The Morne LaBaye trail is a short interpretive walk starting from the Grand Etang National Park headquarters. It offers excellent examples of Grenada’s rich foliage and, at less than a mile, is an easy 15-minute stroll. Different plants and trees are labeled with signs and a trail guide offers brief histories of their historical importance. At the end of the trail climb the tower overlooking the park and the Eastern-Atlantic coast.
One of the first plants you’ll pass is the endemic Grand Etang fern that grows in this area of Grenada and nowhere else in the world. The fern has a distinctive spore pattern under the fronds. Unlike most other plants, ferns like this one reproduce by spores instead of seeds.
Look for one of the most remarkable plants is the colorful heliconia (or balisier, pronounced “bah-lee-zyay”). A member of the banana family. Its blooms shaped like a long row of lobster claws are a popular decorative bouquet in Grenada’s hotel rooms. The yellow, orange and red ornamentals have flower-like leaves (or bracts) that are almost scimitar-shaped. Mosquitoes thrive in the water pockets of the bracts, which sometimes provide the only stagnant water for breeding.
Glance skyward you’ll notice the tall marouba tree with its spreading branches and small leaves. The marouba takes its nourishment from the sun above the high canopy instead of from the shallow forest soil. Locals say marouba bark can drug or stun fish, making them easy to catch.
Besides bamboo, the Morne LaBaye Trail contains lots of elephant grass, which resembles sugar cane, but is distinguished by its jointed stem. Elephant grass was planted here to provide a convenient refueling stop for horse and donkey-drawn wagons that once traveled the island. It is still used for fodder when meadows on the farms lower down wither away in the dry season.
The towering gommier is the most common large tree of the Grand Etang rain forest. Its bark contains a gum that can be used to light fires. In times past, this was the tree of choice for building canoes and small boats.
For a longer walk, look for the trailhead to the Grand Etang Shoreline Trail that starts from the Morne La Baye Trail.