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Sunday, January 29, 2023



Oct. 12, 2001 – Ever heard of the pond apple? If you haven't, you're not the only one. However, this botanical specimen is a good candidate for the Virgin Islands endangered species list.
"At the next hearing, it will go on there," promised Donna Griffin, an environmental specialist at the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
Related to the soursop and the sugar apple (sweetsop), this relatively rare tree grows only in a few locations in the Virgin Islands. Griffin said there are stands on St. Thomas near the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort, at Coki Point, at Magens Bay and in Nadir near the "Bridge to Nowhere."
"They grow where they have lots of fresh water," Rafe Boulon, chief of environmental resources at the V.I. National Park, said.
Toni Thomas, natural resources agent at the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service, said the trees also grown in St. John's Coral Bay, on St. Croix and on Jost Van Dyke. She is worried about some of those stands. The one behind the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort on the road to Coki Point looks ripe for someone to want to clean up. It has hurricane debris and looks rather swampy, the kind of habitat people often don't value, she said.
"But if you get rid of the water, you get rid of the plant," Thomas said. She has higher hopes for the stand at Magens Bay, because she doubts the area will be developed. She said it lies off the left side of the road just past the turnoff to Peterborg as you drive to Magens Bay.
According to information from Fish and Wildlife, pond apple trees grow in coastal swamps behind stands of mangroves. They reach up to 20 feet in height with trunks up to six inches across. Leaves are waxy, 3 to 6 inches long. The tree flowers in the spring and bears fruit in the summer. The fruit looks like a sugar apple, to which it is related, but has almost no taste.
The pond apple is also known as "corkwood," "alligator apple," "monkey apple" and, in Puerto Rico, as cayur, coyur and corcho. Its scientific name is Annona glabra.
Boulon, who previously worked as endangered species coordinator at Fish and Wildlife, said there are pond apple trees on about four acres of land near the "Bridge to Nowhere." This is a far cry from the hundreds of acres of stands that used to stretch all the way to the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack.
The area was once a delta that stretched from Turpentine Run to the sea. All manner of plants and trees grew there, but they, like many other species across the Virgin Islands, are now lost to development. "It was a wonderful area," Boulon said.
He said that if the Federal Highway Administration finishes the "Bridge to Nowhere" project [see "When bridge connects, gas station will be gone"], the last of the pond apple trees in that area will be probably be casualties.

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