Flora of Abaco
by Iris Spikes
Iris and her husband live in Central Florida and have been visiting Abaco for twenty years; they own a house on Tilloo Cay. She laughs, "I'm not a botanist, I was just curious about all the unusual plants in the Abacos, and have enjoyed sleuthing and learning about what is native and what is not. This list is not intended to be complete; I have tried to include most of the common plants that people would encounter when walking through inhabited and natural areas of the Abaco."
Air Potato,  Dioscorea bulbifera

Air potato can quickly engulf native vegetation in natural areas

Allamanda (Golden Trumpet Vine),  Allamanda cathartica

Toxic if eaten in large quantities; may cause minor, short-term skin irritation;  can cause fever, swollen lips, thirst, nausea, diarrhea., skin irritation upon contact with cell sap; used throughout the tropics as ornamentals
Allspice Tree, Pimenta dioica

Indigenous to the West Indies and Central America. The name allspice came into usage during the 17th century, stemming from the description that it is a blend of cloves, juniper, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. The Allspice tree is closely related to the clove tree, Oleum pimentae. The oil of both spices share the same principal constituent.
Aloe,  Aloe barbadensis Miller and Aloe aborescens

Attributes such as its healing abilities and analgesic action to bacterial activity has not been clearly defined and documented through properly controlled scientific research and testing
Asparagus Fern,   Asparagus sprengeri

Allergic dermatitis with repeated dermal exposure. Berry ingestion could result in gastric upset (vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea.)
Bay Cedar, Suriana maritime

Bay Cedar is strictly costal. It grows on beaches, dunes, sandy thickets (Nelson 1996), and rocky headlands. It tolerates moderately salty soils, storm-surge overwash, heavy salt spray, blowing sand, high surface heat, drought, and strong winds.  This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.
Beggar's tick (broom stick, broom stuff, cobbler's pegs, devil's needles, Spanish needle);  Bidens pilosa

Uses in Bush Medicine:  One of our best anti-inflammatory plants, kïnehi stands out as both an aggravating pest and effective plant medicine. Used for numerous liver conditions such as hepatitis and jaundice.  For general bacterial infections, kïnehi is best drunk as a tea during daylight hours.  In Central and South America, Polynesia, and West Africa, Bidens pilosa is used for inflammatory eye conditions such as conjunctivitis. For urinary tract infections and prostatitis, kïnehi can be taken on a daily basis.
Bird Pepper, Capsicum frutescens

The most common use for the pods is making hot sauces; they are crushed, salted, fermented, and combined with vinegar. However, the pods can be used fresh in salsas and can be dried for adding to stir-fry dishes.
Black mangrove,  Avicennia germinans

Black mangrove is a communal species that plays a key role in the mangrove ecosystem. It contributes to the ecological community by trapping in the root system debris and detritus brought in by tides. The community is valued for its protection and stabilization of low-lying coastal lands and its importance in estuarine and coastal fishery food chains. Black, white, and red mangroves serve as feeding, breeding, and nursery grounds for a great variety of fish, shellfish, birds, and other wildlife.
Black mangrove grows in coastal tidal areas throughout the tropics and subtropics of America and Africa. It grows closer inland from the shore. There it can be reached only by high tides.
Blue Pea Vine (Butterfly Pea 'Blue Sails'), Clitoria ternatea

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.
Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea spectabilis

In 1768 when Admiral Louis de Bougainvillea began his long journey to the Pacific Ocean and discovered the vine that now bears his name, it was a botanical highlight of the voyage. Through the ensuing years, this Brazilian beauty has assumed its rightful place as one of the most popular, spectacular and beautiful tropical plants.
Brazilwood, Haematoxylum brasiletto

In 1500, Portuguese ships discovered and claimed the Atlantic side of South America that straddled the equator and the tropic of Capricorn. This massive land was called "Terra de Brasil" and later Brazil, because of the dyewood trees (Caesalpinia echinata) that grew there in abundance. Like the closely related sappanwood, the valuable dye from brazilwood (called brazilin) became a popular coloring agent for cotton, woolen cloth and red ink. As with precious cargoes of gold and jewels, Portuguese ships loaded with brazilwood were favorite targets of marauding buccaneers on the high seas
These are spectacular and beautiful tropical plants.
Breadfruit Tree, Artocarpus altilis

Breadfruit, a traditional starch crop in Oceania, has enjoyed legendary status ever since its role in the infamous mutiny aboard the H.M.S. Bounty in 1789, yet its origins remain unclear.
Bromeliad,  Bromeliaceae

A number of bromeliad species root into arboreal ant nests and are a component of complex "ant gardens" which derive nutritional benefit from the ants and help to stabilize the nest (Davidson and Epstein, 1989). Species from three genera are ant-house plants. Myrmecophytic tillandsias house ants in their leaf axils, which form a hollow bulb-like structure. Unlike many bromeliads whose leaves channel water towards a central reservoir, myrmecophytic tillandsias have pointed leaf tips that shed rain and keep the ant colony dry.
Bumpy lemon,  CitrusJambhiri

Fruit resembles a bumpy lemon, with an interior like lemony cotton candy. Yellow, sometimes spotty fruit with a white-translucent pulp having an aromatic, acidic flavor
Buttonwood, Conocarpus erectus

Buttonwoods have been a commercial commodity in Florida. The very hard wood was used to make buttons, while buttonwood charcoal was a primary source of fuel prior to the introduction of kerosene. Buttonwood hammocks were cleared for producing charcoal 200 years ago and as recently as 40 years ago. One cord of buttonwood produced 10 bags of excellent charcoal.
Carambola (Starfruit),  Averrhoa carambola

Ripe carambolas are eaten out-of-hand, sliced and served in salads, or used as garnish on avocado or seafood. They are also cooked in puddings, tarts, stews and curries. In Malaya, they are often stewed with sugar and cloves, alone or combined with apples. The Chinese cook carambolas with fish.  Puerto Rican technologists found the oxalic acid content of ripe carambolas to average 0.5 g per 100 ml of juice, the acid being mostly in the free state. They likened the juice to rhubarb juice and advised that physicians be informed of this because there are individuals who may be adversely affected by ingestion of even small amounts of oxalic acid or oxalates. Other investigators have presumed the oxalic acid in fully ripe carambolas to be precipitated as calcium oxalate or in solution as neutral salts. The health risk needs further study.
Caribbean Pine (South Florida slash pine, Honduras pine, yellow slash pine, swamp pine, pitch pine), Pinus caribaea

A tall, sturdy relative of the American Southern Slash Pines, these pines are also rich in turpentines and resins. They make excellent pulpwood and have been logged extensively in the Bahamas. Locally, Caribbean pine is a favorite for house timbers and ship building.
Carry me seed,  Phyllanthus amarus

The Spanish name of the plant, chanca piedra, means “stone breaker” or “shatter stone.” It was named for its effective use to generations of Amazonian indigenous peoples in eliminating gallstones and kidney stones. In Brazil, the plant is known as quebra-pedra or arranca-pedras (which also translates to “break-stone”). In addition to kidney stones, the plant is employed in the Amazon for numerous other conditions by the indigenous peoples, including colic, diabetes, malaria, dysentery, fever, flu, tumors, jaundice, vaginitis, gonorrhea, and dyspepsia. Based on its long documented history of use in the region, the plant is generally employed to reduce pain, expel intestinal gas, to stimulate and promote digestion, to expel worms, as a mild laxative.
Casuarina Australian pine, Casuarina equisetifolia L

Australian pine is fast-growing (5-10 feet per year), produces dense shade and a thick blanket of leaves and hard, pointed fruits, that completely covers the ground beneath it. Dense thickets of Australian pine displace native dune and beach vegetation, including mangroves and many other resident, beach-adapted species
Century Plant (Sisal), Agave sisalana

Imported into the West Indies from Mexico in the mid 1800's, it led to a short-lived “fiber boom” that gave farmers an exportable cash crop. It was soon made obsolete, however, by other fiber crops and synthetics.
Chenille plant (Red - Hot Cat Tail) Acalypha hispida Burm

Probably native to the Malay Archipelago.
Christmas Bush Chromolaena odorata

Spiny, may also cause skin complaints and asthma in allergy-prone people
Christmas Palm Veitchia merrilli

Unarmed with a crownshaft  resembling a mini royal palm.  The fruit are a bright red and appear during the Christmas season
people
Cinnamon Bark Canella winterana

Endangered, the bark and leaves are used as a stimulant and condiment.  The berries are hot like black pepper when dried and crushed.  The leaves are used in an aromatic bath and as a medicinal tea.  Also some references say all parts of the plant are considered poisonous.
Coconut Palm Cocos nucifera L

According to Hartwell (1967-1971) coconuts are used in folk remedies for tumors. Reported to be anthelmintic, antidotal, antiseptic, aperient, aphrodisiac, astringent, bactericidal, depurative, diuretic, hemostat, pediculicide, purgative, refrigerant, stomachic, styptic, suppurative, and vermifuge, coconut, somewhere or other, is a folk remedy for abscesses, alopecia, amenorrhea, asthma, blenorrhagia, bronchitis, bruises, burns, cachexia, calculus, colds, constipation, cough, debility, dropsy, dysentery, dysmenorrhea, earache, erysipelas, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, hematemesis, hemoptysis, jaundice, menorrhagia, nausea, phthisis, pregnancy, rash, scabies, scurvy, sore throat, stomach, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, venereal diseases, and wounds
Combretum, Combretum grandiflorum

Vigorous, woody climber suitable for heavy arbors, trellises or pergolas. Young leaves red. Inflorescent brush-like. Landscape uses: arbor, fence, trellis.
Copper Leaf, Acalypha wilkesiana

Copperleaf is native to Fiji and nearby islands in the South Pacific.
Croton, Codiaeum Variegatum

Crotons sometimes called by the old-fashioned common name Joseph's Coat, crotons are actually evergreen shrubs native to tropical areas of Malaysia, southern Asia and the pacific Islands.

Crown-of-thorns (Christ's Crown The Christ's Thorn), Euphorbia milii

This plant contains caustic and irritant chemicals in the latex. Avoid contact to the skin and eyes. General symptoms of ingestion are: abdominal pains, blistering/irritation of the mouth/throat and vomiting.
Desert Rose, Adenium obesum

All parts of Desert Rose are poisonous and should be kept out of reach of children and animals.
Fish poison tree  (Jamaica Dogwood), Piscidia piscipula

In South America the pounded leaves and young branches are used to stupefy fish so they can be easily caught; rotenone impairs their oxygen consumption. The plant is toxic only to cold-blooded creatures. Rotenone is also used as an insecticide.
Frangipani (Plumeria)

There is absolutely nothing like the sweet fragrance of Plumeria in flower, with fragrances of jasmine, citrus, spices, gardenia, and other indescribable scents.
Geiger Tree, Cordia Sebestena

Used in tea to sharpen the appetite
Giant Milkweed, Calotropis procera

The latex is toxic and can cause blisters and rash in sensitive
persons
Giant Spider Lily, Crinum amabile

Large-leaved, short-stemmed herb from tropical Asia, with showy clusters of large white flowers elevated on leafless stalks. Used in medicine in Asia.
Gumbo Limbo Tree,  Busera Simaruba

The gumbo limbo is called the tourist tree because the red bark looks like a person who has stayed in the sun to long. Gumbo-limbos are always cool when you touch its trunk; even on the hottest of days.
Historically the resin was widely used in home remedies and it is said to be an antidote for poisonwood- induced rash.
Traditional uses: As an antidote to poisonwood sap which cause blistering, swelling, and severe discomfort, a strip of gumbolimbo bark is boiled in 1 gallon of water for 10 minutes; when cool, this is used to bathe the affected area 3 times daily. This bark bath also alleviates the discomfort of insect bites, sunburn, rashes, skin sore and measles.
Hawaiian Seagrape (beach naupaka) Scaevola sericea Vahl

This plant is considered invasive
The salt-tolerant beach naupaka has been available from nurseries since the 1960s. It was promoted in the 1970s and 1980s for use in beach stabilization projects and coastal landscapes– a practice that continues, but is now discouraged.
Hibiscus; Malvaceae
About 300 species worldwide, occurring mainly in the tropics and subtropics. More than 50 species are native to southern Africa. Includes the vegetable Okra Hibiscus esculenta.
Indian Almond Terminalia catappa

This tree has a characteristic pagoda shape because it sends out a single stem from the top center. When the single stem reaches a good height, it sends out several horizontal branches. The nuts are edible, taste very much like almonds although it can be a challenge to remove the flesh from the hard stone. Unlike the commercial almond, the Sea Almond can be eaten raw.
Inkberry Ilex glabra ; Aquifoliaceae
Makes good tea with out caffeine
Ironwood Mesua ferrea

The wood of Mesua ferrea is very heavy, it is used for railroad ties and building needs. Its resin is slightly poisonous, but many parts have medicinal properties. Parts Used: Flower buds, flowers, fruit, seed, root, bark, oil. Dried flower: astringent stomachic, carminative, cardiotonic, blood tonic. Leaf: external use for wound healing
Japanese dodder Cuscuta japonica

Japanese dodder is an annual, parasitic vine that has recently been introduced into the United States. Japanese dodder is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed. The stems are fleshy, circular, pale yellow with red spots and striations, and much branched. Leaves are minute and scale-like. Flowers are abundant, pale yellow, and sessile. Many species of dodder, some native and some exotic, occur in the United States. Japanese dodder parasitizes host plants by penetrating the vascular tissue of the host with structures called haustoria. Severe infestations can kill host plants.
Java Plum Syzygium cumini

In India the bark is used for anemia, the bark and seed for diabetes which reduce the blood sugar level quickly, the fruit for dysentery, leaves juice for gingivitis (bleeding gums). In the Philippines and Suriname wine is made from the fermented fruit.
Lignum Vitae Guaiacum officinale

National Tree of the Bahamas,
Its wood was once  used in cons-truction because of its density, was so exploited that the Gaiac, as it is locally called, is now a pro-tected species. Used as an antibi-otic and cathartic in the 1700's.  The fruit is a vegetable and the flower is a laxative. The white juice from the bark was used against "scal'd head". Now used as a tea and as a bath for body pains.
Lucky Nut Thevetia peruviana

The sap and the seed of the Yellow Oleander are toxic. The seeds contain a heart stimulant.
Mahogany Swietenia macrophylla

If mahogany is cut at its current rate without efforts to harvest the wood sustainably, big-leafed mahogany is likely to become endangered with a high risk of extinction.
Mamey Sapote Pouteria sapota

Fruit is large, up to a foot long with orange flesh tasting somewhat like a flavorful pumpkin. Many varieties are available and the fruit is highly esteemed.
Manchineel Hippomane mancinella

The manchineel tree is the most poisonous tree in the world, and should be avoided. Its fruit and leaves resemble those of an apple tree. Contact with the manchineel tree can cause severe medical problems. The milky sap causes blistering, burns, and inflammation when in contact with the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes. The leaves, bark, sap and fruit of the tree are all poisonous. Contact with any of these causes contact dermatitis symptomised by painful blisters. Eating the fruit, which has a very sweet smell and a pleasant taste, can be deadly. Swallowing even a tiny amount of the fruit will cause blisters and swelling in the mouth and throat.
Standing under the tree is hazardous if it is raining. The water passing through the leaves and fruit will cause burns and blisters if it comes in contact with the skin. Burning this tree results in the sap being carried in the smoke and this will affect the eyes and skin of people in the vicinity. If sap (or smoke from the burning tree) enters the eyes, it can lead to blindness. The Caribs used the sap of this tree to poison their darts and were known to poison the water supply of their enemies with the leaves. As a form of torture they would tie victims to this tree and leave them exposed to the elements.
Mango Mangifera indica L

The Mango, Mangifera indica L., is the most economically important fruit crop in the Anacardiaceae (Cashew or poison ivy family). Other important members of this family include cashew, pistachio, and the mombins (Spondias spp.). The family contains 73 genera and about 600-700 species, distinguished by their resinous bark and caustic oils in leaves, bark, and fruits. Several species, including mango, can cause some form of dermatitis in humans. It is therefore ironic that two of the most delectable nuts and one of the world's major fruit crops come from this family.
Natal Plum Carissa macrocarpa

The shrub makes a good garden hedge and the fruits can be eaten raw or made into delicious jams or jellies. This ornamental shrub attracts birds and butterflies to the garden.
Neem Tree (margosa tree) Azadirachta indica

Its extracts have been used for centuries in Asia as pesticides, toothpaste, medicines, and health tonics. The tree itself is used in reforestation projects in hot, dry regions. In this century, knowledge of the neem tree has spread to the West, where it has been hailed as a "wonder plant." Neem-based pesticides have been developed, and the potential health uses of chemicals extracted from the tree are being studied.
Nicker Bean (sea bean, fever nut, hold-back), Caesalpinia bonduc

Nicker bean seeds have been used over the centuries as jewelry, prayer beads, worry stones and good luck charms.  In India, nicker beans have been used as standards of weight;  in Africa, the ancient game of mancala traditionally used gray nicker bean seeds as game pieces.
Nightshade S. bahamense

This species was named after the Bahamas where it was first discovered. The fruits are not edible and could be considered poisonous since relatives of this plant contain compounds like atropine and nicotine.
Oyster Plant (Moses-in-a-Basket, Boatlily) Tradescantia spathacea

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Papaya Carica papaya L

Analgesic, amebicide, antibiotic, antibacterial, cardiotonic, cholagogue, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypotensive, laxative, pectoral, stomachic, vermifuge
Paradise Tree Simarouba glauca

The leaves and bark of Simarouba have long been used as a natural medicine in the tropics. Simarouba was first imported into France from Guyana in 1713 as a remedy for dysentery. When France suffered a dysentery epidemic from 1718 to 1725, simarouba bark was one of the few effective treatments. French explorers "discovered" this effective remedy when they found that the indigenous Indian tribes in the Guyana rainforest used simarouba bark as an effective treatment for malaria and dysentery - much as they still do today. Other indigenous tribes throughout the South American rainforest use simarouba bark for fevers, malaria, and dysentery, as a hemostatic agent to stop bleeding, and as a tonic. Simarouba also has a long history in herbal medicine in many other countries. In Cuba, where it is called gavilan, an infusion of the leaves or bark is considered to be astringent, a digestion and menstrual stimulant and an antiparasitic remedy. It is taken internally for diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, and colitis; it is used externally for wounds and sores. In Belize the tree is called negrito or dysentery bark. There the bark (and occasionally the root) is boiled in water to yield a powerful astringent and tonic used to wash skin sores and to treat dysentery, diarrhea, stomach and bowel disorders, hemorrhages, and internal bleeding. In Brazil it is employed much the same way against fever, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal parasites, indigestion, and anemia. In Brazilian herbal medicine, simarouba bark tea has long been the most highly recommended (and most effective) natural remedy against chronic and acute dysentery.
Pencil Tree (Milkbush, Finger Tree),  Euphorbia tirucalli

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Pigeon Plum (Doveplum  pigeon seagrape marble tree), Coccoloba diversifolia

The fruit is eaten by numerous wildlife species, especially doves and pigeons, hence its common names. The white-crowned pigeon is a frequent visitor.
Pigeonberry Tree (Chinaberry) Bourreria succulenta

The fruit is sought by many bird species.  Used by some as a remedy for thrush and oral inflammations.
Pink Cedar Tree Tabebuia heterophylla

The national flower of Anguilla
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