SABA–The Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), with funding of the Public Entity Saba, has started the works on the Botanical Garden in Windwardside. The botanical garden will have only local plants and trees, and will be a great addition both for residents and visitors.
Workers are busy installing a fence around the property behind the Trail Shop. This fence is necessary to keep out the goats so they don’t eat the seedlings and saplings when planted. Local experts are providing advice on the planting of plants and trees that naturally grow on Saba or which have been naturalized.
Local fruit trees such as guava, mango, Suriname cherries, banana, cashew, soursop, breadfruit, rough skin lemon and mammee apple will all be part of the Botanical Garden, but also medicinal trees and plants such as the moringa tree and aloe. Trees that once grew in larger numbers on Saba, but which are hard to find nowadays, like the cacao tree, will be planted as well. A propagation house will be constructed, a nursery where seedlings and saplings will be grown.
“It will be a cross-section of plants that many of us know. But we will also include old, forgotten trees that people know from the past like what they call the ferron or marshmallow tree, and the West Indian Mahogany which has a long history of boat building and the making of furniture,” said SCF Director Kai Wulf. A number of the trees and plants are already located in what used to be a farm area until the 1970s. Locals often refer to this area as the Banana Gut or the Breadfruit Gut.
A sign, unveiled at the Botanical Garden in December 2019 by Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and SCF board member Nicole Johnson, shows the kinds of trees and plants that will be displayed. During that ceremony, Nicole Johnson stated in her speech that incorporating the local plants into the botanical garden was important for future generations.
“But we also ensure that our children and their children know the importance of these plants and trees and why they played such a large role in the daily lives of Sabans in the past and how they are still utilized today. The Botanical Garden, with its goal of not only preserving but also restoring a part of Saba’s natural heritage, will add to our green identity,” said Johnson.
The area will be kept as much as possible in its natural state. The trail, which will connect with both the Trail Shop and the Museum grounds, will loop through the botanical garden with a bridge that will connect the sections of the garden on both sides of the gut. The Arnold family, the original owners of the 8,400 square meter property officially donated the land, including the Trail Shop which is used as a hiking information center and gift shop, to the SCF in 2017.
“The main objective is to educate residents and tourists about our trees and plants. The farm to table concept where we can show visitors how things grow, where their food comes from. It is about learning about introduced and indigenous plants that have been used for generations on Saba for food, crafts and medicine. Sharing traditional knowledge will help to conserve the island’s terrestrial biodiversity and preserve the local culture that might otherwise might be lost for future generations,” said Kai Wulf.
Commissioner Bruce Zagers, who took a tour of the area on Tuesday, February 9, expressed his pleasure on seeing this initiative finally starting to materialize. “For several years this has been a priority but because of limited funding it never materialized. Having this botanical will further enhance our nature appeal for tourism while providing our people the opportunity to learn more about indigenous plant and tree species.”
Zagers went on to say that the Botanical Garden will serve as another attraction for our visitors. “It will offer persons who find the regular trails too strenuous, but who still would like to experience the nature that Saba has to offer, the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature. The adjacent Museum grounds and the Harry L. Johnson museum will add to the cultural experience, to learn about those who have come before us.”