Bahamian Pine Forest
The Bahamian Pine is what we know it as but it is known as the Caribbean Pine, Yellow pine or its scientific name (Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis)
Pine forest can only be found in the northern islands of the Bahamas, namely the four islands of Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros and New Providence, there once was a time when some pine trees were also found in the Berry Islands. Although the pine forest are only found on four islands the diversity of each island brought about two ecosystems that occur around the Yellow Pine. This includes different types of low lying plants and shrubs along with animals.
Pine Forest on Grand Bahama. Primarily contains Thatch (sisal) as the under bush. The sisal has the ability to grow in rocky areas unlike other undergrowth it survives on little soil.
Pine Forest on New Providence primarily contains a mixture of plants as its under bush.
Unfortunately I had to postpone my trip to Andros to capture the pine forest there, so at this time I do not have any images of the forest of Andros and its under bush.
Both ecosystems consist of low shrubs but one is primarily made up of the sisal plant(Silver thatch palm and thatch) while the other consist mainly of ferns (Anemia and Southern Bracken Fern). The bark of the tree is scaly and deeply furrowed. Its trunk is generally unbranched until it reaches a dense symmetrical crown. The wood is very hard, durable and coarse grained. It is one of the hardest pines and is commonly used for hardwood flooring for high traffic areas.
The bark of the pine tree has no branches low to the ground.
This pine is demanding on its environment, it calls for strong sunlight which can be a task when competing with other plant life nearby. There is a time however, when the yellow pine shines in its resilience. This time is during a forest fire. The Yellow pine forest is known as a fire climax community, this means it actually depends on forest fires to survive. I was amazed when I found this out and was actually intrigued by this process. During fires the lower broad leafed shrubs are often destroyed by the fire but the pine trees actually resist the fire. Their bark contains a resin that when heated explodes extinguishing any small fires that may have caught the bark. The problem is that without fires the lower underbrush would overrun the forest and the smaller new growth pine will not be able to compete.
A Pine forest after a forest fire. The pine trees are still standing and strong but the under bush has been cleared allowing the pine trees to release their seeds and propagate new growth
The look of the bark of a burned pine tree. The normal scaly bark has been burned but the internal parts of the tree are protected.
Another look at the bark of the Yellow Pine tree on the road to recovery from a forest fire.
The strong resin of a cut yellow pine tree that had also been burned.
A look at the swelling of the resin inside the bark of the trunk before it burst to prevent the tree from being burned.
Fires occur naturally in these forest ensuring that they remain healthy. This usually happens about every 3-5 years from lighting strikes during storms. The forest ground is usually covered in old and discarded pine needles and thatch palm, this makes for excellent fuel for forest fires. Un-natural fires are often caused by persons being careless and discarding bottles garbage that may have volatile materials in them.
Bottles left or discarded in the forest can start fires during the summer months. The bottles are covered by dried pine needles and when the sun heats the bottle to a certain temperature can cause combustion of the dried pine needles and leaves causing a forest fire.
Here you can see how well covered this discarded bottle is and also surrounded by fire fuel if it was to be heated.
A downed tree can also be fuel for fire in the pine forest but also contributes to replenishing vital nutrients to the soil for the under bush or potential pine seeds.
The plant is like most other pines that protect their seeds in a cone. The cone is oval shaped and it is not edible. Some people think it’s a nut but its actually just a woody type shell used to protect the actual seed. The cone grows on the tree but when the seeds are matured enough for dispersal the tree cuts off the water supply to the cone causing it to open its wooden scales and expose the seeds. The seeds themselves have little wings that help them disperse by the wind and find fertile ground.
Oval shaped pine cone discarded by its parent tree.
Although the pine cone has not been opened to allow the seed to spread, a fire can also cause the cone to open exposing the seeds. Those that are not consumed by the fire stand a chance of growing in the newly cleared ground.
The pine needles of a young yellow pine tree.
A young sapling not to far from what may be its parent tree.
The pine was once commercialized in the Bahamas , during the 1900’s. The first mill was located in Abaco and each time the virgin forest was cut in one area the mill moved to another area. By the 1960’s the only remaining virgin forest were located north of Crossing Rocks and a forest between Norman’s Castle and Marsh Harbour. Subsequent mills were set up on Grand Bahama Andros and even a small one on the island of New Providence near Jack Pond, south of Gambier.
The number of plants and animals that call the Bahamian pine forest home are numerous. To give you an idea of what lies in these forest here is a list.
Bahama Buttercup, Black Torch, Lancewood, Bletia Orchid, Blolly, Cuddlefish, Century Plant Agave sp, Cinnecord Coontie, Five Finger, Sword bush, hardhead, Guanaberry Maidenhair Fern, Anemia Fern, Morning Glory, Passion Flower, Pineland Aster, Pineland Snowberry, Poisonwood, Silver thatch palm, Sky Vine, Wild Potato, Southern Bracken Fern, Star Sedge, Strongback, Thatch Palm, Wild Coffee, Wild Guava, Wild Sage, Wild Powderpuff.
Bahama Parrots, yellow birds and Swallows, humming birds, wood peckers, and Warblers, about seven species of lizards ranging from the rock iguanas of Andros to the curly tail lizards of Grand Bahama. Three species of snakes including the Bahamian Boa. There are also a few invasive animals like the raccoon and wild boar. One specific insect that I have only seen in Grand Bahama is the Atala Hairstreak butterfly, however i’m not an expert so it can also be on other islands.
The plant life found in a pine forest on New Providence
The thatch (sisal) is used for decoration and some dry them out to make straw products.
The Bahamian pine forest are unique attracting visitors from around the world for hunting, and bird watching and even scientific studies. Bahamians ought to know a little bit more about their environment and learn to appreciate its diversity.
Pine forest in the south western district of New Providence.
Sunset over the pine forest of Grand Bahama.