Agricultural Experiment Station
Report No. 9
VIRGIN ISLANDS FORESTRY RESEARCH
A Problem Analysis
College of the Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station
Darshan S. Padda, Director
St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands
Agricultural Experiment Station
Report No. 9
VIR11 ISLANDS FORESTRY RESEARCH
A Problem Analysis
College of the Virgin Islands
in Cooperation with
Seymour I. Somberg & Associates, Ltd.
Consulting Foresters, Engineers & Appraisers
Wilmington, N.C. 28401
Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station
Darshan S. Padda, Director
St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands
Forew ord ........................ ........................ iii
Acknowledgements .................................... ......... iv
Summary and Conclusions ........................................ v
Forest Resources............................................... 1
Plant associations ............................................ 2
Competition for Land ........................................... 3
The Forests .................................................. 4
Utilization of Forest Products in the Virgin Islands ........................ 4
Forest Production ............................................... 4
Virgin Islands Forest Industries ..................................... 6
Requirements for Forest Area ...................................... 7
Forestry Research in the Virgin Islands ................................. 8
Forestry Research Needs by the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station ..... 10
Selected References............................................. 13
Other reports of the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station ............. .14
This report on the Virgin Islands forestry research needs is part of a continuous effort of the Agricul-
tural Experimental Station, College of the Virgin Islands to conduct shortrtaqge and long-range research
projects for improving both the agriculture and forestry resources in the Virgin Islands. It is the ninth in
a series of feasibility studies sponsored by the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station which was
established in 1972.
The work was conducted under McIntire-Stennis project. VI-016 by contracting the services of
Dr. Seymour I. Somberg.
Forest trees have been used for a long time as windbreaks to protect and improve yields of agricul-
tural crops. But, there is also a renewed interest in forestry as'a natural resource. Forest resources hold
meaning for people in relation to their interests in freshwater supplies, outdoor recreation, homes and
commercial buildings, furniture, watercraft, fuel, and many other goods and services which are derived
from forests. In the Virgin Islands we must have forested areas to enjoy the benefits of'forest recreation,
wildlife, and forested watersheds.
This project was designed with a broad scope to investigate situations in general and to answer ques-
tions as to whether our forest research needs are being met by USDA's institute of tropical forestry
located in Puerto Rico or if some local research effort is needed.
This study has identified areas in which forestry research should be conducted, while keeping in con-
sideration our commercial and socioeconomic conditions.
The Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided
by the forestry staff of the Cooperative State Research Service of the United States Department-of
Darshan S. Padda, Director
It is impossible for me to acknowledge all the persons who helped me with this assignment from
the man in the street to high government officials and those in between.
Deserving of special mention are Dr. Darshan S. Padda, Director, College of the Virgin Islands Agri-
cultural Experiment Station for affording me both the opportunity and his assistance during the investi-
gation. I would also like to thank Dr. Frank H. Wadsworth, Director, Institute of Tropical Forestry
(ITF), USDA Forest Serivce, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico for his assistance and Dr. Tom Shubert who fur-
nished most of the photographs used in this report; Mrs. Joanne Feheley, Librarian, supplied me with
volume after volume of material on the natural resources of the Virgin Islands and her help is gratefully
Mr. Axel L. Frederiksen, Forest Technician, USDA Forest Service who spent many days with me in
the field, driving and showing me the forestry resources of the islands. His help and assistance was
Mr. William Saalman, USDA Soil Conservation Service who permitted me to use the SCS aerial photo-
graphs. He also helped with the soils of the island and furnished photographs.
Mr. Larry Bough, Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture, was also very helpful in showing me the
department's forestry efforts.
Seymour I. Somberg
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
In March 1976, a problem analysis was con-
ducted by a consulting forester. Presently, much of
the United States Virgin Islands is covered with
second growth and scrubby timber composed of
noncommercial species. This is due in part to the past
pattern of land use, especially the cultivation of sugar
cane. The rainfall or the lack of adequate rainfall is
also responsible for the type of timber found in the
islands. These two factors, plus others such as compe-
tition for alternate uses for land and advalorem taxes,
preclude the possibility of commercial forestry in the
Mahogany (Swietenia spp.) is planted extensively
in the islands. It is estimated that there is in excess of
500,000 board feet of merchantable mahogany. Since
there is, for all practical purposes, no forest industry
in the Virgin Islands this volume of merchantable
mahogany could be exported. There is a demand for
mahogany because it is one of the finest cabinet
woods found in the world.
Although there is no future in the islands for com-
mercial forestry, forest research is strongly recom-
mended for the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experi-
ment Station. In addition to solving research prob-
lems and informing the general public, results can be
made available to many of the departments such as
the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture. The ex-
change of information would benefit all in the
islands. These research efforts would not supplement
those by other departments or agencies rather they
would complement. Recommended research efforts,
not necessarily in order of priority, are:
1. The testing of some 50 species of native and
exotic trees for use along highways and ad-
jacent to dwellings. Especially among these
trees is mango (Mangifem spp.).
2. It is thought that there is a natural hybrid: West
Indies mahogany (Swietenia mahogani Jacq.)
x Honduras mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla
King). This hybrid should be tested genetically
to determine if it is in fact a hybrid.
3. Water is a very limited commodity in the is-
lands. Research in water-shed production is
4. Forest Recreation: The demand for recreation
is constantly on the increase, and investigations
should be conducted to determine which spe-
cies would best be suited in conjunction with
water oriented activities.
5. Because of past land-use patterns, there is little
wildlife in the US. Virgin Islands. Research on
natural habitat is needed.
6. There are no conifers in the islands. The tradi-
tional Christmas trees, such as pines and firs are
not found in the islands. To use these trees they
would have to be imported. There is a tree
called the Norfolk-Island pine which is not a
true pine. (Araucaria spp.) It is used here and
in other parts of the world as a Christmas tree.
The feasibility of commercial production of
this species in the islands should be tested.
Cover Photo: 12-year old Mahogany (Swietenia spp.) after 100 percent release. Estate Bodkin (2) St.
Croix, US. Virgin Islands. Photo by Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA Forest Service,
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
4 0 MI LE S
VI R GIN
IS LAND S
VIRGIN ISLANDS FORESTRY RESEARCH
A Problei Analysis
SEYMOUR I. SOMBERG
This work was supported in part from matching
funds made available under the McIntire-Stennis Act
(M-S), which provides for funds to be spent on
forestry research. Inasmuch as there is no forestry re-
search at the College of the Virgin Islands or at its
experiment station, a M-S project was written to pro-
vide for a problem analysis of the Virgin Islands For-
estry Research Program. The project had four objec-
1. Obtain information on Virgin Islands forest
resources, forest products uses, and forest
2. Determine requirements in forest areas and
forest products for the Virgin Islands based on
commercial and social consideration.
3. Find out what research of other institutions
and agencies lacks in meeting forestry informa-
tion requirements of the Virgin Islands.
4. Determine forestry research needs by the Vir-
gin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station.
The report that follows provides the answers to
The U.S. Virgin Islands lie between 17 30' to 18"
30' north latitude and 65 15' to 64 40' west longi-
tude and include three major islands, St. Croix, St.
Thomas, and St. John. There are in addition, over 50
smaller islands, cays and keys. This report is confined
to the three major islands which have approximately
St. Croix is the largest island with 54,563 acres
representing 63.9 percent of the total land area of
the three islands. St. Thomas is second with 17,985
acres and 21.1 percent of the total. The smallest of
the three islands, St. John, is third with 12,835 acres
and 15.0 percent of the total area.
There is a national park administered by the U.S.
Department of the Interior on St. John which
occupies approximately three-fourths of the island.
The population of the islands was estimated in
1974 to be 100,000. This total is expected to exceed
200,000 by 1978.
The annual rainfall varies within the islands as well
as among the islands. The annual rainfall on St. Croix
varies from 20 to 30 inches on the eastern end to
approximately 50 to 60 inches on the western end.
On St. Thomas the annual rainfall varies from 35
to 40 inches on the east and west ends of the island
to 40 to 55 inches in the central portion. The trade-
winds are easterly.
There are 85,382 acres in the three major U.S.
Virgin Islands in six ecological life zones. According
to Holdridge's system of classification of world life
zones or plant formations, only two are found in the
U.S. Virgin Islands, subtropical dry forests and sub-
tropical moist forests. The area occupied by these life
zones is shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Ecological Life Zones of the United States Virgin Islands
St. Croix 84
St. Thomas 28
St. John 20
PERCENT OF TOTALS:
Of the total land area in the islands, it is estimated
that 35,300 acres or 45.1 percent is classified as for-
ests. This includes 5,000 acres of commercial forests
and 15,800 acres of noncommercial forests. The
remaining 14,500 acres are unclassified and are moun-
tainous. A good portion of this unclassified area is
on steep slopes.
Practically all of the forested area is in private
ownerships. On St. Croix, private ownership repre-
sents approximately 95 percent of all timberland;
St. Thomas, 87 percent; and on St. John, 57 percent
excluding the National Parks.
With the exception of one or two large land-
owners, the forest lands are in small acreages and
would be classified as small wood lots in the United
Over 500 native tree species plus several hundred
introduced or exotic species are found in the islands.
No inventory of the growing stock has been made.
R.W. Nobles, USDA Forest Service, Institute of
Tropical Forestry (ITF), estimates that there is in
excess of 500,000 board feet of merchantable
mahogany in the islands.
Excellent protected hillside for planting mahogany
(Swietenia spp.) Estate Cane Bay, St. Croix, U.S.
Virgin Islands. Photo, ITF, USDA, Forest Service,
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
The subtropical Dry Forest Zone occupies almost
three-quarters of the land area of the islands and is
the driest of the life zones.
The vegetation of this life zone, according to
Ewel and Whitmore, tends to form a complete
ground cover and is almost deciduous on moist
soils. Plants found in this life zone and considered
as indicators of this zone are: turpentine tree, al-
macigo (Bursera simaruba (L.) Sarg.); mesquite
(Prosopis juliflora (Sw.) DC.); sebucan, dildo (Cephal-
ocereus royenii (L.) Britton and Rose); tachuelo,
fustic (Pictetia aculeata (Vahl) Urban); ucar, oxhorn
bucida (Bucida buceras L.); guayacan, common lig-
numvitae(Guaiacum officinale L.); guayacan blanco,
holywood lignumvitae (Guaiacum sanctum L.); zar-
cilla, tantan "(Leucaena glauca (L.) Benth.); tama-
rindo, tamarind (Tamarindus indica L.); tamarindo
silvestre or steel acacia (Acacia macracantha Humb &
Bonpl.); aroma, sweet acacia (Acacia farnesiana (L.)
willd.); quenepa, kinep, Spanish-lime (Melicoccus bi-
jugatus Jacq.); and five species of burro caper
Plant associations and indicators of the subtropical
moist forest zone are: palma real, Puerto Rico royal-
palm (Roystonea borinquena, O.F. Cook); roble
blanco, "white cedar" (Tabebuia heterophylla (DC)
Britton); laurels, (Nectandra spp.) and (Ocotea spp.);
tulipan africano, African tulip tree (Spathodea cam-
panulata Beauv.); bucayo gigante (Erythrina poeppi-
giana (Walp.) 0. F. Cook); guaba (Inga vera willd.);
guaba, sweetpea (Inga laurina (Sw.) willd.); cedro
hembra, Spanish-cedar (Cedrela odorato L.); algar-
robo, West Indian-locust, (Hymenaea courbaril L.);
flamboyan, flamboyant-tree (Delonix regia (Boja)
Raf.); jagiiey blanco, shortleaf fig (Ficus laevigata
Vahl); yagrumo hembra, trumpet-tree (Cecropia
peltata L.); yagrumo macho, matchwood (Didymo-
panax morototoni (Aub.) Decne. and Planche).
The soils of the Virgin Islands have been mapped
by the USDA Soil Conservation Service located on
St. Croix. Seven (7) soil associations are found on the
St. Croix contains six of the seven associations; St.
Thomas two and St. John one. These soil associations
St. Croix Descalabrado Jacana
Aguilita Fredensborg Sion
Fraternidad Aquirre Glynn
Cornhill Coamo San Anton
St. Thomas Cramer Isaac
Dorothea Victory Magens
St. John Cramer Isaac
Robert W. Nobles, ITF, US. Forest Service, re-
cognizes four woodland suitability groups. They are:
Woodland Group 1: Dorothea Victory Magens
association. Steep to very steep, well-drained soils;
clay to clay loam subsoil; on mountain sides. This
association does not appear on St. Croix and occu-
pies a small area in the North Central area of St.
Thomas. These soils are used mostly for terraced
cultivated crops and for pasture. Mahogany (Swie-
tenia spp.) should be selected for planting. Annual
growth is estimated at 150 to 250 board feet per
Woodland Group 2: Aguilita Fredensborg -
Sion association. Gently sloping to steep, well-
drained soils; clay loam and silty clay loam
material below the surface layer; shallow over soft,
marly limestone; on hills, foot slopes, and terraces.
This soil association is only found on St. Croix and
occurs on alluvial fans. About 90 percent of the
acreage in natural mahogany forests on St.. Croix
is on these soils. Mahogany should be favored in
existing stands. In addition, teak (Tectoma grandis
L.f.) may be planted. There is considerable compe-
tition for use of these soils by agricultural crops.
Woodland Group 3: Glynn Lavalee Parasol
and San Anton series. Moderately fine textured,
well-drained soils that are deep over stratified sedi-
ments of varying textures. All are on alluvial fans
and flood plains.
These soils are generally not used for timber pro-
duction but are excellent for mahogany and teak
plantations. Annual growth is estimated at 250 to
350 board feet per acre. There is only a small area
of these soils on St. Croix. None are present on St.
Thomas or on St. John.
Woodland Group 4: Soils in this group are Cramer,
Isaac, Jacana and Southgate series. These soils occupy
the largest area of St. Croix and St. Thomas and all
of St. John. The soils are moderately fine textured,
well-drained and are moderately deep and shallow
over hard, volcanic rock. The slope gradient is from 2
to 60 percent.
Annual growth is estimated at 150 board feet per
acre on the upper slopes and 300 board feet per acre
on the lower slopes. Mahogany is the preferred
species for planting, but teak may be planted on the
deep soils of the lower slopes.
COMPETITION FOR LAND
Land is the limiting factor of production in the
islands with an area of only 85,382 acres. Consider-
ing that almost all of St. John is a National Park and
therefore withdrawn from competition, leaves only
72,542 acres for other uses.
Tourism is the leading contributor to the Gross
National Product of the U.S. Virgin Islands and
usually, land use is geared to this purpose. Climate
and life style are attractive and thus there is much
demand for homesites. Land values are quite high.
Land on St. Croix is currently being sold in Estate
Cotton Grove from $6,000 to $10,000 per acre.
In Estate Jealousy a recent sale of 128 acres brought
$5,000 per acre. In Estate Bethlehem 30 acres sold
for $70,000 or $3,500 per acre. In the area of the
College of the Virgin Islands a recent sale brought
$55,000 for 10 acres or $5,500 per acre. Prices are
even higher on St. Thomas and St. John.
In general, the land is in small ownership con-
taining 50 to 100 acres, except on the west end of
St. Croix where there are some extensive holdings.
The subtropical moist ecological zone is present in
The current population is estimated at 100,000
inhabitants. The 1974 Governors' Report to the
Secretary of the Interior estimates that the popula-
tion of the Virgin Islands will increase to approxi-
mately 200,000 inhabitants by 1978. This will place
an additional burden on the land for housing. The
same report also indicated that by 1977 the demand
for new low density housing on St. Croix will be
2,450 units, St. Thomas 1,950 units and St. John,
100 units. This totals 4,500 units.
There are strict zoning regulations in the islands.
In accordance with these regulations, a minimum of
10,000 square feet of land per 2 units (two homes)
is required under R-2. R-I requires a minimum of
20,000 square feet of land per 2 units (two homes).
Taking the lower area required of one-quarter acre
per two dwellings would require 562.5 acres. This is
the minimum requirement. In all likelihood more
acreage will be required. It was further estimated that
from 1978-1990 an additional 2,000 units would be
required on St. Croix, 1,600 for St. Thomas and 100
for St. John. This totals 3,700 units, and will require
an additional 460 acres. Other land uses such as for-
estry and agriculture cannot compete with housing,
shopping centers and light industry for the use of
To illustrate that the above acreage is a minimum,
a subdivision of 211 lots required 160 acres or
slightly more than three-quarters of an acre per unit.
Given the facts of landownership, alternate uses of
the land, soils, and topography, no commercial for-
estry is foreseen for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
No inventory of the growing stock has been made
on the Virgin Islands. A substantial portion of the
500,000 board feet of merchantable mahogany is in
roadside and on urban plots.
Aerial photographs taken in 1971 indicate that the
forested areas are composed of second growth and
short-bodied trees. Many have no commercial value at
this time because they are of species not currently
being used. In addition, a large portion of the forest
is presently inaccessible and situated on steep slopes.
In the mountainous areas of the islands the timber
is found on the north and east slopes of the ridges.
An inventory of the growing stock of the islands
may prove costly because of the ownership patterns
of small acreages, steep slopes, and scattered trees.
To inventory, permission would be needed to pass
over the private ownership. The Attorney General's
office advises, however, this might not be any prob-
lem, and indicated that most landowners would coop-
erate. There is also a question of land lines. An in-
ventory would not be of much value unless volumes
by ownership could be ascertained. This would be
essential if the inventory was to be used as a basis
for forest management.
UTILIZATION OF WOOD PRODUCTS
During the seven-year period from 1968-1974 the
volume of domestic imports to the Virgin Islands
declined. The dollar value of these imports has more
or less remained the same. This is due in part to
inflation and increased unit prices. See Table 2.
During the two year period from 1968-1970 there
was considerable building trade activity in the islands.
Several large housing projects were initiated. This is
reflected in the volume of plywood imported from
the United States. The four-year period from 1968-
1971 brought approximately 9 million square feet
of plywood to the islands. This is approximately
300,000 panels per year for four years or a total of
slightly more than 1,200,000 4' x 8' shells of ply-
wood. This does not take into consideration plywood
imported from foreign nations such as Surinam and
Taiwan. The data presented in Table 3 indicates that
all domestic imports have declined. Plywood went
from a high of 10,576,000 square feet in 1970 to
2,855,000 square feet in 1974. The 1974 statistic
represents a decrease of 73 percent in the consump-
tion of softwood lumber. The same trend can be seen
that from a high of 12,294,000 square feet in 1968,
imports dropped to a low of 3,841,000 in 1973.
However, this commodity rose slightly in 1974 to
4.6 million square feet representing a decline of
approximately 63 percent from the 1968 high.
On the other hand, the domestic imports of paper
and paper products have steadily increased.
The future requirements for lumber and wood
products are difficult to project without additional
historical data. Taking into consideration the pro-
jected population increase and the projected housing
requirements, needs in 1978-1980 should more than
double and perhaps triple our current demand. This
would -bring imports to the 1968 levels when there
was considerable activity in housing developments.
Table 2. Imports to the US. Virgin Islands of Wood
and Wooden Articles from Foreign Sources, 1970
Floors, moulding 54,449
crates, packing 29,793
utensils of wood
Wood carvings 42,078
and willow 36,211
Wood veneers 11,306
of the Market
Source: External Trade with Foreign Countries, 1970. De-
partment of Commerce, Division of Trade and Industry.
The future for commercial forest production in
the islands is not very promising. The land suitable
TABLE 3. IMPORTS OF FOREST PRODUCTS TO THE U. S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
FROM THE UNITED STATES: 1968 to 1974.
Unit 1968 1970 1972 1974
of Net Value Net Value Net Value Net Value
COMMODITY Qty. Qty. ($,000) Qty. ($,000) Qty. ($.000) Qty. (f$,000
Charcoal; Fuel & Wood Waste
Logs & Bolts in the Rough-Softwood
Logs & Bolts in the Rough-Hardwood
Timber, Posts, Nec. Rough
Cross Ties & Mine Ties
Wood Pulp-Mech. & Semi Chem.
Wood Pulp-Chem. Dissolving Grade
Veneer Sheets, Wood
Plywood, Incl. Wd. Veneer Panels
Wood: Impvd. or Reconstituted
Wood, Simply Shaped or Worked
Boxes, Cases, Crates, Wood
Bldr's. Woodwork & Prefab Bldgs.
Domestic & Decor Articles, Wd.
Mfg. Articles of Wood Nec.
Paper, Print & Writ. Ex. News
Kraft Paper & Paperboard
Paper & Paperboard-Machine Grade
Bldg. Board & Wdplp. or Veg.
Papers & Paperboard, Mach.-Made
Paper/Paperbrd.in Rolls Nec.
Boxes & Other Contrn., Ppbrd.
Paper, Correspondence, Nec.
Paper Statary. Exc. Corres. Nec.
Articles of Paper, Etc., Nec.
94 1,873.0 10,336
97 40.8 155
70 13.0 359,000
29 1,477.5 10,576,000
00 1.4 5,746
66,473 3.5 39,173
82 11.4 390
28 11.5 53
3,870 838.3 4,600
1,594 364.9 96
Source: U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Commerce
for forestry production is limited due to competi-
tion for alternative land uses such as housing, agri-
culture, hotel complexes, recreation, water shed
protection, shopping centers, schools and the value
of the land. In addition, the advalorem taxes on
land is high. The current tax rate is 1.25 percent of
60 percent of the actual appraised value of the land.
Agricultural lands under law receive a 95 percent tax
rebate. Thus an acre of land used for forests valued at
$8,000 would have an amiual tax of $60.00.
There is a case pending in the Virgin Islands courts
to determine if forest lands qualify for the agricul-
tural land rebate. The current ruling is that only
forest land used in cooperation with the U S. Forest
Service for research are qualified to receive the 95
percent tax rebate.
This does not mean that forestry research or other
forestry activities cannot be conducted or practiced
in the Virgin Islands. It does indicate that commercial
forestry in the Virgin Islands is not feasible now or
for the immediate future.
Interior of St. C. LEAP Plant.
Logs sawn horizontally and reconstructed for air
drying. Reconstruction permits matching of figure.
VIRGIN ISLANDS FOREST INDUSTRIES
The forest industry is very limited in the Virgin Is-
lands. There are no sawmills, dry kilns or remanufac-
ture plants. The forest industry on the islands consists
of one manufacturer of free-formed furniture, one
small charcoal kiln and one cold and hot-bath, fence
post treating plant.
The furniture operation, St. Croix Life & Environ-
mental Arts Project, Inc. (St. C. LEAP), is not a
manufacturing plant in the true sense of the word.
They are presently using only three species of
Type of freeformed furniture manufactured by St. C
Mahogany (Swietenia spp.) disks attached for air
drying. These disks will be used for small table tops
wood: mahoganies (Swietenia spp.), licorice, saman
(Pithecellobium saman) (Jacq.) Benth, and thibit
(tibet) (Albizia lebbet) (L.) Benth. It is estimated
that from 30 to 40 trunks or approximately 6-
8,000 board feet are used annually. St. C. LEAP is
currently using an Alaskan chain saw for primary
breakdown. Trees are obtained in an unique way.
Whenever a 'tree is knocked down or being removed
they go and get it, place it in the storage yard and
when they receive an order for work, the log best
suited for the design is selected.
New Hampshire coal kiln utilizing cash. tan tan,
and other weed species plus mahogany and teak culls.
Stocking of debarked posts prior to cold and hot bath
The U. S. Forest Service has a small charcoal kiln
on the experimental forest. It uses materials
developed from timber stand improvement (TSI)
work and in some cases thinnings from the experi-
mental plantings. No volume of the charcoal pro-
duced could be ascertained. There is no schedule of
operation and the kiln is used only when material
The third forest industry in the islands is a cold-
and hot-bath treating facility. This plant is operated
by the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture in
cooperation with the ITF, USDA Forest Service. The
contribution of the ITF is two-fold. The hot-bath
Removing the bark from Mahogany (Swietens spp.)
posts prior to treating.
'ji 41i 1 -ff
Hot and cold treating plant, Virgin Islands Depart-
ment of Agriculture, St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands.
elements were obtained through a Forest Service
grant. The Forest Service provides the thinnings from
the Experimental Forest. Production is approxi-
mately 2,500 posts per year with a projected annual
production of 4,000 treated posts. Currently the only
product being treated is posts.
REQUIREMENTS FOR FOREST AREA
Requirements for forest area and for forest pro-
duction is difficult to assess with regard to produc-
tion. Commercial forest production will not be likely
achieved in the islands for the many reasons pre-
There is no practical way of projecting the needs
for forest land without further planning. Such uses as
watershed protection, erosion control, recreation
facilities as well as town forestry and forestry re-
search must be predetermined.
A proposed land-use scheme for the Islands has
been issued. The results are included in Project Plan,
U. S. Virgin Islands Resources, Conservation, and
Development Plan. Six land-uses are recognized. They
are: Agricultural, Residential, Industrial, Business,
Commercial, and Town. A vast acreage of the land in
the islands is projected for residential use. No agricul-
tural land is projected for St. John and very little for
St. Thomas. The majority of land projected for agri-
cultural use is on St. Croix. Where does forestry fit
in? Some government agencies consider forestry to
be included under agriculture. Others do not. Most of
the land projected for agricultural use will be placed
in pasture or in crops. If forestry is included in agri-
culture, it will be confined to land north of
Mahogany Road and west of Fountain Valley.
IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
There are no professionally trained foresters prac-
ticing forestry in the islands. All forestry research is
on St. Croix. The Institute of Tropical Forestry
USDA Forest Service, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico has a
forest technician stationed on St. Croix. In addition,
research scientists from ITF make frequent trips to
St. Croix to conduct forestry research.
The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture has
a five-man team headed by a non-forester. They do
forestry work in planting and in operating the post-
treating plant. They provide manpower to ITF in re-
search efforts. The Virgin Islands Department of
Agriculture does extension-type work in town
forestry, but does not engage in forestry research.
These are projects carried on by the Virgin Islands
Department of Agriculture:
1. Assist and work closely with the ITF by supply-
ing labor, materials and sometimes equipment.
2. Maintain a nursery producing from 15,000 to
20,000 seedlings annually of the hybrid ma-
hogany (medium-leaf mahogany), a natural
cross between Honduras Mahogany (Swie-
tenia marophylla) (King) and West Indies
Mahogany (S. mahogani (Jacq.). Also, seed
a small quantity of Spanish cedar (Cedrela
3. Plant seedlings on public lands and provide
assistance on private lands.
4. Provide woodlot management and timber
stand improvement work.
5. Operate a hot and cold bath fence post treat-
ing plant in cooperation with ITF.
6. Town forestry of roadside planting. Main-
tainance of established trees of all species.
7. Provide forestry services for the parks on the
All forestry research in the Virgin Islands is con-
ducted by ITF, USDA Forest Service. One of their
major research efforts is the Estate Thomas Experi-
Estate Thomas is a 147-acre rectangular tract
located about 4 miles west of Christiansted and
about 12 miles east of Frederiksted, St. Croix.
It is bounded by Estates Princess (north), Bellevue
(east), Constitution Hill (south), and Sion Hill
(west). In 1917 when St. Croix was purchased from
Denmark, Estate Thomas belonged to the St. Croix
Sugar Factory, Inc. In 1928 it was sold to the West
Indies Sugar Factory, in 1931 to the DeChabert
family, and in 1934 to the Virgin Islands Corpora-
tion (VICORP) of the U. S. Government. The U. S.
Forest Service purchased the tract from VICORP in
Elevations range from 250 to 450 feet. Geo-
logically, the area is one of submarine limestone
sediments which have risen above the sea and subse-
quently eroded. The soil in the hills reaches a maxi-
mum depth of 10 inches atop the limestone. The
Growth study plot at Estate Thomas Experimental
Forest, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands showing a well-
formed stand of Swietenia mahogoni (Jacq.) after
timber stand improvement.
valley soils are alkaline and range from 7 to 8.5pH.
Rainfall may total 40 inches a year.
Two distinct sites are apparent within Estate
Thomas. They are limestone hills, and the valley
bottoms. Like virtually all of the other lands in
these islands, this tract had in the past been cleared
and planted to sugar cane. The hills were cultivated
for this purpose until 1928 and the valleys until
Mahogany was first brought to St. Croix in the
1770's. West Indies mahogany trees were planted on
the ridge-at Estate Bellevue and seed from these car-
ried westward to Estate Thomas and the surrounding
area a total of about 300 acres of nearly pure
mahogany. Mahogany from 8 inches in diameter up-
ward is merchantable for a variety of uses, and brings
about 50 cents per pound. There are no apparent
serious insect or disease problems. The timber is well
known and its figure is highly prized. A natural
mahogany forest of the purity and timber value of
this stand may well be the most productive use for
15,000 acres. It is a fact that timber increases in value
nearly 25 times between the stump and delivery of
finished products to the consumer.
The teak plantation, dating from 1955, represents
an asset on a site representative of much marginal
land in central St. Croix. Teak timber today is worth
four times as much as mahogany. Although slower in
growth on St. Croix than on more humid and deeper
soils in Puerto Rico, teak proves compatible with for-
age production. Twelve-year old trees now average 8
inches in diameter and are 30 feet in height.
Leaf of medium leaf mahogany (Swietenia macro-
phylla x S. mahogani) on the bottom. Leaf of West
Indies mahogany (S. mahogani Jacq.) on the top.
On the upper right, a leaflet of Honduras mahogany
(S. macrophylla King).
Other research projects of the Institute of Tropical
Forestry on the U. S. Virgin Islands are:
1. Growth studies of mahogany (Swietenia spp.)
2. Control of the shoot borer in Cedrela.
3. Species adaptability for the Virgin Islands
4. Thinning of West Indies Mahogany (Swietenia
5. Mahogany (Swietenia spp.) seed source.
6. Plum pudding effects in mahogany.
7. Teak Providence trials (Tectomagrandis L.f.)
8. Establishment of a Cedrela gene bank.
The ITF issues an annual newsletter. Excerpts
from these reports for selected years, as they pertain
to the activities of the ITF on the Virgin Islands are:
1971: The Virgin Islands Government, with the
technical support of the Institute, was responsible for
the maintenance of 265 acres of existing forest plan-
tations on St. Croix and planted 10 additional acres
during the year. A new Forestry Building was com-
pleted by the Territory with the cooperation of the
Institute. A number of publicity activities were
undertaken including promotion of Earth Day by
the Extension Service and the Institute where 100
teachers and students attended. Included also were
field trips to the forests and the preparation of dis-
plays. Both Territorial and Institute personnel at-
tended a nurseryman's conference in Maine, joining
a representative of the Puerto Rico Government.
1972: Successful planting sites also increased with
the total number of mahogany, teak and Cedrela trees
planted approaching 250,000 for the 17-year lifetime
of the Virgin Islands Forestry Program.
The Division of Forestry completed a new build-
ing, and installation of a fence post treating plant -
the one abandoned by the Institute nearly ten years
Seed source, insect control, growth studies, quality
and other research continue at a steady pace with
strong evidence of a growing interest in the newly
identified hybrid mahogany.
Cooperation with the Neighborhood Youth Corps
is expanding and many man-hours of trainee labor is
available for forestry activities on public lands.
1973: The role of the Institute in the Virgin Is-
lands is to counsel the Territorial Government in
forestry policies, provide technical guidance to on-
going forestry programs, and develop forestry prac-
tices through research.
The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture has
continued its nursery and planting program, pro-
ducing 9,000 mahogany trees and establishing 37
acres of plantations on public and private lands. The
Director of the Department of Conservation and Cul-
tural Affairs was introduced to forestry work in
Puerto Rico and provided with plans for outdoor
The research program included establishment of
Cedrela gene banks in the Estate Thomas Experi-
mental Forest and on three private estates. As a
part of the program of development of the Experi-
mental Forest, boys and girls from the Youth
Conservation Corps and the National Youth Corps
were being trained in conservation work.
1974: Plans were completed and financing was
arranged for installation of a heating element in the
Virgin Islands Agriculture Department's fence post
preservative treating plant at Lower Love, St. Croix.
Addition of this heating element permits using the
hot-cold process, and makes quality fence posts
available to St. Croix farmers at a low cost, using
thinnings from their own woodlands.
A management plan was completed for the Estate
Thomas Experimental Forest which included areas
for demonstrating management of natural mahogany
forest and planted forests suitable for the islands.
The forestry section of the Virgin Islands Resource
Conservation and Development Plan was revised to
include practices in roadside tree improvement,
Christmas tree production, stand improvement, tree
planting and fence post preservative treatment.
A Cooperative Forestation project under the CM-4
Program was developed for installation of nursery
irrigation equipment at Lower Love.
The Youth Conservation Program was continued
and 5 enrollees worked on environmental projects
on St. Croix. In addition, a grant to the Department
of Conservation and Cultural Affairs permitted the
initiation of a Virgin Islands YCC program which
operated on all three islands with an enrollment of
FORESTRY RESEARCH NEEDS BY THE
AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION
OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
The need for forestry research in the U. S. Virgin
Islands is great. The priorities will be determined by
the Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station
of the Virgin Islands. Research efforts by the Virgin
Islands Agricultural Experiment Station will augment
research by other V. I. Government Agencies and
Federal Agencies. The results of forestry research
could for example, make recommendations for the
V. I. Department of Public Works to develop a pro-
gram to plant various species of trees. Similar re-
commendations could be made to the V. I. Depart-
ment of Conservation and Cultural Affairs, the V. I.
Department of Agriculture and others. Six needs
have been identified:
1. Town Forestry: Research is needed in the area
of town forestry. Research of this nature would
benefit not only residents but also contribute
to the tourist effort which is economically
important to the islands. A sample project
within this research endeavor could be species
trials for indigenous and exotic ornamentals,
showy, and food trees. The mango (Mangifera
spp.) should be given special consideration. It
is an excellent ornamental and once established
requires little attention. The mango requires a
minimum of water. This is an important factor
in the U. S. Virgin Islands, especially on St.
Croix. In addition, the mango provides a fruit
that ranks among the best known and most
widely consumed fruits in the tropics.
Residents of the islands would benefit from
such a project in entrapment of water as well
as prevention of soil erosion. Research could be
constructed along the lines of what are the best
sites for selected species in the various ecologi-
cal life zones and soil types found in the is-
lands. In support of this type of research pro-
ject, the Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA,
Forest Service has suggested 50 species of trees
that should be investigated for town forestry
needs. The list appears in Table 4.
2. Work on medium-leaf mahogany: (Swietenia
macrophylla X S. mahogani) thought to be a
natural' hybrid between Honduras mahogany
(S. macrophylla King) and West Indies
Mahogany (S. mahogani Jacq.). It has been
established by ITF and others that this species
is well adapted to the islands. The hybrid dis-
plays characteristics of both parents. It takes
on the form of the Honduras mahogany and
the wood of the West Indies mahogany. It
grows at a faster rate than either parent. At
present, phenotypic characteristics, such as
leaflet and seed pod size, are being used to
identify the species. Genetic research is
needed to determine if the medium leaf
mahogany is a separate and distinct species
or if it is an extennor of the Honduras or
West Indies mahoganies.
TABLE 4: FIFTY TREES FOR TOWN FORESTRY IN THE U. S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
Names Page1 Adaptability2 Size3 Form4 Flowers
Almond, Indian, Terminalia catappa
Bamboo, Bambusa vulgaris
Bauhinia, Bauhinia monandra
Bayrum-tree, Pimenta racemosa*
Box-briar, Randia aculeata*
Calabash-tree, Crescentia cufete
Caper, Capparis cyanophallophora*
Cashew, Anacardium occidental*
Cassia, pink Cassia javanica
Cassia, Siamese, Cassia siamea
Casuarina, Casuarina equisetifolia
Cedar, white, Tabebuia heterophylla*
Chinaberry, Melia azedarach
Coconut, Cocos nucifera
Fig, India-laurel, Ficus retusa
Fig, India-rubber, Ficus indica
Flamboyant-tree, Delonix regia
Flamboyant, yellow, Peltophorum inerme
Frangipani, Plumeria rubra
Ginger-thomas, Tecoma stands*
Golden-shower, Cassia fistula
Gregra, Bucida buceras*
Guava, Psidium guajava
Jerusalem-thorn, Parkinsonia aculeate L.
Lignumvitae, Gualacum officinale*
Locust, West Indian,Hymenaea courbaril*
Mahogany, Honduras, Swietenia macrophylla
Mahogany, West Indies, Swietenia mahogani
Malay-apple, Eugenia malaccensis
Mammee-apple;, Mammea americana*
Mammee, wild, Clusia rosea*
Mango, Mangifera indica
Manjack, Cordia collococca*
Mother-of-cocoa, Gliricidia sepium
Otaheita, Thespesia populnea
Palm, Royal, Roystonea borinquena*
Queen-of-flowers, Lagerstroemia speciosa
Raintree, Pithecellobium saman
Santa-maria, Calophyllum brasiliense*
Seagrape, Coccoloba uvifera*
Silk-cotton-tree, Ceiba pentandra*
Star-apple, Chrysophyllum cainito*
Tamarind, Tamarindu Indica
Teak, Tectona grandis
Tibet, Albizia lebbek
Turpentine-tree, Bursera simaruba*
Tuliptree, African, Spathodea campanulata
Ylang-ylang, Cananga odorata
S, D S
Red or yellow
Red or white
Purple and yellow
Purple or pink
* Native to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Not introduced.
1 Numbers correspond to "Common Trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands", Agricultural Handbook No. 249.
2 All species listed are adapted to more moist, fertile, and protected areas of the Virgin Islands.
Those marked "S" are in addition adapted to exposure near the sea. "D" are adapted to dry and windy sites inland.
3 "L" reaches 50 feet tall or more. "M" reaches 25 to 50 feet tall, and "S" reaches less than 25 feet.
4 "C" means columnar, "R" means round or spherical, and "S" means spreading.
3. Forest recreation: Tourism accounts for more
than 55 percent of the Island's Gross National
Product. Residents of the ,islands as well as
tourists seek recreation. Currently, all recrea-
tion facilities are oriented towards water
activities. There are two well-developed recrea-
tional facilities in the islands: Cramer Park on
St. Croix and a much larger more developed
facility on St. Thomas at Magens Bay. St.
Thomas has more tourists than St. Croix,
mainly because of their harbour and port facili-
ties. Occasionally, a cruise ship will put in at
St. Croix. There are plans to provide St. Croix
with better port facilities so that cruise ships
will include St. Croix as a regular port-of-call.
For example, 793 cruise ships made St. Thomas
a port of call. Slightly more than half (51.9
percent) of all tourists' arrivals in the island is
made by air. Of the 1,200,782 tourists that
visited the islands in FY 1974, 622,647 were air
arrivals. Thus, there are approximately 650,000
persons who are potential forest recreation
users. The use of National and State forests in
the United States for camping, picnicking,
nature trails and esthetic use are increasing at
astronomical rates. Research in this area
could show the need for such facilities for
overnight and prolonged visits and at the same
time be able to engage in Caribbean water
activities. This might induce visitors to remain
in the islands for a longer period and provide
recreation for residents with its attended social
and economic benefits.
4. Watershed Protection: It is generally accepted
that a forest is a desirable cover for a water-
shed. The trees help to reduce soil erosion,
assist in infiltration and storage of fresh water.
Past practices, such as clearing the lands for
sugar cane and other agricultural uses, has de-
nuded the land of the original forest growth.
Because the islands have limited rainfall and
high evaporation, drought conditions often
exist in the islands. The aquifer of the islands
is being depleted due to the use of subterran-
ean reserves. Many wells are dry. There are no
permanent rivers or streams in the islands, and
all water comes from rainfall.
It can be assured that past soil management
practices aided in the depletion of the under-
ground water supply. Research is needed to
determine how the forests of the U. S. Virgin
Islands can effectively be used to restore at
least a portion of the underground water
5. Wildlife: There is a little wildlife in the islands
due to past and present land-use practices. The
introduction of the mongoose has also deterred
relative wildlife, especially birds and water
fowl. There is an open season for hunting dove
and deer. Studies relating to the habitat and
habits of indigenous and introduced species
are needed to maintain the ecological balance.
Impleruentation of these research efforts
should provide far more game birds and
6. There are no native conebearing species in the
islands. There is one introduced species. Nor-
folk-Island-Pine (Araucaria heterophylla Salesk).
This species should be investigated as a living
Christmas tree. Since there are no native cone-
bearing trees, such traditional Christmas trees
as pines, spruces, and firs are not available
Foliage and fruit of three mahoganies. West Indies
mahogany. (Swietenia mahogani Jacq.) top, medium
leaf mahogany (S. macrophylla x S. mahogani)
center, and Honduras mahogany (S. macrophylla
King) on the bottom.
Annon, Estate Thomas Experimental Forest, USDA Forest Service, Institute of Tropical Forestry,
Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Ewel, J. J. and Whitmore, J. L., 1973, The Ecological Life Zones of Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin
Islands. U.S.F.S. Research Paper ITF-18, USDA Forest Service.
Government of the U S. Virgin Islands, 1970. Trade Statistics with'Foreign Countries 1970, Department
of Commerce, Division of Trade and Industry.
1973. Department of Commerce Annual Report, July 1, 1972 to June 30, 1973.
1973. Resource Conservation and Development Project.
1974. Department of Commerce Annual Report, July 1, 1973 to June 30, 1974.
Governor of the U. S. Virgin Islands, 1974. Annual Report to the Secretary of the Interior for the Fiscal
Year ending June 30, 1974.
Holderidge, L. R. 1967. Life Zone Ecology. Tropical Service Center, San Jose, Costa Rica.
Little, Elbert L. Jr. and Wadsworth, Frank H., 1964. Common Trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands. Agricultural Handbook No. 249, USDA Forest Service.
Woodbury, Roy 0. and Wadsworth, Frank H., 1974. Trees of Puerto Rico and
the Virgin Islands, second volume, Agricultural Handbook No. 449, USDA Forest Service.
United States Department of Agriculture, 1970. Soil Survey of the Virgin Islands of the United States,
USDA Soil Conservation Service.
OTHER REPORTS OF THE V. I. AGRICULTURAL
1. Grain Sorghum and Forage: Production and Utilization Potential in St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands.
2. Fruits and Vegetables: Production and Consumption Potentials and Marketing Problems in the U. S.
3. Profitability of Beef Production in St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands.
4. Profitability of Dairy Farming in St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands.
5. Profitability of Poultry Production in the U. S. Virgin Islands.
6. Profitability of Hog Production in the U. S. Virgin Islands.
7. Potential Returns from Goat and Sheep Enterprises in the U. S. Virgin Islands.
8. Marketing Potential for Livestock Products in the U. S. Virgin Islands.
These reports are available free of charge by writing to the V. I. Agricultural Experiment Station,
P.O. Box 920, Kingshlt, St. Croix, U.S.V1. 00850.