ENVIRONMENTAL

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The Herbarium

The Herbarium is both a plant library and a plant museum; it consists of examples of plants found in the Cayman Islands that have been identified and preserved. To date, we know that 415 truly native species of plants grow in the wild in the Cayman Islands, of which 21 are endemic species and another eight species are endemic varieties.

Our collection of 1,100+ plant specimens in 97 plant families was initiated by the late Dr. George Proctor, a visiting scientist, specialist on West Indian plant species and author of the reference book Flora of the Cayman Islands. Today, 75 percent of Cayman’s wild plants are now represented in the Herbarium, with more being added annually.

Our staff and volunteers are specifically trained on how to collect plant specimens while preserving the integrity of the parent plant, ensuring its continued growth. If possible, the specimen is collected when the plant is in flower and/or fruit. Detailed notes are taken at the time, noting the plant’s identification, the date and place of collection, descriptions of the habitat and position, and any details that will be lost from the sample when dried, such as the scent and colour of the flowers.

Dried specimens are fixed with special tape to a sheet of acid-free paper. The label is then fixed to the appropriate page and the sheets are placed in folders, which are arranged first by plant family and then genus. The plants are labelled with their formal scientific names to avoid any possible ambiguity, but any local common names in use are also included in the record, as are the collector’s notes.

If you happen to find a wild plant which is believed to be new or rare, please contact us immediately to report your finding and the location of the plant. Do not attempt to remove the plant from its location or to obtain any cuttings.

The Herbarium is a resource for the amateur or professional. It is used by visiting scientists and can be viewed by any member of the public by making prior arrangement with the Environmental Programmes Manager. You can also view the Herbarium online.

If you are passionate about flora in the Cayman Islands and would like to get involved in the collection, research and preservation of plant specimens, contact our Environmental Programmes Manager.