Edgardo travels to a savannah in Central Cuba where a Planta!‘s volunteer studies a population of Coccothrinax spirituana, the endemic blueish palm of this region.
Only three patches of primary vegetation remain in what used to be an extensive green savannah. The perseverance and commitment of one of Planta!‘s volunteers hope to bring it back.
Scattered among forestry plantations, the three patches of primary vegetation stand as witnesses of what this habitat once was. We are right on the border between the provinces of Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila, in Central Cuba
The vegetation that persists in the forestry plantations suggest that all this area was a typical thicket over serpentine soil, just like the patches of primary vegetation. These patches are easily recognized by their light blueish color due to the abundance of Coccothrinax spirituana. The blueish leaves of this regionally exclusive palm eases its identification by just scanning the landscape from the top of a hill.
Daylon is the guardian of these vegetation patches. He is a young biologist working on the conservation of lizards. Today, he is also involved in the conservation of this charismatic and important palm for the biodiversity of the region. He lives in the town of Moron, almost 50 Km away from the palm’s habitat.
During our visit to the area we identified new potential risks for the palm population like the presence of invasive species. We were also able to identify several native species of the accompanying flora that should also be protected for habitat restoration.
It was reassuring to find out that the population of this palm does not need to be reinforced. Its main threats come from an inadequate management of the habitat that has been altered to plant Acacia mangium. This important forestry species is widely used in Cuba despite reports of being invasive in other countries.
For now the conservation project will focus on working with local stakeholders and the community towards changing the use of the area. As part of this initiative, the blueish palm will be propagated in local nurseries from seeds collected during our visit. This will support a program of environmental education with the local community.
Daylon’s restless efforts can definitively help to get the community and stakeholders involved in the preservation of the area. However, we both agree that we need to make our cities and agricultural lands more sustainable and friendly with the environment. Only then, endangered species like Coccothrinax spirituana will have a chance once more to conquer the landscape and mix its blueish leaves with the sky.