Plants & Animals of the Bahamas

Written by jourdan townsend
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Plants & Animals of the Bahamas
A coastline of the Bahamas (plage de turkoises Bahamas image by foxytoul from Fotolia.com)

The Bahamas are full of natural beauty, rich in both flora and fauna. While it would be nearly impossible to list all of the species of plants and animals that you might encounter in this tropical haven, there is a handful of each that are particularly important or special, which you may wish to keep your eyes peeled for if you are planning a visit to this island nation.

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Yellow Elder (Tecoma Stans)

Although it is not actually a native plant to the Bahamas, being introduced by settlers due to its hardy nature, the yellow elder is important to Bahamian culture because it is considered the national flower. Yellow elder can grow spontaneously from pollination and without cultivation and takes the form of a large shrub or a smaller tree with yellow, slightly cone-shaped blossoms.

Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum Sanctum)

Lignum vitae is also known as ironwood, because the lumber from this Bahamian national tree is so dense that it is one of the few woods that will sink in seawater. The Arawak, one of the Native American tribes of the area, learnt to make medicine from this tree to treat syphilis, introduced by the Europeans. Some specimens of Lignum vitae have been located that are nearly 1,000 years old. This tree grows very slowly and is considered a threatened plant species.

Wild Allamander (Urechites Lutea)

Wild allamander is one of the most prolific plants to be found in the Bahamas. Though it is often propagated for decorative purposes, it also grows wild, as the name implies, in a large number of areas. Wild allamander has foliage made up of multiple, oval-shaped leaves and produces a pale yellow, delicate blossom. The flowers, foliage, inner sap, and all other pieces of the wild allamander plant are extremely poisonous.

Bahamas Buttercup (Turnera Ulmifolia)

The Bahamas buttercup is very important to island culture as a medicinal plant. Constipation, heart palpitations, menstrual problems, diarrhoea, and gripes are all treated with different parts or combinations of parts of the plant. In addition, the Bahamas buttercup is a natural mosquito repellent, since the foliage is deadly to their larvae. The seeds of the plant naturally contain fairly high doses of caffeine, which may discourage other pests. The Bahamas buttercup thrives in the native soils of the Bahamas, which may be devoid of moisture and salty.

Bahamian Boa Constrictors

The Bahamas hosts three species and seven subspecies of a colourful family of boa constrictors known as rainbow snakes, or by their genus name Epicrates. These boa constrictors, compared to others, stay very narrow but can reach as long as eight feet. The rainbow snakes have skins that are mottled grey and brown, allowing them to live in a large variety of areas on the island where they dine mostly on rodents, lizards, insects, and frogs.

The Bahamian pygmy boa constrictor can also be found on the islands. It is much smaller and spends most of its time in burrows, feeding on small frogs and lizards. When the snake is in hiding, its skin is dark and provides camouflage. When night falls and the pygmy boa emerges, the pigments shift and the skin lightens. The Bahamian pygmy boa constrictor can purposely bleed from its mouth, eyes, and nostrils as a system of defence.

Bahama Parrot

Parrots are often one of the first animals one thinks of when considering a tropical climate. There is actually only one type of parrot truly native to the Bahamian islands, known as the Bahama parrot. These parrots are bright green, with pink to red faces and white heads. The scientific name of the Bahama parrot is Amazona leucocephala bahamensis, which means, "white-headed Amazon from the Bahamas."

Turtles

The Bahamas is home to a variety of exotic turtles. The loggerhead turtle, leatherback turtle, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, and olive ridley turtle are all classified as marine sea turtles. The first four are all considered endangered species. Cat Island sliders are the freshwater turtle commonly found in the area. Fossils have been discovered that show that the Bahamas was once home to a giant tortoise, now believed extinct.

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