St. Croix residents and tourists always have the opportunity to enjoy the magic of the St. George Village Botanical Garden with a morning or afternoon hike, but Sunday night was different, as about 50 hikers took a moonlight tour.
The hikers joined David Hamada, horticultural director of the garden, as he led tours under the light of the harvest moon. Special things happen during the night, as trees such at the calabash, cannonball and sausage blossom attract their nocturnal pollinators.
Hikers even got to see many of those nocturnal pollinators start their working night. A colony of fruit bats live in the old overseer’s house on the estate. As the first group of hikers went by, the bats dropped from their upside-down perches on the ceiling and winged their way through open windows and doors.
Hamada led flashlight-carrying residents down paths lit by the occasional tiki lamp, and took every opportunity to get close to the flora that uses fragrance to attract its nocturnal pollinators. He pointed out interesting examples, such as the ylang ylang, from which Chanel No. 5 was derived. He gave people the chance to catch a whiff of the Christmas orchid, one of the three native orchids on St. Croix.
The Gardens by Moonlight hike is an annual event. The last two years, planned hikes were dampened by rainy weather. This year the night-air temperature was pleasant, with a slight breeze cooling the hikers’ skin. The hikers went out in two groups of about 25 each. The group not hiking could enjoy wine, cheese and hors d’oeuvres in the Bodine Center Courtyard while listening to Ay Ay Baroque Consort play Celtic recorder and drum music. If the earthly delights were not enough, the visitor could wonder from the center and up behind some old slave quarters, where Rick Starr was on hand with a telescope, interpreting the night sky. Visible was Jupiter and four of its moons.
"The walk was marvelous, and David did a wonderful job," said Casey Kneipp, a master gardener visiting from Maryland. "I love flowers like these that six hours later the scent molecules will still be in your sinuses."
For more information about the garden, call 692-2874.