- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
The national tree, whose flower is also the national flower, is the West Indian mahogany. It is a medium-sized semi-evergreen tree that can stand about 9–11 meters tall and is native to the island of Hispaniola. Wood from the mahogany tree was used to build the first cathedral in the New World. Other trees that are native to the Dominican Republic include the ceiba (silk cotton tree), known for its massive stature and long life (up to 300 years!); the Dominican magnolia; the mamón; and the bija tree. In the semi-arid desert, cacti and agave dominate the terrain. When the Spanish came, they introduced many trees, including the coral tree, the African tulip, and the poinciana.
Perhaps the most prevalent vegetation zone found in the country is the subtropical forest. No true tropical rainforest is found here because rainfall isn’t sufficient and, unfortunately, because many of the types of trees found in that sort of environment were hacked away. The subtropical forest is found in the Santo Domingo lowland, in the valleys of the northwest (including Valle del Cibao), and on the Península de Samaná.
Main species of trees found in these moist subtropical forests are royal palms and mahogany. Also found are the nonindigenous capa trees, the jagua palm, lancewood, ground oak, and the yellowwood. The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is also found and flowers with the cashew apple (pseudofruit), which looks like a little red, yellow, or orange boxing glove and whose taste punches you in the mouth with bitterness—not too appealing, but when the nut is roasted it is very good. These tasty snacks are often sold in jars along the countryside highways.
As you pass the landscape of the country, it would be nearly impossible to miss that the scores of hills, lowlands, riverbeds, and shorelines are brimming with palms. The coconut palms (imported from Africa) that line the beaches of the Atlantic and Caribbean are the postcard views that most see of the Dominican Republic palm varieties. However, there are other varieties. While the coconut is mostly found along shorelines, the royal palm, or Roystonea boringuena (highly regarded as a national symbol, even appearing on the coat of arms), needs deeper soil and more moisture; it grows in clumps everywhere but high elevations. The sabal palm is found in regions with either environment. Other types of palm, like the cana, guano, and yarey, are all native to Hispaniola and are still used for making things like brooms and furniture.
Subhumid forests have semi-evergreen trees that lose their leaves during the three-month dry season, making for a rather bare landscape, but for the most part they are green leafy regions. An unexpected meeting between palms and coniferous (cone-bearing) trees characterizes the mountain forests. The Reserva Científica Valle Nuevo protects the virgin woodland from forestation and is the perfect place for an afternoon walk while checking out the variety of flora.
Mangroves are woody trees that grow in coastal and estuary areas like those of the Parque Nacional Los Haitises and the Parque Nacional Jaragua. They grow in areas where they are protected from direct wave action and are essential in the protection of the island from strong storms, tides, and erosion because their roots stabilize the sand and mud. The relationship between the mangroves and marine life is very important. They provide a stable home and act as a nursery for fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish. Inside a mangrove’s safe structure, the survival rate of offspring increases. Additionally, they provide food for many varieties of marine life, and animals such as sea birds also seek shelter inside the mangroves, using both the roots and branches as nesting areas.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition