Plant Propagation

Planting for future generations.

Land resource management is integral to the work of the park. A core element of that management is the propagation and protection of plants to address issues like species endangerment and soil erosion as well as replacing vegetation lost in the 2017 hurricanes.

Plant propagation projects include:

  • Nursery Management & Plant Progagation
  • Coastal Planting & Beach Stabilization
  • Endangered Plant Species Protection
  • Mangrove Restoration & Planting
Tree plant restoration

Nursery Management & Plant Propagation

A plant nursery was established at Cinnamon Bay in January 2021 with the goal of raising native trees for coastal plantings, fruit bearing trees for an annual plant giveaway, and rare/endangered plants as part of a federal grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The nursery has also been utilized as an educational space to teach youth about native plants and their traditional uses. Seasonal resident and extraordinary volunteer, Ellie Wasson, contributed 76 hours to the upkeep of the nursery.

During 2022 Earth Week, the Friends gave away 411 plants to community members with the goal of promoting food security and access to fresh fruits. The plants included guavaberry, lignum vitae, soursop, guava, pineapple, and more. The Friends also organized a tree planting activity at the annual Earth Day Fair for local school kids. The kids planted papaya, passionfruit, and kapok seeds that are currently being raised at the nursery.

Maho Beach Planting

Coastal Planting & Beach Stabilization

The coastline of St. John was severely impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. In response to this devastation, the Friends and the NPS started a coastal planting initiative with the goal of stabilizing and protecting popular north shore beaches from further erosion. Since 2019, over 600 native trees have been planted at the beach berm that separates the immediate tidal area from the non-tidal area.

During the ’21-22 season, Friends volunteers planted 166 native plants at Trunk Bay (63), Francis Bay (68), Jumbie Beach (12) and Hawksnest Beach (23). These trees were propagated from locally sourced seeds by horticulturist Eleanor Gibney, who also acts as the lead advisor on the project. After planting, the volunteers use welded wire fencing to protect against marauding wildlife such as deer, goats, tourists, and donkeys. The trees are watered several times a week, depending on the amount of rainfall, by the Friends Natural Resource Intern, Ameir Sprauve.

The native species that have been planted include Buttonwood, Seagrape, Black Torch, Bay Cedar, Turpentine, Nothing Nut, Necklace Seedpod, Gre Gre, Tyre Palm, Frangipani, Orange Manjack, and more.


Endangered Plant Species Protection

Solanum conocarpum, or marron bacora, is a federally listed endangered plant that is endemic to the Virgin Islands. The world’s largest population is located near Salt Pond on St. John and consists of less than 200 individuals. Friends of Virgin Islands National Park has been working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Virgin Islands National Park to protect existing populations through habitat restoration and establish new populations within the boundaries of VI National Park.

This year, the Friends Trail Crew carefully worked amid the main population of S. conocarpum to remove invasive plants like guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus), tan tan (Leucaena leucocephala), and catch and keep (Acacia retusa). Invasive plant species outcompete native species for space, water, and light as they change the structure of the vegetative community and restrict available resources for native species. The next steps will be to complete an assessment of the existing population, supplement the population with nursery raised plants, and install temporary fencing to keep out deer, goats, and donkeys.

The next phase of this project will be to establish a population of 100 S. conocarpum plants in a second location. The plants are currently being raised in the Friends nursery at Cinnamon Bay. The archeology compliance has been completed for this project, and planting should begin in the winter of 2023.


Mangrove Restoration

A total of 1000 mangroves have been planted in 2022/23 in an Iowa State University and Friends of Virgin Islands National Park collaboration on a large-scale mangrove restoration project in the Annaberg and Leinster Bay areas. The goal of the project is to re-establish sustainable mangrove communities that were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.  

Mangroves are flowering trees that live in saltwater or brackish water in mudflats near shorelines and are integral to a number of ecosystems on St. John. Mangrove root systems, when submerged, support a diverse community of sponges, ascidians, algae, corals and crabs. They provide crucial habitat for juvenile reef and pelagic fish as well as lobsters. The roots also trap sediment and associated pollutants to improve offshore water quality and slowly build more land as well as providing roosts, nesting habitat, and feeding areas for many bird species.