An interpretive trail with excellent examples of Grenada's rich foliage begins behind the Park Centre. One of the first plants displayed is the endemic Grand Etang fern, found in this area of Grenada and nowhere else in the world. The fern has a distinctive spore pattern under the fronds. Unlike most other plants, ferns reproduce by spores instead of seeds. The mountain palms, whose fruit and fronds Grenadians use in many different ways, are also characteristic of this part of montane forest.
You'll observe an interesting symbiotic relationship between the slender bois canot tree (Cereropia) and the ants living in its hollow trunk. In return for shelter, the ants repel possums and other animals that try to climb the tree to graze on tender new shoots. What botanists call a pioneer species, bois canot is one of the first to reappear after severe hurricane winds destroy a forest.
Another pioneer species is the colorful heliconia (or balisier, pronounced "bah-lee-zyay"), a member of the banana family. You've probably seen the blooms, shaped like a long row of lobster claws, made into decorative bouquets in hotel rooms. These yellow, orange, or red ornamentals have flower-like bracts that are almost scimitar-shaped.
You'll have to look skyward to see the tall marouba tree, with its spreading branches and small leaves. The marouba takes its nourishment from the sun above the high canopy, instead of from the forest soil. Locals say marouba bark can drug or stun fish, making them easy to catch.
Besides bamboo, the Morne LaBaye Trail contains lots of elephant grass, which resembles sugar cane, but is distinguished by its jointed stem. Elephant grass was originally planted decades ago to provide convenient refueling stops for horse and donkey-drawn wagons crossing the island. It is still used for fodder when meadows on the farms wither away in the dry season.
At the morne ("small hill" in French) itself is a small weather station which monitors the complex and frequently changing conditions of Grand Etang. At the River Turning Crater you'll find lingering evidence of Hurricane Janet's destruction in 1955: a stand of huge, dead gommier (gum) trees, now serving as display posts for countless air plants.
The gommier (Dacryodes excelsa) is the most common large tree of the rainforest. Its bark contains a gum that can be used to light fires. These gommier trees have no bark. Their trunks withstood the hurricane's 150-mph winds, but their branches and leaves were stripped away. Unable to photosynthesize (the process which turns sunlight into the sugar), they died.
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