By Kelly Stewart
It is really good to be back in the islands. Flying into St. Croix last week, my heart rate slowed as I looked forward to our busy summer fieldwork.
Looking down from the plane, I could see bright red tree canopies dotting the countryside, interspersed with windmills. These bright patches are Flamboyant trees. They have widespread umbrella-like branches displaying gorgeous red blooms, and are featured in many Caribbean paintings and drawings.
The Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant (Delonix regia) is native to Madagascar but it is the official flower of Puerto Rico and planted throughout the Caribbean as an ornamental. The seed pods are long and woody brown, often staying on the tree long after the leaves have dropped in the winter. You may see a few of these trees around Southern California in the right micro-climate.
There are many celebrations in St. Croix at this time of year. Apart from the Fourth of July fireworks planned for Frederiksted (as these Virgin Islands are the U.S .ones), July 3 is Emancipation Day. On that day in 1848, local sugar plantation slaves demanded and were granted their freedom by Danish governor-general Peter von Scholten. Local parties and parades commemorate this historical day in St. Croix, and families spend the day at the beach.