Trees of Belize, by Kate Harris, ISBN # 978-976-95228-2-4, Belize, 2009, 120 pp., BZ$35
I’ve been waiting years for a book like this, and now Kate Harris delivers exactly what the bush doctor ordered – a full-color, not-too-small, not-too-big, just-right guide to the common trees of Belize. It's called Trees of Belize.
Kate Harris, who has done time in such exotic locales as Sri Lanka, Tanzania’s East Usambara Mountains and Oxford, England (from which university she has a master’s degree in forestry), now lives with her family in Orange Walk.
Harris says she has a passion for photography and trees, and that passion is put to remarkable use in her new book, Trees of Belize. This isn’t a dry textbook or manual on the 750 or so species of trees in Belize. Instead, Harris has picked out 50 of the most significant and more commonly encountered trees. Each tree is described in a page or two, with color photographs of the most distinguishing features. Typically, there’s a large photo of the entire tree, along with smaller shots of its flowers, fruits or leaves.
Among the 50 common (and in many cases uncommonly beautiful) trees highlighted, from allspice to ziricote, are the breadfruit, cashew, cohune palm, flamboyant, frangipani, give-and-take, gumbo-limbo, horseballs, logwood, mayflower, mahogany, rain tree, sapodilla, soursop, tamarind and trumpet tree. An appendix covers 20 other trees in less detail. Harris gives the scientific as well as the common names of the trees, and in most cases she includes the Maya, Spanish, Creole and other names used in Belize.
While a number of the trees included are not originally native to Belize, and many are found throughout Central America and the Caribbean, the important thing about this guide is that these are trees you’ll actually find in Belize. Quite often, Harris notes where they are found and how they are used in Belize, or provides other local detail. For example, in the case of the cashew, she says, “The heart of cashew nut production in Belize is in Crooked Tree … The fruit is also used in making a sweet wine – produced commercially as Mr P’s, by Travellers’ Liquors, and also by Belize’s own Bel-Mer winery.”
This is a true product of Belize. Not only was it written and photographed in Belize, it was printed in Benque Viejo by BRC Printing. Trees of Belize is, or soon will be, available at the Belize Zoo, Belize Audubon Society, hotel gift shops and elsewhere. It likely should also be available soon from Amazon.com and other international outlets.
Visitors to Belize who are constantly asking, “What the deuce is that bright orange tree over there?” will find this a handy addition to their collection of Belize guidebooks, as will anyone with a keen amateur interest in the flora of Belize.
Bravo, Kate Harris, for providing a much-needed new guide to some of the natural wonders of Belize.