From green to brown in the Caribbean

A view of St. Lucia, which wasn’t in the path.

If you want to get a dramatic sense of hurricane Irma’s worst devastation, visit this site, which offers before/after satellite images of the Caribbean islands that were in her path. It’s not just the debris, flattened infrastructure, and—most terrible—deaths. These islands seem to have lost the lush green landscapes that provide a reason why many flock to them, especially in winter. Many have been—from appearances and reports—fully or partially defoliated. In one story, a tourist visiting St. Maarten said, “It’s like someone with a lawn mower from the sky has gone over the island.”

It’s probable that this damage will be among the last to be repaired, aside from downed trees being carted away to be chopped up. There are more urgent priorities. But it is a grim reality that a storm many feel is one result of human-prompted climate change continues the deadly trend by stripping these islands (and much of SW Florida) of their carbon-sequestering trees. Some trees that have been cleanly uprooted can be replanted, but many are split or otherwise irreparably damaged.

During our Caribbean visits—to Barbados and St. Lucia, which do not seem to have been terribly affected—we’ve always marveled at the large areas away from tourist centers that seem completely covered in green, including swaths of plants that I’d only seen as summer or holiday annuals in Buffalo. It’s beyond sad to think of this beauty—and habitat—replaced by sandy devastation.

Thinking of my friends and gardeners in Florida and points south today.

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


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