The Flora of Haiti Project Launches

Friday, January 22, 2021

Among the good — and perhaps unexpected — outcomes of the Garden’s Project Stay Planted drive last spring: It inspired a new, nationwide plant survey in Haiti that aims to give researchers baseline data for plant conservation and environmental protection efforts.

The Flora of Haiti project launched today, January 22, led by William Cinea, founder of Jardin Botanique des Cayes and one of our closest Caribbean collaborators.

William Cinea and his colleagues launched the Flora of Haiti project during a call on Friday, January 22. Several representatives of Naples Botanical Garden, who are supporting Cinea’s efforts, joined in.

“It’s not just for Haiti, it’s for the world,” Cinea said during a Zoom call this morning celebrating the project’s start. “The 21st century is to repair the damage we have done to the environment.”

Like Project Stay Planted, the Flora of Haiti enlists residents to use the iNaturalist app to photograph and make observations about the plants growing in their communities. iNaturalist warehouses the information and makes it available to researchers around the world.

“A photo can save a plant,” Cinea said, noting that Haiti has rich biodiversity, some 5,000 species, many of which researchers are still working to identify and map.

Cinea and fellow scientists will use the information to better understand the species found throughout Haiti, where they grow, how prevalent they are, when they bloom and fruit, and what areas warrant protection because they contain at-risk plants.

Haiti’s last comprehensive plant inventory took place about a century ago, though smaller surveys have been done since. Researchers generally conduct them, but Cinea hopes that involving residents will not only yield data, but also inspire greater environmental awareness, understanding, and activism among Haitians. The data will be shared in Creole, unlike other surveys, published in English.

“He’s really hoping to make this project educational,” Esther Chiddister, the Conservation Administrative Manager, explained prior to the launch. A healthier environment in Haiti has benefits extending far beyond its borders. That’s one reason why our Garden supports such efforts in other countries — a point Vice President of Conservation Chad Washburn made clear during the call.

“This is not just Naples. This is not just Les Cayes. We are all working toward this challenge (of plant conservation),” Washburn said.

The Garden is currently working on several initiatives with Cinea, along with new projects in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those partners contribute to our Garden in various ways, too, including sharing plants that might have potential as environmentally friendly landscape options for Southwest Florida. All the partnering gardens are working toward international goals laid out in the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

Click this link to see a special story map that Conservation Associate Carly Roland built to support the Flora of Haiti project.

woman smilingAbout the Author

Jennifer Reed is the Director of Public Affairs of Naples Botanical Garden and a longtime Southwest Florida journalist.

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