CaymANNature
FAQ

What is a Cayman Islands native (indigenous) species?


A Cayman Islands native species is one that occurs naturally in the Cayman Islands without direct or indirect human actions. Some plants and animals are native to only one or two of the three Cayman Islands.


What is a Cayman Islands endemic species?

An endemic species is one that originated or evolved in a particular place, and that situation won't change in the future.  The Cayman Islands have 28 endemic taxa (species and varieties) of plant and 5 endemic subspecies of butterfly.


What are the 5 endemic subspecies of Cayman butterfly?


Cayman Brown Leaf Butterfly Memphis verticordia danielana (Witt, 1972);   Cayman Julia Dryas iulia zoe Miller & Steinhauser, 1992;    Grand Cayman Pygmy BlueBrephidium exilis thompsoni Carpenter & Lewis, 1943, (our smallest butterfly);    Cayman Lucas’s Blue Cyclargus ammon erembis Nabokov, 1948;    Grand Cayman Swallowtail Heraclides andraemon tailori (Rothschild & Jordan, 1906) (our largest butterfly)


How many Cayman endemic plants are there?

The Cayman Islands have 28 taxa (species and varieties) of plant.


Why are Cayman common names for plants and creatures often different from those for the same species found elsewhere?

Different countries have different common names, sometimes more than one for the same plant, or one name may refer to several different plants. Several trees around the world are called Ironwood, but Cayman’s  culturally important Ironwood trees are only found in the Cayman Islands - Chionanthus caymanensis . Scientific names, avoid confusion of which plant is being referred to. Even though there are many plants, many don’t have Cayman common names – especially if they didn’t have a use. Some common names reflect how the plants were encountered, for example Shake Hand trees. In Cayman’s forests and dry rocky woodlands there are tall slender trees, some very old and extremely slow-growing, seemingly growing out of cliff-rock (karst limestone), trees such as Ironwood and Silver Thatch (both endemic), Bastard Ironwood, Bitter Plum, Candlewood, Smoke Wood, Pompero, Wild Fig, Cherry, Bastard Cherry, Strawberry, Bastard Strawberry, Spanish Elm, Cedar, Mahogany, Bastard Mahogany, Fustic, Bastard Fustic, and shrubs Duppy Bush and Rosemary. If any of these plants occur in the United States, they would be found in south Florida and the Florida Keys, where they may be endangered. The US common names are almost always different.


How many Cayman Islands native (indigenous) plants are there?

415 taxa (species and varieties) formed the original, ancient flora of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.


What is a naturalized plant species?

A species introduced from another region that becomes naturalized, maintains itself and reproduces successfully in competition with the native (indigenous) vegetation. There are some 700 plants, both native and naturalized, (including many grasses), that have been recorded growing in the wild in Cayman.


A giant moth, a butterfly or different-looking bat?


From time to time, the Black Witch moth or Duppy Bat, Ascalapha odorata (Linnaeus), Family: NOCTUIDAE, may been seen during the day, under awnings, patios, carports, open garages or stairwells, but it flies mostly at night. It has a wingspan of up to about 150 mm (6 inches). The ‘9-shaped’ eyespot on the forewings is diagnostic.These huge moths have been recorded in different districts of Grand Cayman and in Little Cayman, from July to November, during the wet season. Adults are attracted to rotten fruit, such as mangoes. Their possible larval food plants occurring in Cayman (native, naturalized or horticultural) are Acacia, Pithecellobium andSamanea (FABACEAE, Mimosoideae), Cassia (alata) (FABACEAE, Caesalpinioideae)and Ficus (MORACEAE). See Photo Album page for photos of male and female moths, and the book Butterflies of the Cayman Islands by Askew & Stafford, Butterfly-like moths, page 158.


What are the differences between butterflies and moths?


Butterflies and moths both belong to the insect order Lepidoptera, which means scale-winged (from the Greek lepis meaning scale and pteron meaning wing). The scales are flattened hairs which give the wings their colors.




  • Butterfly antennae are clubbed at the tip; moth antennae are thread-like or feathered.


  • Moths have stouter bodies than butterflies.


  • Butterflies are diurnal, they fly during the day; moths are usually nocturnal, they fly at night.


  • Butterflies are brightly colored, moths are drab-colored, although some day-flying moths are brightly colored


  • Butterflies fold their wings vertically when resting, moths hold their wings horizontally when resting.



Exceptions in the Cayman Islands include butterfly-like moths (Butterflies of the Cayman Islands book, Askew and Stafford, p.158):



Green Swallowtail moth Urania fulgens (URANIIDAE)



Black Witch moth or Duppy Bat    Ascalapha odorata (NOCTUIDAE)



Faithful Beauty Composia fidelissima (ARCTIIDAE) 



Polkadot or Oleander moth Syntomeida epilais (ARCTIIDAE) 



Red Wasp moth Empyreuma affinis (ARCTIIDAE)



Bella moth Utetheisa ornatrix bella (ARCTIIDAE)



Hummingbird Hawkmoth Aellopos tantalus (SPHINGIDAE)



Duppy Bush moth or White-tipped Black Melanchroia chephise (GEOMETRIDAE)