Critically endangered plant protection approved

| 21/11/2022 | 31 Comments
Aegiphila caymanensis (photo courtesy of

(CNS): Cabinet has approved a species protection plan for the critically endangered Aegiphila caymanensis, an endemic plant that is unique to Grand Cayman, now only found in three known locations across the island with just fourteen confirmed surviving specimens. Also known as the spirit vine, it is a woody, clambering shrub with soft, downy leaves that grows in dry forest habitat, a rapidly dwindling resource across the Cayman Islands. Two of the remaining plants were left isolated after dry forest was cleared in East End, illustrating why so many endemic plants here are on the edge of survival and in need of protection.

Another ten specimens survive in former farmland near a dry forest ridge in North Side and there are two more known specimens in West Bay, just off Conch Point Road adjacent to a fragment of dry forest. Given this plant’s critically endangered status and the continued loss of suitable habitat, largely as a result of land clearing for development, it is in desperate need of lawful protection to prevent it from becoming extinct.

Work on a species conservation plan began at the Department of Environment over two years ago. The National Conservation Council adopted the draft plan and began the public consultation process back in 2021 before delivering a paper to Cabinet, which approved the plan at a meeting on 8 November.

The plan gives the NCC and the technical experts at the DoE the green light to take the necessary action to protect the plant. Going forward, the NCC will be able to advise any government agency making decisions affecting known specimens of Aegiphila caymanensis, especially where development is proposed, that no actions can be permitted that may involve any direct or indirect removal of the plant.

Because the spirit vine is naturally restricted to the small areas of dry forest remaining in Grand Cayman, much of which is currently not protected, and given the technical challenges which limit propagation, even with the plan it cannot be confidently predicted that its wild population can be restored to an extent where it is no longer critically endangered. Therefore, the species will remain in Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the National Conservation Law as a formal protected species.

Within six weeks of the plan coming into effect, all suspected specimens of Aegiphila caymanensis that have already been taken from or have been artificially propagated from the wild population or are otherwise in cultivation must be brought to the attention of the DoE for permitting under the National Conservation Law, or surrendered for conservation relocation at the DoE’s discretion after taking into account the current owner’s preference, the health and security of the specimen, and the feasibility of relocation.

Three months after the date this conservation plan comes into effect, the knowing possession of any unpermitted cultivated specimens of Aegiphila caymanensis will be treated as an offence under the

See the plan here.

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Category: Land Habitat, Laws, Politics, Science & Nature

Comments (31)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If someone has this in their possession and it’s alive and thriving, why would you want them to surrender it? If they have that much of a green thumb you should be encouraging it!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Botanic Park and other locations should be selling these plants (and other native endangered plants) so they are spread across the island. And planting these plants should be promoted not restricted. When a hurricane comes it will be much better to have these all over so they don’t go extinct.

    Why is there a law in place which prevents this ?

    It is absurd.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great. Now is there any species protection plan for the critically endangered Nativa Caymanianas?

    • Anonymous says:

      get over yourself. we’ve always been a mix of newcomers and new blood arriving and departing these islands.

      This nationalist rhetoric is absurd and dangerous.

    • Soz says:

      The problem is there is no cure in sight for the endemic self-pity that plagues many in the species. It seems that the condition is intrinsically tied to genes that control entitlement and envy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    did hon. minister of north side check the land before every piece of green was bulldozed for his reelection housing development in his district. low income need trees as well. never mind that would make sense

  5. Al Catraz says:

    God gave man dominion over the earth. Genesis 1:26 God made this plant, but if we have no use for it, then it is just a weed like any other. Just as useless unsaved souls are tossed on the fire, so we may rid the world of weeds. Read your Bible.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s pretty funny Al Catraz, – my teachings say we are everything and everything is us, – you too are the weed, no need to sacrifice yourself 🌱👍

    • Anonymous says:

      yet another reason to ignore that old book, and the self absorbed morons who twist it for their own gain.

    • Anonymous says:

      God gave man and women dominion to do GOOD not to destroy His creation – Read your bible stop misinterpreting His words with your dark soul.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sorry CNS, but this image is of a plant that was on Jasmine Lane but since destroyed by fire.

    Ironically, it has been determined to have not been A. caymanensis, but a near, but not endemic, species called A. elata.

    A. elata is now more rare in Cayman than A. caymanensis. Both deserve conservation.

    CNS: Thanks for alerting me to this. I have updated the photo.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why are these plants not propogated and sold island-wide to ensure their survival ?

    Why would they restrict this ?

    This policy is completely backwards.

  8. Anonymous says:

    So what are the penalties for its destruction? And who would be responsible for any legal action? Why not issue a ticket such as one for speeding or other traffic offences?

  9. BLVCKLISTED says:

    *Looks into magical crystal ball*

    It seems these remaining trees will be torn down within the next decade for affordable, yet luxury, condos (starting at ~$750k of course) that will then receive after the fact planning approval.

    From there, people will gripe and complain across various local social media platforms as well as to their peers for a few days and call for better laws or enforcement; maybe even a clean sweep of the Government.

    And alas, nothing will be done.

  10. Anonymous says:

    How does this protection square with CPA’s routine “after the fact” land clearing permissions, granted with immunity? As with all of our laws, is there an hidden Appendix of back-scratching surnames for which this too won’t apply?

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s too late to try to protect anything. Development won’t stop, and the country will soon become a concrete jungle. New York of the Caribbean.

  12. Anonymous says:

    anyone know who to contact about this species? I own a small lot of dry forest in East End, and would happily donate some space for propagation there.

    • Joanne Mercille says:

      Not allowed

    • Joanne Mercille says:

      And if you put it there, you will never be able to develop on the piece of land as it is protected

      • Anonymous says:

        the lot has a house on it, but a small section at the back was not cleared. I was more thinking about dedicating this area to DOE if they had any plans to propagate. I would not be looking to do it myself.

        the lot backs on to a large area of crown land that is untouched dry forest, so may provide a nice foothold for this plant to spread back into its natural habitat.

        I understand that this may not be possible within the bounds of the current species protection though.

    • Anonymous says:

      who to contact about this species?

  13. Anonymous says:

    One could tape a few leaves of this plant on the foreheads of every developer, potential developer, CPA member and MP and they still wouldn’t care about it!!

    Sad & disgusting!!


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