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Wild Banana Orchids and So Much More at the Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park

by Maia Muttoo Jun 14, 2019

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There are 26 species of orchid found in the Cayman Islands; the most well-known is the wild banana orchid, the islands’ national flower.

Photo by Maia Muttoo

It is found in two varieties: Schomburgkia thomsoniana var. thomsoniana (originating in Grand Cayman) boasts larger white petals while the Schomburgkia thomsoniana var. minor (from Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) has smaller yellow petals.

Both have purple lips with banana-shaped pseudo-bulbs.

These orchid varieties are currently blooming at the Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park in East End, Grand Cayman.

You can appreciate their beauty up close with a walk through the park’s orchid garden, where several other orchid species are also in full bloom.

The Orchid Garden

The Orchid Garden follows a circular path through shady woodlands via a sturdy wooden footbridge. The beginning of the short trail is dotted with wild banana orchids; make sure you look up – some are at eye level, while others hover overhead.

As you walk, you’ll see orchids of all shapes and colours: pink, orange, green and purple.

Keep an eye out for wildlife too! You’re likely to hear bananaquits and doves singing in the trees above, and you may spot the occasional lizard making its way up a tree.

Photo by Maia Muttoo

The Heritage Garden 

As you exit the Orchid Garden, you’ll find the Heritage Garden a few steps to your left. This garden was established to represent 20th century Caymanian domestic life. It features a traditional wattle-and-daub house and a sand yard lined with pink conch shells.

Here, you’ll find even more wild banana orchids blooming spectacularly. There are also many fruit trees and medicinal plants, including calabash, naseberry and breadfruit.

Other Trails and Gardens

Though most of the park’s orchids are found in the Orchid and Heritage gardens, there is much more to explore in the Botanic Park.

Wander through the colour-coordinated sections of the lush Floral Colour Garden, which ends at a peaceful gazebo overlooking a lily pond.

Photo by Maia Muttoo

Then, head down to the Lake, where you may spot West Indian Whistling Ducks, Green Herons, Blue-Winged Teals and other majestic water birds.

The Woodland Trail takes you on tour through Cayman’s interior environment, with Mahogany trees, logwood swamp and dry thickets. Here, you may even see an endangered Blue Iguana! These incredible reptiles are protected at the park’s Blue Iguana Habitat facility, where they are cared for and bred to repopulate the species.

A trip to the Botanic Park makes a great day out for nature enthusiasts and families alike. With so many lovely flowers, including the national wild banana orchid in bloom, this is a wonderful time to go!

Sources: National Trust for the Cayman Islands, Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park, and Cayman Islands Government National Symbols.