Fourteen new individuals of aguacate cimarrón are growing in Guajimico, nearby a popular touristic trail. This huge native cactus could start recovering alongside the industry that occupied part of its natural habitat.
Dendrocereus nudiflorus, our Critically Endangered huge cactus, keeps conquering spaces across Cuba. We recently donated two individuals to the Botanical Garden of Cienfuegos. These plants grew in nurseries created by Planta!‘s volunteers and were propagated from seeds collected in Varadero. Coming from different populations, these plants will strengthen the existing collection of aguacate cimarrón, making it more resistant to plagues and environmental changes.
The second stop of our trip was Guajimico, a beautiful place in south Central Cuba, very close to the Escambray Mountains. Once there, we planted 14 individuals of aguacate cimarrón. These new plants were propagated from seeds collected in this very habitat two years ago when we were monitoring the population size.
In aboriginal culture Guajimico means “fishes place” referring to the vast fauna that lives in these waters. But the magic does not end here, inland a rich flora and several caves, along with the river mouth La Jutía, make this place a popular site for tourists. Close by is the highway connecting the cities of Cienfuegos and Trinidad (declared World Heritage cities by the UNESCO). In the forest, an eco-touristic trail was opened to bring the guests of Villa Guajimico closer to diving activities.
We visited the Villa first. It was getting ready to host a social event and it was less calm than usual. We had a warm welcome and the administrative staff offered us help with planting the native cactus. This was a pleasant surprise since often the plants that decorate and surround touristic places are exotic ones.
The forest where we planted the new plants of aguacate cimarrón grows on limestone, a mysterious typical formation of our coasts that reminds us about an “emerged” world. Going up carrying the plants was complex, since the area has a steep slope. From the top there is a spectacular view of the Guajimico cove, with green blue waters and forest growing on bare rock.
There was no better place for planting the cacti than closer to the trail. Once they grow they will be easily seen by tourists and could be used for environmental education programs. Surely, we will have the support of the Villa’s staff when we come back one day to show with pride what was planted.
We also brought four individuals of Hebestigma cubense from the Botanical Garden of Cienfuegos. This is a tree species from the bean family, exclusive from Cuba. Even though it is considered as low concern according to its conservation status, this site is of great importance for the species. This is where it was first collected and named. Its presence will contribute to keep a diverse and healthy flora.
Juvenile and adult plants build the forest future. In order to preserve the population of a species, it is essential that new individuals naturally substitute the ones dying. When this is altered, the population grows old without hope of replacement.
While descending we talked about how much we would love to see the new cacti flowering. Then our colleague Ignacio remembered an Arab legend. An old man was planting a date palm in the dessert. Amazed, a young man asked him why he was doing this when it was clear he was not going to be able to eat the dates. The dates we eat today were planted by other people -was the old man’s answer. We might not see the flowers of the plants we just planted, but surely our children will.