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Plant Life

Plant Life Bahamas

The Bahamas is home to a lush and abundant ecosystem.

Indigenous Pine Tree

Among the indigenous species of trees are the Caribbean Pine, often referred to as Yellow Pine, the Pineyard Pink Orchid, Bushy Beard Grass, and Southern Bracken Fern. Wild guava, Five-finger or Chicken's foot, and Snowberry shrubs are also plentiful. Poisonwood trees are often seen covered in love vine and the Sabal Palmetto may dominate ground flora in certain pine forest areas. The Caribbean Pine is a light-demanding species that requires open areas with no competition from shading broad-leafed plants. Caribbean pinelands are called "fire climax communities" by botanists, for if periodic fires do not occur to remove the shading broad-leafed understory, young pines cannot get sufficient light to take hold and replace the adult trees as they die off. Without these fires the pinelands would certainly be overtaken by the broadleafed coppice - a hardwood forest.

Extremely well adapted to fire, the Caribbean Pine adults are rarely killed by the flames. Their fire resistance is due to volatile resins in the bark, which explode when heated, putting out any small fires that start at the bark. Juvenile pines are not as resistant as the adults and are generally killed, but reseeding takes place around the base of the adult trees rapidly.

Pine Tree Industry

Bahamians have been utilizing the Caribbean Pine for hundreds of years, however, large-scale commercial exploitation of the resource did not begin until the early 1900's. In 1905, a sawmill was constructed near Wilson City, Abaco where it ran for twelve years. As local pinelands were utilized, the mill was moved to other areas. By 1943, all of the virgin pine of Abaco had been cut except for an area north of Crossing Rocks and a forest between Norman's Castle and Marsh Harbour.

In 1944 the Abaco mill was moved to Grand Bahama, where large scale logging operations continued until the 1970's. Meanwhile, commercial harvesting of pine started in Andros in 1906 and in New Providence in 1923. In New Providence, few people remember the sawmill that was constructed near Jack Pond, south of Gambier. As trees of sufficient diameter for lumber-making became scarce, the industry turned its attention to harvesting immature secondary trees which were ground into pulp for paper making.

Research completed in the l96O's indicated that the Caribbean pine may be one of the most commercially useful pine species in the world. It is fast growing, has considerable girth (some trees in the virgin forest measure over thirty inches in diameter), makes excellent pulpwood, and is rich in turpentine and resins. Forest biologists have grown it in many environments and it is likely that Caribbean pine will be grown commercially all over the world in years to come.

Pine Forest

Pine forest only occurs on the northern islands of the Bahamas: Grand Bahama, Andros, Abaco and New Providence. Reports indicate that it was once found on the Berry Islands and is also known to grow in the Caicos Islands. Areas of protected pine forest include the Rand Nature Centre and the Lucayan National Park, Grand Bahama and the Abaco National Park in southern Abaco.

The pine forests of the Bahamas are also home to Wild Boar, a popular game species on the island of Abaco. There are also populations of feral cats and Raccoons. Quail, Wood doves and White-crowned pigeon, which feed on Poisonwood, may also frequent the pine forest and several migratory species of duck, such as the Blue-winged Teal utilize the ponds and lakes of this ecosystem.