Friday 30 October, 2020

Bush Girl, Hannah Reid, promotes green growth in Cayman

Hannah Reid, in her element

Hannah Reid, in her element

"As Caymanians, our cultural identity is linked to the natural environment of our homeland as sure as our navel strings are buried here… Perhaps it is time we get back to our roots," says Hannah Reid of the belief that Caymanians need to reconnect with their local surroundings. 

As a self-described 'Bush Girl', council member of the Cayman National Trust and board member of PAWS, Hannah Reid (who also happens to be the Public Relations Manager at Dart) combines a Master's degree in Environment, Science and Society, a Bachelor's degree in Journalism, a career in corporate communications and a passion for the community and the environment to promote sustainable growth in the Cayman Islands.

One of the ways that Reid gets her message across is through education.

Whether it is via her blog at www.BushGirlMedicine.com or public appearances, Reid is always excited to share her vast knowledge.

Her most recent public appearance took place this past Saturday at the inaugural instalment of the Garden Tour Series at The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park during which Reid hosted participants on a walk through the Woodland Trail and Heritage Garden of the 65-acre property, describing the traditional and medicinal uses of Cayman’s native plants.

Loop Cayman managed to catch up with the busy environmentalist for a few moments of her busy schedule to ask a few questions...

At what age did you realise that you had this special connection with nature?

I grew up in East End surrounded by nature so the ironshore and the bush was my playground. My mom has always had a keen interest in plants and she passed that love for the natural world on to me and my sister. But it was when I was in my last year of my Bachelor’s degree that I started learning about traditional environmental knowledge – knowledge gained through repeated human encounters with nature. Caymanians had to learn how to use the natural world around them to survive and thrive as a culture. I did my Master’s dissertation on Cayman’s traditional environmental knowledge and how it informed policy with the passage of the National Conservation Law.

How did you educate yourself about plants and their different properties?

There are some incredible resources in Cayman – both in print and person form. Some great books include Flora of the Cayman Islands by George Proctor and Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Frederic Burton. Online, there’s the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park’s Virtual Herbarium. Ann Stafford and my mom are my go-to’s when I meet a plant I don’t recognise!

What are your five favourite plants in Cayman and why?

It’s very hard to pick just five!

  • Cabbage (Guapira discolor) is one of my favourite trees in terms of its visual appearance. They are like the weeping willows of Cayman.
  • Rosemary (Croton linearis) is such an important plant in terms of its cultural and medicinal uses. When I think about abundance, I imagine this plant.
  • Silver Thatch (Coccothrinax proctorii) – it’s our national tree for a reason. The historical and cultural significance of this tree is unparalleled in Cayman.
  • Christmas Blossom (Vernonia divaricata) because its flowers mean that the holidays are on their way. Cayman really shines – literally and figuratively – at Christmas time. Also, a review of the genus published in 2013 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that, of the 109 Vernonia species, 105 plants were linked to the treatment of 44 human diseases/health conditions. I think it’s only a matter of time before we learn just how incredible this plant is.
  • Duppy Bush (Phyllanthus angustifolius) might have a spooky name but it’s one of my favourite plants. It’s the larval food plant of the duppy moth (Melanchroia chephise).

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is a great place to see these and many other important native plants. Park Horticultural Manager Nick Johnson is also going to be hosting walking tours in October. 

Where have you lived and how have your travels influenced your connection with nature?

I’m a native Caymanian but am grateful to have been able to live and study in Canada, the US and the UK. In the US, I learned about traditional environmental knowledge in connection with the Creek Mvskoke (Muskogee) culture and language, and in the UK I learned more about environmental policy and the nexus of science, society and nature.

What aspect of Cayman’s natural life do you love most?

Whenever I find myself in nature – whether it’s the coastal shrubland or the rocky forests of East End - I feel that connection between our culture and our environment. Our ancestors had to rely on the natural world for almost everything and that has shaped who we are as a people. Just because the role our environment plays in our continued survival has changed does not mean it has diminished.

You mentioned the walking tours at Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, the first of which you hosted this past weekend. Can you tell us more?

Nick Johnson, the Park's horticultural manager, will be hosting guided tours this month. I would really encourage everyone to support the Park by taking this opportunity to learn more about our native biodiversity from an expert!

Garden Tours are CI$20 per person and are limited to 12 persons in each group, and funds raised will go toward the completion of the Children’s Garden at the Botanic Park. To pre-book your space email info@botanic-park.ky or call 947-9462. Upcoming tour dates are Sunday 18th October, 10:00 am, Sunday 1st November, 10:00 am and Sunday 15th November, 10:00 am.

To learn more about donating toward the completion of the Children’s Garden, email manager@botanic-park.ky .

Hannah Reid's flowers

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