From presumed extinct to beautifying Camana Bay

Once presumed extinct, the critically endangered Cayman sage, Salvia caymanensis, now has a home at Camana Bay. More than 80 plants are being placed in flower beds adjacent to the Foster’s flagship store by a joint team from Dart and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, which partnered to make the planting project come to life.

“As part of the Foster’s design, the landscape design team sought to connect the site plantings not only to Cayman, but also to the Fosters' family,” said Senior Design Manager for Landscape Architecture Nicholas Forari Denney.

The plant was actually rediscovered in 2007 by Carla Reid, nee Foster. Her findings prompted the discovery of a further 300 individual plants and 18,000 seeds were collected for long-term storage and conservation propagation.

“Working closely with the Botanic Park and the Dart nursery, the design team threaded Salvia caymanesis into the overall design, nestling this beautiful native amongst tried-and-true ground covers and shrubs,” Forari Denney said. “The inclusion of native plants is a hallmark of Dart’s development philosophy and an example of conservation through cultivation.”

Botanic Park General Manager John Lawrus said the partnership started almost two years ago.

“The Park is really happy to be part of this exciting plant propagation project that we started approximately two years ago, with one of our first plants being a native sage," he said. "Salvia caymanensis is going to enjoy a prominent location along the main road in front of the Foster’s new store."

Despite only joining the Botanic Park in 2018, Horticultural Manager Nick Johnson actually began learning how to successfully propagate and grow Cayman sage during his tenure at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“I’ve been growing Salvia caymanensis since Carla rediscovered it and I took delivery of the first seeds at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew," he said. "We worked out how to grow it there in England and now growing it here in Cayman makes it feel like the story has come full circle."

Johnson said Cayman sage is a great underused landscaping plant that provides an important nectar and pollen source for local pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

"It’s drought-tolerant, has a lovely scent and it’s endemic, so it’s good for the insects and birdlife," he said. "It’s a win-win all around for the Park and Dart.”

Foster’s Marketing Senior Manager Julian Foster said the addition of a critically endangered native plant to the landscaping at its flagship store aligns with the organisation’s community-centric values.

“We put so much heart into making our stores part of the communities they serve," he said. "It was important to us to create a green, lush space for everyone to enjoy while they visit our flagship location and we’re excited that this critically endangered plant can be part of our gardens."

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This article appears in print in the March 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Hannah Reid.

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