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For over ten years, the Garden provides a haven for the protection of the island’s natural fauna and flora whilst, at the same time, creating an opportunity to rest in peaceful surroundings. The Garden is adjacent to the boundary of the Quill National Park and extends for 5.3 hectares across the southern slopes of the Quill. Visitors are invited to learn more about the flora of St Eustatius, take a walk through the garden or simply relax and enjoy the views of St Kitts and beyond.

A Brief History

In the 1990s, a Statian woman named Miriam Schmidt had a vision of a sanctuary for protection of Statia’s rich biodiversity from the pressures of development, animal grazing and invasive species. A plan was designed to establish a public Botanical Garden with different plant species that are native to Statia, those that were introduced by early settlers and other regional tropical plants. In 1998, this vision was realised when the Island Government donated land for the creation of the garden, which was dedicated to Miriam Schmidt.

Development of the Garden commenced in 1998 with construction of a perimeter fence, house, public facilities and pavilion. Work began on Phase 1 (lowest area of the Garden comprising 2 hectares) in 2001 using plants raised from donated seeds and cuttings and was successfully completed in 2006. Work on phase 2 is just underway beginning with the development of a fruit tree garden and a children’s garden but is also to include native buffer zones either side of these gardens. Most of the work in the Garden has been carried out by groups of both local and international volunteers. [go up]

The Garden Today

The development of the entire Garden is divided into five phases. General infrastructure development at the Garden commenced in 1998 and includes a perimeter fence, greenhouse, pavilion (with picnic tables for visitors), main building with adjacent bathroom, tool shed, entrance roadway and car park. Power is supplied by a solar panel and windturbine with generator and battery bank.

Following completion of infrastructure, the first priority for Phase 1 (2.2 hectares) was planting of trees along the lower slopes and perimeter fence to form windbreak barriers. Without this protection, plants sensitive to wind and salt are unable to grow in the Garden. In addition to the windbreaks, development of Phase 1 (2001-2006) comprises an educational Sensory Garden, a Palm Garden, a Look-out Garden, a Kitchen Garden and a Bird Observation Trail through the forest of the rear portion of the Botanical Garden. Development of Phase 2 commenced in late 2006 with the award of a two year grant to finance development from Prince Bernhard Nature Fund. [go up]

Aims and principles

Preservation and enhancement of existing ecosystems and the cultural heritage of Statia:

The Garden aims to re-introduce species that once thrived on Statia and to protect them from wandering livestock. In many areas of the island, the shrub layer has been grazed to the roots and young seed-lings are unable to grow. The lack of plant material has resulted in extensive soil erosion and subsequent sedimentation on coral reefs surrounding the island. At the same time, one ornamental species (Mexican creeper or Corallita Antigonon leptopus) has flourished and become invasive. This vine is choking a large proportion of native vegetation and controlled experiments in the Botanical Garden aim to develop guidelines to control this vine.

Conservation of available resources using sustainable practices:
Sustainability is important to the Garden’s conservation effort. Practices include the non-consumptive use of natural resources (solar and wind energy), recycling and use of environmentally friendly products. Environmental garden practices include composting, mulching and use of groundcover to prevent weed growth. In this way, practices at the Botanical Garden may be adopted island-wide.

Education of residents and visitors of all ages about Statia’s rich biodiversity:

The Garden aims to fuel enthusiasm for plants and ecology. Guided tours and educational trips are arranged for school and church groups and at special request. The Junior Ranger club carries out projects at the Garden. [go up]

Future Development of the Garden

The slopes above the pavilion (Phases 2-5) will be developed during the coming years to include areas such as ‘Pre-Columbian’ and ‘Post-Columbian’ Gardens, an ‘Island Flora Garden’ (species native to the Quill and Boven National Parks). Early development and planning for the ‘Fruit Garden’ and ‘Children’s Garden’ are already underway. The progress and development of these phases is entirely dependent on funding. [go up]

Visitor Information

The Garden is open from sunrise until sunset and tours are available during weekday morning hours and also by special arrangement. There is a suggested entrance fee for non-residents of $5. Donations are much appreciated for development and educational materials for the Garden. Further information and mini-guides are available at the National Parks Visitor Centre. [go up]


Phase 1 Layout

The Sensory Garden
This is the main Garden of Phase 1 and is an outdoor classroom for children and adults alike to explore their senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. Around each of the shady wooden arbours are plants and activities that appeal to each sense. Interactive lessons at each arbour can be arranged for children of any age. Follow through the activity signs at each arbour and ask staff for the activity boxes. Whilst in the Sensory Garden, look out for the:

Sight Arbour – this area contains activities to train the sense of sight such as signs illustrating different types of optical illusions. There are particularly eye-catching plants (either for their structure, colours or shape) and look out for the Firecracker plant (Russelia equisetiformis), Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) and Spider Lily (Hymenocallis caroliniana). Binoculars are available for bird watching.

Smell Arbour – you will need to get close to some of these plants to discover why they are included here. Jasmine (Jasminum officinale), Ixora/Flame of the Woods (Ixora coccinea) and a variety of colours of Frangipani (Plumeria spp) are found close to this arbour. Activity boards describe the various plants and give recipes for fragrant bush teas.

Sound Arbour – this area contains plants that are grown for manufacture of musical instruments, in particular the Calabash tree (Crescentia cujete) for the hollow Gourd and the Wandering Jew (Zebrina pendula). The arbour also features wind chimes, gourd maracas, conch, digeridoo and a ‘meffenspiel’.

Taste Arbour – here are a variety of Caribbean plants and trees that provide fruits or leaves used in cooking or for medicinal purposes. Fruit trees include the Caribbean Papaya (Carica papaya), Pineapple (Ananas comosus), Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis) and Yellow Guava (Psidium guajava). Vegetables and herbs include Basil (Ocimum basillicum), Eggplant (Solanum melongena) and Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus). If you are in luck, some of the fruit will be ready for picking.

Touch Arbour – there are many plants with different types of leaves and flowers that appeal to your sense of touch. Touch the variety of tree barks or try out the different rope knotting or braiding on display. Particular plants to touch include the Sandpiper Vine (Petrea volubilis), Rough Lemon (Citrus jambhiri), Cotton Tree (Bossypium barbadense) or Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta).
The Garden was dedicated to Prince Willem Alexander and Princess Maxima in 2001. [go up]

The Lookout
The Botanical Garden has the best view of St Kitts from Statia and this view can be enjoyed from the Lookout Garden. Take a rest on one of the shaded benches or use the installed telescope (uses American coins) to see the view of St Kitts more clearly. During the winter months (January through April), look out for passing Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) as they migrate from colder feeding grounds to the tropics to breed. These large whales (11-15 metres length) are identifiable by their spectacular breaching and long flippers. [go up]

Shade House
Visitors are welcome to take a look at the next generation of plants being grown for the Garden. The majority of plants and trees in the Botanical Garden were grown from seed or propagated from cuttings in the shade house, and over 500 plants were transplanted from the shade house between 2002 and 2006. The extension to the shade house is used as a transitional step for plants ready to be planted in the Garden. [go up]

Jean Gemmill Bird Observation Trail
The vegetation in the upper part of the Botanical Garden is characterised as thorny woodland typical of the lower Quill slope vegetation. This easy trail (30 minutes within Botanical Garden or 1 hour loop around to the Entrance Gate) starts at the parking area and winds its way through the woodland passing various trail extensions leading to benches and a bird hide. Hikers will also pass an old oven constructed during the mid 1700’s when the land was owned by the Honorable Abraham Heyliger and known as Plantation 49 (map of 1775). Various signs along the route describe the habitat and behaviour of birds found in the Botanical Garden and Quill National Park. Birds commonly observed on this trail include the Antillean Crested Hummingbird (Orthorhyncus cristatus), Bananaquit (Tiaris bicolor), Lesser Antillean Bullfinch (Loxigilla noctis), Zenaida dove (Zenaida aurita), Gray Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis), American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) and Killy-Killy / American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). At the highest point, the trail joins with the Round the Mountain trail of the Quill National Park. Visitors can then follow this trail to the Botanical Garden trail to return to the Garden entrance gate. The trail is dedicated to the memory of Jean Gemmill who was the mastermind behind the Sensory Garden and the Bird Trail. The benches and information signs were purchased with donations made in Jean’s memory. [go up]

The Palm Garden
Both native and Caribbean species of palm have been planted in this Garden just below the car park. Species have been selected for their variety in both shape and size. The Garden contains the best known palm in the world, the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) that grows up to 30 metres, the Cardboard Palm (Zamia furfuracea) from Mexico that is actually a cycad, the Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis), Manila Palm (Veitchia merrillii) and the Guadeloupe Fan Palm (Breahea edulis) which grows to 10 metres. The latter palm grows all over Statia.

Take a walk around the Garden and enjoy a rest on benches around the freshwater pond. The pond serves two benefits: it is used as a watering hole by garden birds and insects such as dragonflies; the tilapia fish (Tilapia sp.) inside the pond are edible and keep the water clean and free from mosquito larvae. Palm trees are typically slow growing and the trees in this Garden will not reach maturity until around 2015. [go up]

Phase 2 Development
The development of phase 2 of the garden is now well underway, and the garden areas that are now being developed during this project are:

Children’s Garden: This space will not consist of static play sets, but will contain objects and materials that children can manipulate. Special features will include a tree house lookout and play area with nature related objects. There will be signage about educational activities.

Fruit Garden: The majority of fruits and vegetables are imported to Statia though the island is capable of supporting agriculture. This garden will demonstrate the simple methods utilized to cultivate fruit crops of the many species of trees that grow on Statia. Educational signage will inform visitors of the most appropriate ways to cultivate the fruit trees.

Native Buffers: These buffers will function as transitions between the undeveloped adjacent properties and the garden while reestablishing native species. [go up]

 

 

The Reclining Man

 

The Shadehouse

 

Theme arbours are spread all around the sensory garden

 

The garden house provides the living arrangements for interns

 

 

Birds eye view of the house and the Sensory Garden

 

The camping area for the Working Abroad volunteers on the base of the Quill volcano

 

Hibiscus flowers

 

Flower