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Rare Plants of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge

It is not common to ask ‘what are the things to do in Puerto Rico’, because the very name of the territory conjures up images of sunshine, great food, pristine beaches, and unlimited fun! However, thanks to the generosity and wisdom of the U.S. Navy, Puerto Rico is also a naturalist’s delight.

The Navy transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service some years ago, Vieques, an island with the most precious bio-diversity to be found anywhere in the Caribbean. The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is a rare gem which is worth going miles to see, though only a small portion of the more than 15 thousand acre spread is open to the public. Even if you are not in to biology and nature in a big way, you can spend quality time at the site experiencing jewels of nature at first hand. Who knows-you might become an inveterate conservationist, and it will make a refreshing change from the glitter of resorts anyhow!

Vieques is a confluence of more than one habitat. Lagoons, forest areas, salt flats, and mangroves, to say nothing of the beach, come together in a kind of eerie effort by nature to show you all her beauty at once! Each habitat has a symbiotic eco-system of its own. The result is that the refuge is more like an open-air exhibition of animal and plant life forms, which you cannot see anywhere else in one place. The lovable marine turtles which come ashore to their exact spots of birth to breed can be seen in Florida and in other parts of the world as well. This also applies to the unending variety of trees, plants, and shrubs which thrive in such abundance at Vieques. However, the stellar attractions are four species of endangered plants. The words Stahlia monosperma, Goetzea elegans, Chamaecrista glandulosa, and Eugenia woodburyana, may mean nothing to you, or even put you off, but ask a guide to point them out, because you cannot see them anywhere else on earth. Even if you cannot be bothered with endangered species, Vieques will surely cast her spell on you. Come and get bewitched!

 





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