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The new Xerophytic Garden will be a model for gardeners in the Cayman Islands who want to grow cactus or other low-maintenance plants that require little water.
Growing plants that don’t need a lot of water is often a thorny issue for gardeners in the Cayman Islands.
But now The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is developing a garden which could help resolve such challenges.
Plans are currently under way to create a Xerophytic Garden, for which the botanic park is trying to raise $65,000.
“Xerophytic refers to plants that are well suited to dry (xeric) conditions, such as cactus and certain succulents,” explains John Lawrus, the botanic park’s general manager. “This display garden will show both native, regional (Greater Antillean) and exotic plants that are tolerant of dry conditions.”
The botanic park, with the ongoing support of the Tourism Attraction Board which overseas the facility, has been planning the Xerophytic Garden since 1996 as part of its master plan.
It is expected that the new feature will be a major attraction at the tropical oasis.
Initial landscaping design began at the end of August thanks to $34,000 already given by private donors and the Garden Club of Grand Cayman.
Planting of the quarter-acre site will begin as soon as more funds are raised, with plants arranged according to geographic regions.
Species will likely include Agave, Opuntia, Aloe, Crassula, Kalanchoe, Dasylirion and Euphorbia as well as, eventually, a regional collection of cactus.
The plants will be ideally suited for Cayman’s environmental conditions, according to Mr. Lawrus.
“Using plants or ground covers as a substitute for lawns, incorporating the use of organic and inorganic mulches and the selection of drought tolerant plants which will be displayed in our garden, will provide a lower-cost garden alternative that limits the amount of water usage and the high costs that can be associated with it, as well as reduced maintenance,” he says.
Xerophytic plants may have adapted shapes and forms or internal functions that reduce their water loss or store water during long periods of drought.
“In dry environments, a typical plant would evaporate water faster than the rate at which water was replaced in the soil, leading to wilting,” Mr. Lawrus explains.
“To reduce this effect, xerophytic plants exhibit a variety of specialised adaptations to survive in such conditions. Xerophytic plants may absorb water from their own storage, allocate water specifically to sites of new tissue growth, or have other adaptations to manage water supply and enable them to survive. These xerophytic plants usually have special means of storing and conserving water, as well as having few or no leaves, which aids them in reducing transpiration.”
Succulent plants store water in their stems or leaves and they include the cactus family, which has round stems and can store a lot of water.
In cactus, the leaves are reduced to spines, or they do not have leaves at all, with water stored in the bulbs or bases of some plants, at or below ground level.
They may be dormant during drought conditions and when the first sign of moisture is apparent the plant will suddenly come back to life.
“The main attraction of the Xerophytic Garden at the park will be the ability to discover plants close up that have not really been showcased here in the Cayman Islands before,” says Mr. Lawrus.
“The striking flowers of many of the plants, as well as the interesting architectural shapes, will be surprising for most visitors. The information that you can have a beautiful garden with lower water usage will also be very appealing.”
The Xerophytic Garden follows the creation of the Orchid Garden that opened to much acclaim at the botanic park in February 2010 and which has proved a huge draw for visitors.
The benefits of a xerophytic garden include the following:
- Lower consumption of water.
- Less time and work needed for maintenance effort, with gardening simpler and less stressful.
- Xerophytic plants, in appropriate planting design and soil grading and mulching, take full advantage of rainfall retention.
water restrictions are implemented, xerophytic plants will tend to
survive and thrive, while more ornamental plants may be unable to adapt.
interested in donating funds for the Xerophytic Garden can contact
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park general manager John Lawrus at