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Plant the Seed

A Father’s Letter to His Son

Querido Marley,

Tienes solo 16 meses en este momento, pero un día serás un hombre y leerás esta carta.  Quiero que sepas que cuando empecé el proyecto de la calle de los flamboyánes tuve dos cosas en mente:

Primero, queria que tengas algo bello y maravilloso para que siempre puedas tener recuerdos de mí y para demostrarte que los sueños son posibles si pones tu corazón y alma para lograr la meta.

Segundo, quería añadir a la gran belleza de Vieques, la isla que amo tanto y llamo mi hogar.  Espero que sea algo que traiga alegría para ti y para todos que pasaran por el túnel de árboles de flamboyanes. Eres mi inspiración para el futuro.  Espero que sientas que mi amor es tan grande y fuerte como los flamboyánes serán un día en el futuro en su esplendor floral; y cada vece que tu pase por esta calle que pienses en tu padre y sonrías.

Tu Papa, Eddie


Dear Marley,

You are only 16 months old at the moment, but one day you will be a man and will read this letter. I want you to know that when I had the idea to start the Flamboyán Trees road project I had two things in mind. First, I wanted you to have something beautiful and inspiring to always remember me by and to show you that dreams can come true if we put our heart and soul into them and don’t give up.

Second, I wanted to add even more beauty to the island I adore and call my home.I hope it will be something for you and everyone to enjoy every time you drive through the tree tunnel.

You are my inspiration for the future; and I hope you feel that my love is as big and bright as the flamboyán trees will be one day in their full, floral splendor. And as you drive down that road I hope you think of your father and smile.

Your father, Eddie

Watch it Grow

You can appreciate the efforts and vision of Eddie Ras if you are lucky enough to be visiting Vieques in late June through July. It is blooming time for the flamboyán, and our Isla Nena is ablaze with color.

Officially called the Royal Poinciana (flamboyán is the local name), this native of Madagascar is one of the most beloved of tropical and subtropical ornamental trees due to its innumerable masses of large flower clusters.  Blossoms range from bright yellow through orange-red to vivid cerise, and the branches grow outward as well as upward.

If, like Eddie Ras, you love the tree and would like to grow your own from seed it’s remarkably easy, provided your soil is not as “rock hard” as Vieques and you live in a completely frost-free area of the States; Southern Florida or California come to mind. Upon pollination, the flowers are followed by 12” to 20” hard, dark-brown, machete-shaped seedpods.  The seeds can be planted.  First though, know your Customs rules. The seeds and/or pods of the flamboyán are legal to bring back to the U.S., but you must declare them.

To germinate the seeds you’ll need a bit of coarse sandpaper. Rub a pointy end of the seed on the sandpaper with gusto: the idea is to wear a bit of the extremely tough seed coat away. Horticulturally, this process is known as scarification. Then soak the seeds for several hours in a glass of water. If the seeds float, discard them. If they sink, you’re ready for action. Interestingly, an alternative technique is to place the seeds in a bowl with almost-boiling water – 165˚F, to be exact – leaving them to soak for 24 hours. Plant them half-inch deep, flat side down in a 4” pot filled with a light organic soil mixture, and keep slightly moist with a minimum temperature of 70˚F. They will germinate in as little as 3 days! Remember they can become 50 feet tall and 150 feet wide, so you’ll need plenty of garden space! They’ll blossom in 3 to 5 years.

Additionally, this tree may be propagated by cuttings – but I mean cuttings the thickness of your arm and as tall as you are! This ability is colloquially called “quick stick” because the branches are stuck in the soil.

Eddie used the “quick stick” method to plant La Recta de Martha, although the name makes him chuckle. There was nothing quick about his work. Hundreds of hours were spent planting La Recta de Marta. Eddie’s method for planting in the rock hard earth was to dig a 5inch hole and then fill it with a gallon of water to soften the next layer of earth.

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