Included here is the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispanola and Puerto Rico), the Lesser Antilles (including Montserrate, Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenado), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the southern tropical part of the Florida Peninsula.

West Indian Montane Rainforest

In Jamaica remnants of these largely evergreen forests can be found in the Blue Mountains and the John Crow Mountains. They show little evidence of stratification but occasional huge emergent trees occur reaching heights of up to 35 m. The main canopy reaches about 25 m, while an ill-defined lower canopy ranges from 10-20 m. Among the main emergent trees Ficus suffocens and Psidium montanum have large buttresses, while Syphonia globulifera has stilt roots. The main canopy and sub-canopy trees include Callophyllum jacquinii, Clethra occidentalis, Cyrilla racemiflora, Exothea panniculata, Matayba apetala, Prunus occidentalis and a series of endemic taxa such as Eugenia distica (Myrtaceae), Ocotea martinicensis (Lauraceae) and Oxandra laurifolia (Annonaceae). The shrub layer from 3-6 m is usually sparse due to poor light but still supports a good variety of endemic species like Blakea trinervia (Melastomataceae), Columnea hirsuta (Rhamnaceae), Hedyosmum arborescens (Chloranthaceae), Piper discolor (Piperaceae), Psychotria pedunculata (Rubiaceae) and Rytidophyllum grande (Gesneraceae). Tree ferns are infrequent but may include Alsophila swartsiana, Ctenicis villosa and Cyathea tussacii. Lianas are also uncommon but there are many small vines such as the endemic Marcgravia brownei (Marcgraviaceae). Epiphytes, on the other hand, are prolific but bromeliads are mainly confined to the higher tree branches, while epiphytic bryophytes, ferns (such as the endemic Trichomes scandens), and orchids dominate the lower strata. The forest floor is typically covered in ground ferns but may also include a variety of flowering plants such as the endemic Lobelia acuminata (Campanulaceae), Peperomia crassicaulis (Piperaceae), and the root parasite Scybalium jamaicensis (Balanophoraceae). Montane or sub-montane forests can also be found in Cuba on the Moa Mountains and in the Duaba, Jaguani and Toa basins. They are dominated by Calophyllum utile and Carapa guinensis and typically have a three-layered tree structure. The upper layer tends to be monopolized by Carapa guinensis, which with its large plank buttresses can reach heights of 35 m. The fully closed middle layer includes Calophyllum utile, Sloanea curatellifolia and Dipholis jubilla and reaches about 25 m, while between the second and third canopy layers a number of palms reach their maximum stature including several endemic species like Bactris cubensis, Calyptronoma clementis and Prestoea montana (Arecaceae). The third layer, which reaches about 15 m, is very rich in species and includes several endemic trees such as the large-leaved Cordia sulcata (Boraginaceae) and Oxandra lanceolata (Lauraceae), a number of tree ferns, and the endemic, tree-sized herbaceous species Heliconia caribaea (Strelitziaceae). There are also a number of macrophyllous lianas. The epiphytic flora includes an upper layer dominated by flowering plants such as the endemic Columnea tincta (Gesneraceae) and Hohenbergia penduliflora (Bromeliaceae), and a lower layer comprising mainly ferns. In the sparse shrub layer Cassipourea elliptica and species of Melastomataceae are abundant, while ferns mainly dominate the herb layer.

West Indian Montane Serpentine Forest

This represents the climax vegetation in the Crystal and Moa mountains of Cuba roughly between 400-900 m contour where precipitation can reach 3200 mm per annum and there is no dry season. They form a double canopy system comprising mainly sclerophyllous and lauraceous trees. The upper canopy, which reaches heights of up to 22 m, includes Calophyllum utile, Dipholis jubilla and a variety of endemics such as Bonnetia cubensis (Bonnetiaceae), Hyeronima nipensis (Euphorbiaceae), Pinus cubensis (Pinaceae), Podocarpus ekmanii (Podocarpaceae), Spathelia pinetorum (Rutaceae), Talauma minor (Magnoliaceae) and Tapura cubensis (Dichapetalaceae). In the shrub layer the typical species are mainly composed of endemic taxa like Moacroton ekmanii (Euphorbiaceae), Psychotria moaënsis (Rubiaceae) and Rauvolfia salicifolia (Apocynaceae). However, due to the relative openness of these forests the epiphytic flora is poorly developed, but includes a number of small orchids such as the endemic Dinema cubincola (Orchidaceae), while shade-tolerant species are largely absent. By contrast a diverse assemblage of lianas are present including several endemic species like the bamboo Chusquea abietifolia (Poaceae), Platygyne obovata (Euphorbiaceae) and Schradera cubensis (Rubiaceae). The herb layer varies but in the more humid areas a luxuriant carpet of herbs and mosses may be present.

West Indian Montane Mist Forest

On Jamaica mist envelopes the upper reaches of the Blue Mountains on a daily basis for at least six hours providing extremely humid conditions. The associated dark, wet, evergreen forest, some times referred to as a mossy forest, has been described as “the most peculiar vegetation imaginable”. It extends in a altitudinal zone from about 1000 -1500 m.  Emergent tree are few and the low canopy rarely exceeds 15 m. There may also be a sub-canopy of varying density reaching about 10 m. Most of the trees tend to be spindly with bushy crowns and buttresses and cauliflory is generally absent. The dominant trees are Cyrilla racemosa and Podocarpus urbani, but many other species may be encountered including a variety of endemics like Clusia havetioides (Hypericaceae), Eugenia marchiana (Myrtaceae), Laplacea haematoxylon (Theaceae), Rhamnus sphaerosperma (Rhamnaceae), Solanum punctulatum (Solanaceae), Turpinia occidentalis (Staphyleaceae) and Viburnum villosum (Caprifoliaceae). Tree ferns are common including Cyathea nigrescens, Lophosoria quadripinnata, Marrattia alata and Ortheopteris domingensis, but palms are absent. The shrub layer in general tends to be scattered, rarely reaching more that about 3 m, but nevertheless includes many endemic species such as Psychotria corymbosa (Rubiaceae) and a variety of melastomaceous species like Mecranium purpurascens, Meriania leucantha and Miconia rubens (Melastomataceae). Lianas are rare but there are many climbing, scrambling and epiphytic shrubs. Endemic species among these include Cassia viminea (Caesalpiniaceae), Cionosicys pomiformis (Cucurbitaceae), Passiflora pendulifera (Passifloraceae) and Schradera involucrata (Rubiaceae). The more typical epiphytes are very abundant with bromeliads, like Thecophyllum sintensii and Tillandsia incurva, and a variety of orchids such as the endemic Lepanthes tridentata (Orchidaceae), but it is bryophytes that predominate virtually covering every tree trunk and branch. This is also true for the field layer but in addition there are many peperomias and pileas and ferns such as the endemic Blechnum lineatum (Blechnaceae) and Danca jamaicensis (family?). In Cuba these forests mainly occur above 800 m on Sierra Maestra, Sierra del Purial and the Escambry Mountains. Here they are dominated by the endemic Magnolia cubensis (Magnoliaceae) and various species of Ocotea such as the endemic Ocotea leucoxylon (Lauraceae). These trees reach heights of about 25 m and below this a sub canopy can usually be characterized by Clusia tetrastigma, Gomidesia lindeniana and several endemic species like Garrya fadyenii (Garryaceae) and Ossaea ottoschmidtii (Melastomataceae). The epiphytic flora is very rich and includes an upper layer dominated by orchids and bromeliads such as the endemic Guzmania erythrolepis (Bromeliaceae) and a lower layer of ferns, mosses and liverworts. Also rich in species are the shrub and herb layers with many endemic species such as Pilea clarana (Urticaceae) and Psychotria martii (Rubiaceae).  At elevations between 1600-1900 m on Sireea Maestra and the high mountains of Pico Turquino and Pico Bagamesa rainfall can exceed 3200 mm per annum and here the forests are extremely mossy with nearly 40 species of moss recorded. The soil, branches and lower foliage are covered in an unbroken carpet of bryophytes. The low canopy is characterized by various endemic species such as Eupatorium paucibracteatum (Asteraceae), Myrsine microphylla (Myrsinaceae), Nectandra reticularis (Lauraceae), Persea anomala (Lauraceae), Sapium maestrense (Euphorbiaceae), Symplocos leonis (Symplocaceae), Torralbasia cuneifolia (Celastraceae) and several tree ferns like Cyathea minor. The shrub layer forms an almost impenetrable bush tangled with pteridophytic lianas like Dennstaedtia and Odontosoria. Shrub layer species include a variety of endemics such as Cordia longipedunculata (Boraginaceae), Duranta fletcheriana (Verbenaceae), Hedyosum cubense (Chloranthaceae), Henriettea ekmanii, Miconia turquinensis (Melastomataceae) and Scolosanthus maestrensis (Rubiaceae). Ferns and lycopods dominate the herb layer while the epiphytic flora is rich in small, endemic orchids such as Lepanthes ekmanii and Stelis cubensis (Orchidaceae). 

West Indian Elfin Woodlands

In Jamaica these stunted woodlands are found on the exposed summits and northern ridges of the Blue Mountains and on the wet slopes of the John Crow Mountains. Most start an altitude of about 900 m but on the John Crow Mountains they can be as low as 700 m. They largely comprise open woodlands of gnarled and twisted trees laden with mosses and other epiphytes, and in some cases trees may be hidden under a verdant mass of epiphytes. The canopy rarely exceeds 6 m and only one woody stratum occurs. Dominant trees are the endemic Clethra alexandri (Clethraceae) and Clusia havetioides (Hypericaceae). Some trees, such as Clusia, have fleshy leaves while others like the endemic Eugenia alpina (Myrtaceae) have small, coreiaceous leaves. Common shrubs are Palicourea crocea, Sciadophyllum brownei and the endemic Ilex obcordata (Aquifoliaceae).  The field layer includes many mist forest species including a number of peperomias, Lycopodium cericum and the endemic Pilea parietaria (Urticaceae). In addition to festooning most of the trees, mats of bryophytes on tree trunks provide niches for numerous other epiphytes especially ferns, lichens, bromeliads and orchids, but also various other taxa such as the endemic Besleria lutea (Gesneriaceae). In Cuba, elfin woodland appears to be confined to Pico Turquino, the highest mountain of Sierra Maestra. They are mainly composed of a dense bush of stunted, microphyllous, nanophyllous, evergreen trees and shrubs. Many of these are endemic and include Ilex turquinensis (Aquifoliaceae), Lobelia cacuminis (Campanulaceae), Myrica cacuminis (Myrtaceae), Peratanthe cubensis (Rubiaceae) and Viburnum villosum (Caprifoliaceae). However, on steeper, rocky slopes they give way to a community dominated by the endemic Agave pendentata (Agavaceae) and Mitracarpus acunae (Rubiaceae). Other species found here include various endemic shrubs such as Eugenia maestrensis (Myrtaceae) and Juniperus saxicola (Cupressaceae). There is also a rich variety of lianas, sub shrubs and orchids with many small, normally epiphytic orchids, such as the endemic Lepanthopsis microlepanthes (Orchidaceae), rooted in a moss carpet. Other endemic herbs include Chaptalia turquinensis (Asteraceae).

West Indian Shale Forest

The lower shales of Jamaica were once covered in forest, but only remnants of these remain in places such as the Blue Mountains. In the lower stream valleys the dominant trees include Cecropia peltata, Cedrela odorata, Ceiba pentandra, Chlorophora tinctoria, Chrysophyllum ovaliforme, Ficus wilsonii, Ochroma pyramidala, Zanthophyllum flavum and the endemic Catalpa longissima (Bignonaceae). However, the sparser forests of the adjacent slopes are mainly characterised by small trees such as Andira inermis, Crescentia cujete, Guazuma ulmifolia, Hura capitans, Spondias purpurea together with several endemic species like Celtis trinervia (Ulmaceae), Guarea glabra (Meliaceae), Senecio discolor (Asteraceae) and Spathelia sorbifolia (Rutaceae). The ground flora includes Betia purpurea, Bidens cynapiifolia, Piper umbellatum and the endemic Anclepias nivea (Ascelpiadaceae) and Peperomia verticillata (Piperaceae).

West Indian Palm Forest

Forests dominated by the palm genus Prestoea are found on a number of Caribbean islands including Dominica, Grenada, Nevis, Puerto Rico, St Kitts, St Vincent and the larger islands of the Greater Antilles. They are mainly confined to marshy or waterlogged areas. In the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico they are dominated by the endemic palm Prestoea montanus (Arecaceae). Other associated trees are mainly endemic species such as Antirhea obtusifolia (Rubiaceae), Byrsonima wadsworthii (Malpighiaceae), Calycogonium squamulosum (Melastomataceae), Cordia borinquensis (Boraginaceae), Croton poecilanthus (Euphorbiaceae), Dacryodes excelsa (Burseraceae), Eugenia boringuensis (Myrtaceae), Meliosma herbertii (Sabiaceae), Micropholis chrysophylloides (Sapotaceae), Ocotea spathulata (Lauraceae), Sloanea berteriana (Elaeocarpaceae), Tabebuia rigida (Bignonaceae) and Ternstroemia heptasepala (Theaceae).  Vines are present in small numbers but include several endemic species such as Marcgravia sintenisii (Marcgraviaceae), Philodendron scandens (Araceae) and Securidaca virgata (Polygalaceae. Ground layer herbs are also infrequent but include endemic taxa like Erythrodes plantaginea (Orchidaceae), Pilea krugerii (Urticeae), Piper swartzianum (Piperaceae), Selaginella krugii (Selaginellaceae) and ferns such as the endemic Thelypteris detoidea (Thelypteridaceae).

West Indian Coniferous Forest

These are mainly confined to nutrient-poor acidic soils either as subclimax or paraclimax communities on ferritic soils. In Cuba they are restricted to the eastern and western ends of the island and may be dominated by one of three endemic pines: Pinus caribaea, P. cubensis or P. tropicalis (Pinaceae). Pinus caribaea forest is the para climax community on yellow, quartz-allitic and serpentine soils of the Cajalbana Hills. Among the many associated species are endemic taxa such as Acunaeanthus tinifolius (Rubiaceae), Anemia cajalbanensis (Anemiaceae), Coccothrinax yuraguana (Arecaceae), Herpyza grandiflora (Fabaceae), Lescaillea equisetiformis (Asteraceae), Lyonia myrtilloides (Ericaceae), Phania cajalbanica (Asteraceae), Phyllanthus junceus (Euphorbiaceae), Pisidium cymosum (Myrtaceae), Purdiacea cubensis (family?), Roigella correifolia (Rubiaceae), Tabebuia leptopoda (Bignoniaceae) and Tetrazygia coriacea (Melastomataceae). On ridges and slopes the shrub layer is poorly developed and grasses dominate the field layer, but in the valleys the shrub layer is usually very dense and ferns become conspicuous field layer species. Of the many serpentine endemics associated with these forests Agave cajalbanensis (Agavaceae), Brya ebebus (Fabaceae), Buxus wrightii (Buxaceae), Eugenia rigidifolia (Myrtaceae), Jacquinia brunnescens (Theophrastaceae), Machaonia dumosa (Rubiaceae), Malpighia horrida (Malpighiaceae), Plinia dermatodes (Myrtaceae), Rheedia fruticosa (Hypericaceae) and Zanthoxylum dumosum (Rutaceae) are characteristic.  Pinus cubensis forests are also found on serpentine soils but are more xerothermic and can be found, for example, in the Sagua-Baracoa uplands. They are extremely rich in endemic species (about 68% of the flora) with many Cuban endemics.  Characteristic among these are Anemia coriacea (Anemiaceae), Bumelia cubensis (Sapotaceae), Dracaena cubensis (Agavaceae), Guetardia calyptrata (Rubiaceae), Heptanthus cordifolius (Asteraceae), Ouratea straita (Ochnaceae) and Vaccinium cubense (Ericaceae). Beneath the closed canopy there is usually a dense shrub layer and tall field layer. Pinus tropicalis forest is confined to the western coast of Isla de Pinos, north of Lanier Swamp in the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and the southern plain of Isla del Rio. In the latter location the canopy also includes the endemic taxa Chaetolepis cubensis (Melastomataceae) and Colpothrinax wrightii (Arecaceae) and various other species.


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