When the Spanish colonizers arrived at the end of the 15th century, more than 90% of Cuba was covered with forest.
When Fray Bartolome de las Casas visited the island, he said "La isla tiene de luengo cerca de 300 leguas y se puede
andar toda por debajo de los arboles" (the island is 300 leagues long and you can walk the length of it beneath the trees).
However, clearance for cattle raising and sugar cane reduced this proportion to 54% by 1890 and 14% by 1959, although
reforestation since the Revolution has increased this figure to about 19%.
More than 6000 species of plants are present in Cuba, of which around 3000 are endemic, and 950 plant species that are
endangered, rare, or have become extinct in the last 350 years.
The most notable endemic species include the Pinguicola lignicola, the world's only carnivorous epiphytic plant; the cork palm
(Microcycas calocoma), an endemic living fossil which is a threatened species; and the big belly palm
(Colpothrnax wrightii) which is easily distinguished by its shape.
Cuba's endemic plant world also includes the Cuban magnolia (Magnolia cubensis), an evergreen tree magnolia native
to the forests of the Sierra Maestra Mountains. The Moa Dragon Tree (Dracaena cubensis) considered a relic and
living fossil is found only on soils derived from serpentine rocks in eastern Cuba. The Cuban Pine (Pinus cubensis)
is a pine endemic to the eas tern highlands of the island. And the Cuban Melon Cactus (Melocactus matanzanus) is found
in coastal scrublands of the country.
There are around 100 different palm trees in Cuba, of which 90 are endemic. The palma real or royal palm (Reistonea regia)
reaching up to 50 meters tall, is Cuba's national tree.
Other trees found in the island include oaks, cedars, flamboyant trees, and the jaguey- a huge fig tree with aerial roots.
The orchid family includes some 300 endemic species. There is one tiny orchid )Pleurothallis shaferi) which is only 1 cm,
with leaves measuring 5 mm and flowers of only 2 mm.
The mariposa or butterfly flower (Hedychium coronarium), a type of jasmine, is considered the national flower.
Authentic Cuba Travel®
Cuba Escorted Tours
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Sustainable tourism is where our Cuba tour participants can enjoy their holiday and at the same time respect the authentic culture of local people and also respect the environment.
Authentic Cuba Travel® escorted tours to Cuba's international Festivals: Jazz Festival, Book Fair, Havana Art Biennial, Fire Festival and more!
Authentic Cuba Travel®'s nature and bird watching eco tours grant access to UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, National Parks & Protected Areas!
Authentic Cuba Travel®'s Cuba cultural tours feature visits to Cuba’s premier art galleries & artists's studios.