The Nevis Botanical Gardens have a beautiful collection of tropical flowering trees and shrubs including the national flower of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Poinciana or Flamboyant Tree (Delonix regia). Its local name is the "Shack Shack Tree". Native to Madagascar, it was called Poinciana for the French General de Poincy, the first French Governor of St. Kitts (1639-1660) who is said to have introduced it to the Americas.
The Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistula), is a native of warm regions such as India, Thailand, and Pakistan. When in bloom, the golden yellow flowers overtake the entire tree, almost leaving the leaves unnoticeable. Cultivated for both ornamental and medicinal use, the tree is also an important source of pollen for butterflies and bees.
The Shaving Brush Tree (Bombax ellipticum) is a large deciduous tree from Mexico and Central America. Its unique flowers are a thick brush of pink stamens giving the tree its name. They come in winter before the leaves.
The Calabash Tree (Crescentia cujete) is an evergreen tree native to Central and South America, and the West Indies. Often grown as an ornamental, it produces large spherical fruits, up to 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter, whose hollowed out dried skins are used as water containers.
The South African Sausage Tree (Kigelia pinnata) has huge sausage-like fruits that hang down from the tree limbs on long, ropelike stalks. These can be up to two feet (0.6 m) long and weigh up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg). The fragrant blood-red flowers bloom at night and the nectar-rich blossoms are an important source of pollen for bats and insects.
The Pitch Apple or Autograph Tree (Clusia rosea) grows a little way uphill behind the Nevisian-style Great House. Its large thick leathery leaves retain any marks made with a sharp instrument until that leaf is shed. Lovers carve their initials on it but do not realise that eventually that leaf will fall carrying away their pledge! It is named after the European botanist Carolus Clusius (1526-1609), one of the most influential 16th century horticulturalists.