Through the years the Turks and Caicos National Arboretum has metamorphosed into many things. After its establishment, native trees planted in the garden grew unexpectedly well into a cool, shady forest of green with winding paths and fragrant blossoms, where Museum events were held and people walked.After Hurricane Ike, the Arboretum was left to fend for itself; unfortunately, it had much help from invasive plants as well as non-caring folks, who consistently used the garden as a trash dump.
However, with the help of the Wilmington Grant, the DECR’s plant biodiversity conservation nursery, and the Carnival Corporation/TCInvest /Government Infrastructure Fund, the National Arboretum is changing into the Turks and Caicos Botanical and Cultural Garden.
A proposal was made, and with the help of a local botanist, a scheme was set in motion in late 2010. The Garden is divided into habitats, not unlike what you would find throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands. Sand Dunes, Coastal Coppice, Cacti and Succulents, Scrubland, and the Dry Tropical Forest, which are more endangered than rainforests, and are one of the most ecologically fragile habitats on earth.
From the proposal, to the layout, to the removal of years of garbage, plants, the work was initiated through the in-kind donations of individuals and companies.
The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), provided young indigenous plants from the nursery in North Caicos. The Turks and Caicos National Museum would like to thank the DECR for helping us promote this worthwhile project. The DECR is managing a seed collection project with the Royal Botanic Garden Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank in England. Some of these plants were near extinction, and have been saved due to this project.
Once the plants are established we hope to use the Botanical Garden as an educational tool for schools and residents. The Botanical garden will also establish a nursery so the work of the plant biodiversity conservation programme will become a sustainable programme, ensuring the native plants continue to thrive in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Garden’s focus will be expanded to include many different native plants, including those with uses in the local “bush medicine” pharmacopeia. Well-grown mature trees will be pruned properly and labeled with identification markers, and facilities for caring for the garden will be upgraded. Strategic use of native plants will showcase their value in landscaping to encourage homeowners and businesses to choose landscaping schemes inclusive of TCI’s own botanical heritage. The Garden had a good start, and we hope to improve it into a true national treasure.