Group Title: Olasee Davis articles
Title: Tree of life in more ways than one
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/CA01300919/00106
 Material Information
Title: Tree of life in more ways than one
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Davis, Olasee
Publication Date: July 7, 1995
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: CA01300919
Volume ID: VID00106
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of the Virgin Islands
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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J8 TheoDolyNews.F*dyJiiy7,l995


Environment


Tree of life in more ways than one


The issue of protecting trees,
paicularly on St. Croi, is still
tresh in many people's minds Itert
he controversy over a plan to cut
'rs along Queen Mary Highway.
Out of this controversy. a new
:rass-root group was formed to
address the preservation of trees
nd other environmental issues tt
axct the Virgin Islands comm im-

It makes me feel good to see
l ople getting involved in the
rule to prota islands' am-
J resourMc
The forest is a peculiar organism
I unlimited benevolence that
utkes no demands for its susie-
nrce and extends its benefits ge-
nly it affords proection to all
s'un beings. offering shade even
Stho k whodestroy it
Tropical forest mesr provide
mploymen. food. fuel medicines
nid other basic human needs for
tllions of people worldwide. The
Sreduces the greenhouse effect
rdl erosion and protects ocean fish-
S.B the most iponrt antle of
'ests is th regulation ofwater. (
because of deforestation that
e islands have no major prnam
:au itrans.)
Trees of economic value once
:iew in abundance in tse islands
',u are now rare. Some species
already are exincL One particular
alive species in de Vigin lands
;t almost became extinct except
n cultivated areas was he lignum


vite tee. Tody, the lignn vitae
is considered atened and is po
tected by law because few grow
naturallyin e wild
Bock island ot its mine fioma
Dutch word for lignam vitae,
pokbh orkpokhouL
The original name, Pocken
Eyland, was changed to Bocken,
Bokken Island and now Back
island. Bck island once ws eavi-
ly forested with pokhoh oruayaco
trees. Guayaco is a variation of
guyacan, the Spanish name for
common lignm vitae (guiacm
official) Thelipmn vilae woodis
a self-ubricaing hardwood sold by
weight for its special use in bear-
ings, bushing blocks for steamship
propeller s s. as well as Msaing
faminure and bowling balls.
The tree once was known as bul-
let wood because the wood was
used to make bulls for fireanrms.
The wood is extremely hard -
much harder dhn mahogany wood.
One cubic foot of the heanwood of
the lignum vitae tree weighs 76
pomudsaccoadningtoonesour.
Th rest of the was usfl,
too.
Te blk was boiled for fish poi-
son. The leaves and flowers are
used for debility as well as for
restoring emrg. Dimffai concoc-
tions re sid to relieve such ail-
mests as sil, diabetes.ski dis-
cases and high blood pressure.
From these uses came the name
lignum vie, which means tree of


DMois
Iw
*bmm


Ceoarmies ago, a group of ldi-
as migrated from northern South
America to the West Indies, and
some settled rougo the Virgin
Islands. O the eroding northwest
tip of Buck land, a shell mound
was found which indicated a con-
siderable period of Indian habits-
don. Indians practiced a limited
agriculture, probably slash and
bur. But we do not know how
much vegeation was alted before
Europes arrived.
Soae old times o SL oix say
tha some people used to live on
Buck Islan They grew sweet pot-
toes on the northwest side of the
island and cut ees down for char-
coal. Sheep and wild goas once
roanmdo istlarnd wdl
As the ecology of Sock Island
was changed by humans, the
exposed ease part d once was
covered by lin vitae and other
tras buaed atramlly, bt the fire
stopped at the wetter prt of dhe
island.
When the Eopeans aived in
these isads, thousand of foats
weredemroyedSmo of itblned.


Ohersoces believe l anoth-
r reason lignm vitae declined
in the wild is became it is a slow.
growing tee the wild, when two
specie of plants hve to compete
for salig and other igs to sr-
vive, e slowe growing phla ma-
llydoespoody.
But ie decline of ligum vitae
trees in the Virgin Islands was
mainly due to its commercial =.
Trees including l nm vie, were
cut for wood to build houses and
boatand to ship to Erope
Tbe lignm viae is a adsomne
small evergreen tha reaches 15 to
30 feet in height with a short runk
4 to 18 e inches ndiameter.The k
is smooth, a mdled light brown or
pgy and pee offin thin flakes.
The leaves are dark, shiny green
and divided into w or sontimes
dueepr* ofle flets.InfaUblkom,
ie flowers are ligh-blue or pur
plish. The frais are flat yellow
orange ad beat-sped. When the
uit b s open, the dark brown or
black seeds are covered with a
bightred ski or ail.
The lignm vite tree is one
ample of a species t is almost
extinct. When we talk abo pnt-
ing trees, let s about plati
lignum viae es, a true active of
the Vigin lads.
Olase Davi, who holds mor.
ltaf ~si ce degti ree i rg rW -
ain d radfr ara oels, isa
St. Croix ecologist, activist ad
writer.




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