Lapo-Kabwit is to our traditional Mas Domnik, as is Poinsettia blooms to the Christmas Season, and the flowering of Flamboyant trees to the ‘Summer’ months in Dominica and other Caribbean islands.
The Flamboyant tree (Delonix regia) is well known in coastal areas around Dominica and there are different varieties based upon the flower colour. The red-flowered variety is the most common, but one can also find trees with orange-red, and even orange flowers, while the yellow-flowered variety (Delonixregia var. flavida) is uncommon, but equally striking when in full bloom.
Flamboyant trees are fast-growing, and with their spreading, umbrella-shaped crowns and relatively short stems make excellent shade trees which have been planted throughout the Caribbean and in many other parts of the tropical world.
However, while the twin-island State of St. Kitts & Nevis has adopted Flamboyant as their National Flower, the tree is actually native to northern and western Madagascar and was ‘discovered’, i.e. first reported, in its native habitat in the early 19th century by Bohemian naturalist and botanist Wensel Bojer.
Persons travelling along Dominica’s West Coast between the months of May and July into August this year would have observed the many Flamboyant trees with their fiery red splashes, particularly along the roadside in some communities. Mero, Massacre-Canefield and several other areas along the West Coast have been ‘lit up’ by flowering Flamboyant trees over the past several weeks while Mother Nature delivered a generally not-so-intense Dry Season to us this year.
Furthermore, anyone driving past, or through, the Botanic Gardens and cared to look up or across would certainly have seen part of the 2019 Flamboyant explosion. Hurricane Maria claimed two Flamboyant trees on the grounds of the Gardens (one red, one yellow), but left seven standing on the main part of the grounds, somewhat battered, but very much alive nonetheless.
The slopes at the back of the Gardens and below Morne Bruce on the other hand, contain no less than between 50 and 60 Flamboyants which, collectively and individually, have been putting on their spectacular show this year. Incidentally, the Flamboyants may have put on an equally spectacular floristic display in 2015 when Dominica experienced an intense Dry Season that extended into July that year.
It should be noted that the 2018 “Flamboyant season” had seen the Flamboyant trees which were not destroyed by Hurricane Maria recovering from the direct impacts of the storm, only to be completely defoliated soon after they flushed (put on a new set of leaves) less than three months after the hurricane by thousands of caterpillars. Dominica also experienced a Kawenm Dous (a wet Dry Season) last year.
But what of the cultural significance of Flamboyant trees to Dominica? For the record, the Flamboyant tree – or its parts – is linked to five aspects of our cultural heritage: religious feasts, botanical snacks, handicraft production and arts & crafts, Carnival, and children’s play.
Fishermen’sFeast: Individual Flamboyant trees in Dominica may be found with flowers from as early as February or as late as November. However, the peak blossoming usually occurs from May through July/August. On the local scene, in years gone by the commencement of the peak of the flowering would serve as a reminder of the approach of the Feast of St. Peter (FètLaSen Pyè in Kwéyòl) – St. Peter or Sen Pyè being the Patron Saint of Fishermen.
St. Peter’s Feast is celebrated by individual coastal communities here between June and July and, coincidentally, the community of La Plaine even assigned their own local name to the tree, i.e. Flè Sen Pyè, meaning the flower of St. Peter’s Feast.
Traditionally as part of the celebration of the feast, fishermen’s boats, which would be decorated with buntings and flowers – including Flamboyant flowers – would be blessed by the Parish Priest near the boat houses or haul-in area on the beach. Following the blessing the fishermen would row out a short distance in their fishing craft and symbolically toss out a wreath made from Flamboyant flowers in memory of their fishermen-colleagues who have gone to the Great Beyond.
Local Handcrafts and Arts & Crafts: Local craft producers also have their connections with the Flamboyant tree, utilizing the dried seeds to produce items of botanical jewelry, i.e. pendants for earrings and necklaces. Meanwhile, dried Flamboyant seeds are often used in Arts & Crafts creations in Primary Schools located in areas where the trees occur.
Botanical Snacks: Still in another dimension, Flamboyant seeds while still maturing in the pod are consumed by children as a botanical snack, who peel off and eat the translucent testa from around the seeds. The Kwéyòl word for this material is ‘donmbwé-san-sèl’, which literally means salt-free dumplings. Children would also break the dry, mature seeds and lick on the inside of the seed.
Mas Domnik: Switching back to the adults, some years ago a member of the Sennsé troupe from Portsmouth reveled in Roseau – and possibly in Portsmouth – in a Sennsé costume fabricated out of sections of the seedpods of the Flamboyant tree.
Salybia Constituency MP joins with Kalinago Council to activate COVID-19 task force
2 hours ago
April 1, 2020
As you are aware, COVID-19 has infected several individuals in Dominica with a high probability of affecting many more. In direct response to this anomaly, the Parliamentary Representative for the Salybia Constituency has joined forces with the Kalinago Council and other stakeholders to operationalize a task force to plan and coordinate activities relating to COVID-19.
The Government of Dominica has taken steps to ensure border security and mitigating against in-country transmission. The social and economic impact of COVID-19 is of great concern to us especially as we anticipate shortages in food, medicine and other essential supplies.
We have gathered all the data as it regards persons with vulnerability to include the elderly, pregnant mothers, babies, physically-challenged and persons with chronic diseases who may be immobile due to quarantine measures. The intention is to provide services to them in their area of need.
In the eventuality of a countrywide lockdown, the Government of Dominica has made arrangement for the provision of food supply. Our local response to this is ensuring local logistic and transportation measures are in place to facilitate that component of mitigating against the impact COVID-19. Additionally, we will make available seedlings and cuttings and fertilizers for farmers/families to plant backyard garden. Also, animal feeds for livestock farmers. These measures will ensure that meat, fresh fruits and vegetables are available in the short run for our residents.
We will continue to ensure that provisions are made to mitigate against all eventuality arising from COVID-19 to include infections, fatalities, food shortages, shortages of essential supplies.
We encourage further, similar as the call from the Government has been to maintain and observe the protocols that have been outlined by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and New Health Initiatives. These are Social Distancing and practising Proper Hygiene.
We understand that combating COVID-19 requires a collective effort and we are pleased to join forces with the Kalinago Council and local stakeholders to prepare for any eventuality.
Below are the names of people you can contact should you require any information.
COVID-19: Standpipes for hand washing are in place says DOWASCO
3 hours ago
April 1, 2020
As measures to fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) intensify, The Dominica Water and Sewerage Authority (DOWASCO) is reporting that the standpipes promised by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit a little over a week ago, have been fully installed.
PM Skerrit said on March 19 that the government had taken a decision to install standpipes in the city of Roseau to facilitate hand-washing in Roseau in the battle against the dreadful virus which has infected more than 900,000 people and killed over 45,000 around the world.
DOWASCO has told Dominica News Online (DNO) that there are now several fully-installed and ready-to-use hand washing facilities in various parts of Roseau.
The company says this was done to encourage everyone to wash their hands and to maintain proper sanitation during the outbreak of COVID-19.
The standpipes have been installed in the following locations: opposite Flow, Going Places, Grand Bay bus stop, Fresh Market, Soufriere Bus Stop, Methodist Church, Marigot Bus Stop, Best Price, Canefield Bus Stop, Irock, Burtons, Grand Fond Bus Stop and Jackson’s.
And although, in keeping with government’s advice, DOWASCO shut its office from March 26, the company told DNO that there will be no issue in providing a constant flow of water to the public through these standpipes.
DOWASCO says it has effected its emergency plan and only emergencies will be attended to during this time of closure.