
Mature trees in a community setting provide countless benefits, both from human and environmental standpoints. They make residential areas more pleasant and livable
by instilling color, motion, and interest into an otherwise monotonous landscape of streets and buildings. They provide homes and businesses with a sense of identity. They serve as screens to provide residential privacy and reduce noise levels from roadways. Trees also affect the physical environment by reducing temperatures through shade and by water evaporation from their leaves. They improve air quality by absorbing gaseous pollutants. They intercept rainfall which reduces run-off and recharges quantities of groundwater.
Finally, the intrinsic beauty and stateliness of trees simply cannot be denied. The "greening" of vistas through their use is of utmost importance to an island such as St. Croix whose economy relies so heavily on tourism. Visitors will be impressed by the visual images conveyed by their selective use and will be inspired to return.
In order to preserve our heritage of natural forests and to lessen the threat of aggressive invasion by introduced species, careful consideration must be given when selecting appropriate trees for residential or community plantings. Native tree species provide ideal candidates for such projects. Not only do they provide all of the benefits described above, but they are already adapted to local environmental conditions. As such they require less supplementary water than many introduced species, less pest control attention, less soil amendments, and are generally more hurricane resistant. Through the increased use of local trees and the information gained through their management, it is hoped the public will become more environmentally conscious by interacting with this segment of their own natural history.
The purpose of this book is to provide local gardeners, landscapers, and nurserymen with basic information regarding 50 native tree species which have landscape potential. Each has been selected on the basis of its ornamental, commercial, or conservational value, and all are worthy of far greater consideration in community plantings. As a visual supplement to the information in this book, the St. George Village Botanical Garden of St.Croix houses a living collection of all of the native trees described as well as numerous other native plants.

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