Flora & Fauna (Chapter 2 of MUSINGS FROM A SMALL ISLAND)

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Sol Luckman

The word “biodiversity” comes to mind when contemplating the tremendous variety of life on this subtropical island. And I don’t mean human life—though with roughly 3 million visitors descending on these shores annually, there’s always a glut of humanity available to both amuse and astonish. No, I’m talking about the island’s natural ecosystem.

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For this I imagine we have our fine climate—which attracts far more than just snowbirds—to thank. The island is warmed by the Gulf Stream, producing average daytime and ocean temperatures that both hover around a balmy 70 ̊. Summers are long and delicious; winters are so short and mild it’s hard to call them winters without cracking a smile.

In terms of flora, while there’s no shortage of everything from yellow cannas and jacks-in-the-pulpit to water lilies and marsh rushes, the poster plant here is Spanish moss— which, oddly enough, isn’t a moss or even a lichen but a flowering plant. Found in tropical and subtropical climates, Spanish moss is most often associated with the coastal regions of the Southeastern United States.

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The other non-tree native to these parts with worldwide recognizability is beachgrass. Tall and balletic in the ocean breezes, it grows on the dunes overlooking the Atlantic and has appeared in the foreground of a million kitschy sunrise photos. But as popular as it is, beachgrass is nowhere near as famous as Spanish moss.

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