African Tulip Tree: Puerto Rico’s Salvation or Invasive Pest?
September 6, 2015
The African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) is a native species of tree that is found along the West coast of Africa from Ghana to Angola and inland across the center of the continent to southern Sudan and Uganda. (Source #1) The vivid fiery hue of the flowers of the African tulip tree contributed to its introduction to Puerto Rico more than a century earlier as an ornamental. (Source #2) More than a century later the African tulip tree has contributed to the reforestation of lands formerly abandoned by agricultural collapse. It is now the most abundant tree in the secondary forests of Puerto Rico. (Source #3) The opportunistic nature of the resilient African tulip tree has transformed the landscape of Puerto Rico by providing habitat and aiding in the recovery of flora and fauna due to anthropogenic ecocide.
At the end of the fifteenth century the natives of Puerto Rico called the Taino inhabited the island. The Taino were highly skilled in agriculture, and were dependent on fishing for their sustenance. When the Europeans arrived to the island the Taino native population was quickly obliterated by the small pox epidemic of 1518. The small pox epidemic of 1518 was responsible for killing 90% of the native population. (Source #5 John F. Richards) The island was nearly 100 percent forested before the arrival of the Spanish