Virgin Islands Native Trees

Lignum vitae flower
Lignum vitae flower, Photo by Caroline Rogers

Lignum vitae (Guaiacum officinale)

The Lignum vitae is native throughout the Caribbean and northern South America. This tree is very long living and was used for ship building and construction for centuries. Taino Indians used it to build their dwellings.
The photo below was taken from the Caneel Bay overlook while the tree was in full bloom.

Lignum vitae
Photo by Eleanor Gibney
Turpentine tree (Bursera simaruba)
Photo by Dan Clark

Turpentine tree (Bursera simaruba)

The turpentine or gumbo limbo tree, sometimes called the tourist tree because the bark is red and peeling, is common from Florida to northern South America. It is named after the resin it produces which has been used to treat many ailments. This tree is extremely drought tolerant.

Jamaican caper (Capparis cynophallophora)
Photo by Dan Clark

Jamaican caper (Capparis cynophallophora)

The Jamaican caper is a small night flowering tree found in moist or dry forest areas.

Frangipani (Plumeria alba)
Photo by Dan Clark

Wild frangipani (Plumeria alba)

The frangipani can be found in coastal thickets in the Virgin Islands. The flowers are white with a small yellow center and are extremely fragrant.

Fiddlewood (Citharexylum fruticosum)
Photo by Dan Clark

Fiddlewood (Citharexylum fruticosum)

This small to medium sized tree produces bright red berries. The glossy green leaves and white five petal flowers clusters make this a nice landscape tree.

Bourreria succulenta flower
Photo by Dan Clark

Strongbark (Bourreria succulenta)

This tree grows to around 28 feet tall and produces white flowers and orange fruit. The showy flowers attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. This is a native, low maintenance and drought and salt tolerant making it great for landscaping.

Seagrape Coccoloba uvifera
Photo by Dan Clark

Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera)

Seagrape trees are found throughout the Caribbean and are an important species. This hardy tree protects the coastal areas from erosion and storm damage with its sturdy roots. The tree produces white flowers in spiky clusters and bunches of grapes. It propagates by seed or cuttings. It makes an excellent landscape plant producing sturdy hedges and nice shade trees when planted in rich soils.

Teyer Palm Coccothrinax alta
Photo by Dan Clark

Tyre Palm (Coccothrinax alta)

The Tyre palm is the only remaining native palm. It was used in traditional basketry, fish traps, brooms and roof thatching. These trees prefer moist habitats.

Photo by Christy McManus

Wattapama (Poitea florida)

This small tree is native only to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Island. There blooms are a glorious lavender purple blooming after strong spring rains.

Last updated: October 28, 2021

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