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Blog Home > The "Fruits" of 6 Cayman Trees
The "Fruits" of 6 Cayman Trees

Learning about other cultures is a fascinating journey, and Cayman culture is worth the exploration. Take some time to see if you can find the following trees of cultural significance to the Cayman Islands and their products on your next trip to the island. (Make a scavenger hunt out of it!) Some produce literal fruits that are happily consumed, while others have been used to create essential products for the island. 

Ironwood Tree

There are common trees around the world called Ironwood, but the tree referred to as the Ironwood tree in Cayman is endemic to the Cayman Islands, important to the culture and unfortunately endangered. Used to build the framework for early homes (like Dovovan’s grandfather’s home), the wood of the tree is heavy, water resistant and termite proof. Ironwood was first used in Wattle and Daub construction and then throughout the years in various construction.

Where they grow: Dense forests such as the Ironwood Forest, Forest at Crystal Caves, and Mastic Reserve

Where you can see them in use:

nurse leila home
Nurse Leila’s home pictured above is a Wattle and Daub structure built with ironwood.

schoolhouse
Another ironwood supported structure is the Old Savannah Schoolhouse built in 1940.

Silver Thatch Palm

Also used in the Wattle & Daub buildings (for roofs) of early settlers, the Silver Thatch Palm was used in a multitude of additional products, many with economical value, and is vastly significant to the history of the Cayman Islands. The Silver Thatch was weaved into ropes, hats, brooms, baskets, fans and much more. The thatched rope was in high demand from neighbors in Cuba and Jamaica and thereby created a roping industry that helped support the island. Because of it's impact, it's no surprise the Silver Thatch Palm is the national tree of the islands.

Where they grow: All over the island and especially present on the East End

Where you can find products: Try the Cayman Craft Market at The Waterfront in Georgetown or one of the local Farmers Markets for thatched products.


A Caymanian shows off a broom made of Silver Thatch in front of the plant itself in her yard.

Breadfruit Tree

The Breadfruit Tree has long been providing sustenance to those living on island. According to A Cayman Childhood Remembered by Jackie Bodden, a Breadfruit is “a large, round, usually seedless fruit with a starchy pulp. When cooked it tastes similar to an Irish potato.” The breadfruit is still a popular fruit today among Caymanians—in fact Lisa, our property manager, gifted me a breadfruit during my last trip to Cayman. She said that Caymanians love to eat breadfruit with fish, with gravy, with fried chicken, with anything!

Where they grow: All over the island, and grown in the yards of many residents.

Where you can find breadfruit: When in season you can buy breadfruit in local grocery stores, and some local restaurants such as Da Fish Shack in Georgetown or Vivine’s Kitchen in the East End.

breadfruit
Breadfruit growing on Lisa's tree.

two breadfruit

Ackee Tree

Speaking of what to eat breadfruit with, ackee and cod is another dish that Caymanians love to pair with the fruit. The Ackee tree bears a red fruit that can be toxic before it is ripe or when it is too old, so it’s important to get the fruit from a store or a local that knows when it is ready to eat. When ripe it’s full of many healthy nutrients. The meat of the ackee fruit looks similar to scrambled eggs, and has a slightly sweet and slightly bitter taste that is the perfect compliment to the codfish. The ackee and cod dish is especially popular for breakfast.

Where they grow: Grown in the yards of many residents, these trees became prevalent when Jamaicans migrated to Cayman in the 60's according to Roger Ebanks.

Where you can find ackee: Eat like a local and grab ackee and cod for breakfast at Full of Beans Cafe or Champion House II, both in Georgetown.

caymanian woman with her ackee tree
Mrs. Nettie, a local Caymanian, shows us an ackee tree in her yard.

Seagrape & Popnut Trees

Original homesteads in Grand Cayman were often shaded by seagrape and popnut trees. Popnut trees were also used in the making of Cayman catboats (along with mahogany and fiddlewood trees). Both trees tend to grow near the shore. The seagrape tree is known for its green leaves with red veining and the edible fruit that it bears (ask a local how to tell when seagrapes are ripe for eating). The popnut tree has yellow flowers that last only a day and turn maroon by the end of the day. It also has a brown leathery fruit bulb that resembles a nut.

Where they grow: Head to the sea and you’re sure to find one or both of these trees. You can enjoy the shade of seagrape and popnut trees at Smith’s Cove and many other beaches on Grand Cayman, including our very own beach here at CCC!

seagrape tree
Catch this seagrape tree by the swing here at CCC. There's also one by the boat shed on the other side of our beach.

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Jane Garrison AUGUST 1 2018
Great post enjoyed seeing Miss Nettie again. Tell her hi from the Kansas City Ladies. We hope she is well
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Toni Keesee AUGUST 1 2018
Hi Jane, Thanks for the sweet comment. We'll make sure to pass your hello onto Miss Nettie. She loves hearing from past guests and friends! :) - Toni
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Jack Peacock AUGUST 1 2018
Yeah, thanks. Good article. Good to see Miss Nettie, too. Tell her hi from the Ef Paso Peacocks.
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