Passionate about trees, group starts trail for kids
Marlie Powell really loves plants.
She’s surrounded by them at Kingston House Bed & Breakfast, the Pembroke inn she runs with her husband Harry.
With visitors down this year because of Covid-19, they’ve kept busy growing fruits, vegetables and herbs.
“We want to ‘shop’ in our own gardens,” said the 68-year-old, who believes the passion comes from the time she spent outdoors as a child.
“Nobody drove us to school back then – we walked. And we didn’t have all these electronics. We played with a skipping rope or a ball. We played in nature.”
The learning support teacher – who has four grandchildren – is concerned that young people today don’t have that link with the natural world.
“Children are just so busy,” she said. “They have all these electronics now to occupy their attention. If I said run to the rubber tree or the olive tree, I don’t know how many would know what I meant.”
She and other members of the Bermuda Botanical Society are trying to change that with Tree Trails, a self-guided walking tour aimed specifically at kids. The idea is to teach them about ten tree species found in the Botanical Gardens.
One of them is Hura crepitans, or monkey’s dinner bell, which is commonly found in Tanzania, the Amazon rainforest and other tropical regions. Its fruit is a popular snack for macaws and monkeys but, because its trunk is covered in thorns, the monkeys have to wait until the fruit crashes loudly to the ground before they can eat it.
Ms Powell said that because some of the trees in the Botanical Gardens are rare even people who work there don’t always know what they are.
BBS members Jennifer Flood, Jocelyn Morrison and Felicity Holmes helped her to set up the tour.
“You can’t just do anything in the park without getting approval,” she said. “It took several months but we were actually quite pleased because the plan went through faster than we expected.”
What did not help, was breaking her arm along the way.
“We were sitting outside under the rubber trees at a bench,” she said. “We had the posters on the table. My dog, Una, was with me and I had her leash wrapped around my arm.”
Una spotted a feral chicken and dashed after it. Ms Powell landed painfully among the tree roots.
“I am now in a shoulder cast for six to eight weeks,” she said. “It’s annoying because it was my right hand. But I have to say that everyone has been very helpful to me.”
The Botanical Gardens is one of her favourite places on the island. She spends about ten hours a week there, walking her dog.
“I love to look out, and the breeze comes over the hill and you can see the ocean,” Ms Powell said. “The children are often there running around.”
She’s sorry to see the impact budget cuts have had on the Paget grounds in recent years although the BBS is trying to help and is in the process of creating an endemic plant garden near Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
“It is not very botanical these days,” said Ms Powell, a huge supporter of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce and its land protection efforts. “It looks like a park. It used to be so much nicer.”
She believes urbanisation is a huge problem in Bermuda.
“If you want to walk your dog you have to go somewhere,” she said. “It is not just dog walkers in the Botanical Gardens, there are also walkers, and joggers. I feel like I can breathe in the gardens. It is so nice the way the dappled shade that comes down through the trees. The sound of the leaves in the trees is lovely.”
Her hope is that projects like the children’s walk help people to respect nature a little more. She gets upset when she meets people who think that trees are “dirty”.
“They want to cut them down and put up a parking lot,” she said. “I don’t think nature is respected very well. Some people just seem to see it as a place to throw their trash.”
For more information about the Bermuda Botanical Society visit bermudabotanicalsociety.org