E.T. A LOCAL WAY OF LEARNING
Title: CHINCHERI, THE BIRD AND THE BUSH
Author: Jane Ducey
Eulalie R. Rivera Elementary School
Grade Level: 5-6
1. The Sun 1. Social Studies
2. Ecosystem 2. Science
8. Values and Attitudes 3. Language Arts
Student shall define what a plant parasite is and distinguish it from a
saprophyte and explain the role of the bird in spreading the chincheri plant.
Student shall identify the bush plant and describe its medicinal use today and
There is a partial parasite called mistletoe, or Chincheri, (Phthirusa caribaea)
which grows on trees in the islands. Contrasting with the white berried
mistletoe of the Pacific Northwest, used in Christmas lore, the islands'
mistletoe has small dark blue berries in clusters, and is one of the many plants
used for medicinal purposes as a tisane.
The berries are food for a medium sized bird, the chincheri, (Grey Kingbird) who
sows the mistletoe on other trees. One can see at the same time, the bird
droppings on a tree, with a small sprout of the new plant and the hold fasts
(not roots) well dug into the bark of the host tree.
Either in the field or on branches brought into the class, demonstrate the adult
plant and the seedlings which clearly relate it to the bird. How can you spot
the mistletoe in a tree? (The leaves are different shape, color and size from
the trees leaves).
Explain the interdependence: What does the bird get and what does the bush plant
get from the relationship? Is it symbiotic? Write a paragraph about the
interdependence. Define a parasite. Define a saprophyte. What is an epiphyte?
Look them up in an encyclopedia.
The bush tea is used to get relief from colds, according to this recipe:
Break a sprig from the chincheri growth and pour water, which has been
brought to a boil, over the leaves. Let it steep as the water cools a
little and drink as a tea.
CHINCHERI, THE BIRD AND THE BUSH
What is the status of bush medicine? (It is coming into greater acceptance
in the Western World.)
Where did the herbal remedies used in the islands originate? (Probably from
Africa handed down from generation to generation).
Are biochemists today isolating the active ingredient in many of the teas used?
(Yes, and this is what is giving credence to the practice).
Did the peoples of the Virgin Islands have much choice when they fell ill long
ago? (No pharmacy to go to and get cold medicine, etc.).
Do you suppose some of the remedies are "old wives' tales?" Are some of today's
medicines also placebos?
What was the biggest problem with using leaves from a tree to be taken
(The problem of dosage: all leaves are not the same size and may not have the
same amount of active ingredient, etc.)