Explore STJ: The Island’s Only Native Palm that Remains

Explore STJ: The Island's Only Native Palm that Remains 1
Tyre palms are growing in front of the boiling room at Cinnamon Bay.

Hello everyone, and happy Thursday! Today we’re talking trees. I’m sure some of you are thinking to yourselves, how exciting can a tree be? Well I’m here to tell you that it can be exciting! Today I’d like to tell you about the island’s only native palm tree that currently exists on St. John – the tyre palm.

Many of you may remember the two beautiful coconut palms that nearly crisscrossed at the western edge of Maho Bay. Those trees, and numerous other coconut palms that lined Maho Bay beach, were uprooted or toppled during Hurricane Irma back in 2017. Many of you expressed interest in replanting those trees, and a few residents even buried a handful of fallen coconuts in an effort to regrow the coconut palms. Those baby palms were removed by the National Park and many people were frustrated. And then we learned why they were removed… because they were not native to the island. Only native plants are allowed to be planted in the National Park.

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The Maho Bay palms that fell in 2017. Image credit: Steve Simonsen

As I initially mentioned, the tyre palm is the only remaining palm tree on St. John that is native to the Virgin Islands. According to the National Park, its broad leaves were used as thatching for pre-Colombian and colonial huts and for durable brooms even in modern times.

The fibrous inner bark was woven into hammocks (a pre-Colombian word and invention) and fish traps. Since the palm weave is chewable, it worked very well when catching fish, especially when compared to today’s wire traps.

Tyre palms can be seen throughout the island. There are numerous planted throughout the Cinnamon Bay sugar factory ruins on the North Shore. Check out a few pics we took…

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See, I told you trees could be exciting! 🙂

The next time you’re on St. John, be sure to look for a tyre palm, the island’s only remaining native palm. And if you’d like to explore the island a little deeper, I would love to show you around! I am now booking Explore STJ island tours for the fall and winter season. You can learn more at www.ExploreSTJ.com. Have a wonderful day everyone!

4 thoughts on “Explore STJ: The Island’s Only Native Palm that Remains”

  1. Whatever happened to the baobab tree I saw once with an NPS hiking tour? I remember the guide saying it very unique

  2. * do not know where the name came from. However Eleonora Gibney might be able to help. I have lots of Tyre palm trees on my property on Bordeaux. They are very difficult to transplant. I saw them blooming all over the island after a hurricane. Beautiful sight.

  3. I’m sure that coconut palms were there before there was a national park or those who think they know what natural is. Those beachfront coconut palms started out as coconuts brought to the islands by wind and tides that pushed them to waterline where they have sprouted naturally for hundreds of years.

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