Fruits trees in the Cayman Islands have been blooming a bit earlier this year, surprising locals and residents and creating great debate in the community about what might be causing the premature bounty.
Theories have ranged from global warming to the fact that 2020 is a leap-year.
One theory that has been catching steam is that the decrease in green iguanas - known for their love of eating blossoms - has meant that the plants are coming back stronger than ever, after being stunted for many seasons.
A simple google search regarding fruit trees blooming in fall produces several scholarly results that would somewhat substantiate this claim; not the least of which comes from the New Mexico state University’s website, where Extension Horticulture Specialist Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D. notes”
“Fall blossoming in fruit trees (and other spring flowering trees and shrubs) can occur if the tree is stressed during the summer. While stressed, the tree may become dormant, and then when the weather moderates, if conditions are just right, the tree comes out of dormancy and flowers as if it were springtime. The trees do not usually expend all their blossom buds at this time, so there should be more flowers next spring, and hopefully fruit.”
Agronomist at the Cayman Islands’ Department of Agriculture Claudette Bowen noted that she did not feel fruit trees were baring early; necessarily.
She explained that given a few weeks here or there, some of the trees being discussed as early bloomers this year - such as nam doc, as well as what are known as ‘Jamaican apples’ - usually are known to bare at this time of year. Though she accepted that guavas had somewhat surprised her too.
“I think environmental conditions are very favorable and we’ve had some rain recently, which is not overly common for December. If trees are very healthy and do not have scales or white flies, and there is adequate or abundant water and sunlight it could mean that they are responding to that.”
She added that some of the crops could in fact be late crops as well.
“I’ve seen them around. some plants may have ‘come-in’ later this year but nothing really convinced me that it was something that was out of the ordinary,” she noted.
At the Farmer’s Market, near Bobby Thompson Way, the sentiments were mixed, with many patrons noting that they were surprised to see mango, guava and apples this time of year.
In 2018 the Cayman Islands implemented a programme to cull the invasive green iguana that plagued farmers for years, with over 1 million of the creatures being taken out during the programme.
It remains to be seen how crops will respond over time, though farmers say they are relieved for there has been a marked decrease in the animal’s numbers.
The latest green iguana survey, carried out by the DoE in August, indicated that the cull appears to have made a big difference in the overall picture, with population numbers dropping more than 90% since last year’s count.
Earlier surveys, done over the previous five years, had shown that the green iguana population had increased fivefold from 2014 to 2018, from about 254,000 to about 1.3 million.