Cayman flora revisited by Proctor
(CNS): More than eight years in the making and with contributions from a wide range of local professional and amateur botanical enthusiasts, the second edition of Dr George Proctor’s Flora of the Cayman Islands has gone on sale locally. At a special event at the National Gallery to launch the respected and significant book, which is the only publication cataloguing more than 400 native and 29 indigenous species as well as imported and invasive species in Cayman, Director of the Department of Environment said the importance of the book and Proctor’s work could never be over emphasised. Gina Ebanks-Petrie said the country remained indebted to him as the first person to comprehensively identify what makes up the Caymanian ’bush’.
Thanking a long list of people and organisations that contributed and helped to ensure the publication of the updated book by Kew Publishing, Gina Ebanks-Petrie said it was her hope that the necessary steps would be taken soon to protect Cayman’s natural habitat that is recorded in the book.
In the introduction, which has been adapted and updated by the director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, Fred Burton, and Kew Garden’s Colin Clubbe, the vulnerability of Cayman’s flora is illustrated by the point that over half of Cayman’s endemic species are critically endangered and almost half of its native species are under threat of extinction.
Proctor’s book remains an incredibly important piece of work as so few botanical investigations have been undertaken in Cayman by relatively few people. Even now with the increase in the literature and research under taken by Burton, Anne Stafford, Mat Cottam and others, it is estimated that there are still species growing on the three islands that have not yet been identified and catalogued. The fear of most of those who have a connection to the local natural habitat, however, is that these unidentified species could be buried under concrete or tarmac before they are ever catalogued and understood.
The new edition of Proctor’s book is a full colour version and a total revision of his first edition. It describes the 415 native taxa, 29 of them uniquely Caymanian, that can be found on the 260 or so square kilometres that make up the three Cayman Islands.
Although the new edition has retained a classic taxonomic approach to describing the islands’ flora, 250 line illustrations and over 400 spectacular colour photographs illustrate the majority of species most likely to be encountered. Satisfying the needs of the professional botanist, it also provides the non-expert and eco-traveller with an accessible, beautifully presented and informative field guide.
Dr Proctor, now 91 years old, was the former head of the Natural History Division of the institute of Jamaica and he published his first edition in 1986. He began work on this edition some eight years ago but his work was interrupted when he was sent to jail in Jamaica after being convicted of conspiring with his driver to attempt to kill his wife. Proctor always denied the charges but he was given a four year jail sentence following the 2010 trial.
Despite his ill health, failing eyesight and unexpected incarceration, the botanist pressed on and completed the second edition of the book while serving his sentence. It is understood that Proctor has now been released from prison.
The book is now on sale at CI$30. It is already available at the DoE but will soon reach the shelves of local book stores and the National Trust.
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