Is Bermuda the Shrub Capital of the World?

Within just a mile or two of leaving Bermuda’s LF Wade International Airport, and crossing over the glimmering Causeway to North Shore Road, I became acutely aware of the breathtaking flora that seemed to fill every nook and cranny of Bermuda’s uniquely rich and beguiling landscape.

Dense flowering shrubs awash in vibrant colors — some soaring 15-20 feet into the air — lined the narrow, winding roads, most of which were flanked on both sides by venerable stone walls. These dazzling specimens beautified the Bermuda byways, providing privacy for homeowners who were outside enjoying their little patch of paradise, and served as effective pollution filters for toxic fossil fuels spewing from passing mopeds and under-sized autos. But most importantly, Bermuda’s thick, dense assemblage of woody shrubs and flowering perennials sequester vast amounts of carbon in the plants themselves and in the soil below. 

My wonderful cabby Ty (Sammy’s Speedy Cab) shared numerous island insights as we wove our way through the tamed wilderness. “There are very few trees on Bermuda,” he said. “Trees topple over in the strong winds.” 

Ah hah! That explained the rare phenomenon I was witnessing. Few if any tall trees, yet zillions upon zillions of sensational shrubs and perennials of all shapes, sizes and colors. Each one vital to Bermuda’s wild and wonderful ecosystem, and each equally valuable to the global effort to restore biodiversity, and protect and conserve 30% of the world’s natural landscape by 2030.

“Nature is humanity’s best friend. Without nature, we have nothing. Without nature, we are nothing.”

António Gutteres, UN Secretary General, COP15 Biodiversity Conference, Montreal, December 7, 2022

According to Michael Charters of Flora of Bermuda website, Bermuda has 15-17 endemic species that are only found on Bermuda, and 150-165 native species. All others were introduced, many of which caused irreparable harm. Charters explains on his site that 95% of Bermuda’s thick forests of cedars were wiped out by two scale insects in 1946; 8 million trees were lost. Fortunately, the cedars are finally on their way back, with 10% of the original 8 million being restored. Bermuda now has its Invasive Alien Species Regulations 2022 to help protect its rich biodiverse island terrain.

Bermuda’s incredible effort to protect, restore and care for its its biodiverse wonderland is perhaps the best example of what other countries can do to meet the biodiversity targets agreed upon by the 190 countries that participated in COP15’s Biodiversity Conference in Montreal this year, (most notably the United States which has an appalling 40 million acres of monoculture lawns that use 235.2 trillion gallons of water to maintain, which have devastated biodiverse ecosystems from coast-to-coast, endangering pollinator species across North America and threatening our food supply).

If every landowner in the US, maximized the area that lines their property, and house walls, walkways, as well as the ground beneath their trees, with a variety of native shrubs, perennials, and groundcover, ideally 15-25 species or so, all flowering at different times of the year, we’d be well on our way to overcoming the global biodiversity crisis.

Why would anyone be opposed to having our US landscapes look like Bermuda?

“Nature is on life support system. It is the source and sustainer of the air we breath, the food we eat, the energy we use, the jobs and economic activity we count on, the species that enrich human life, and the landscapes and waterscapes we call home.”

António Gutteres, UN Secretary General, COP15 Biodiversity Conference, Montreal, December 7, 2022

by Noreen Wise

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