Studies of the effect of the volcanic eruptions on flora and fauna have not yet, to our knowledge, been undertaken. Natural vegetation is confined mostly to the summits of hills, where elfin woodlands occur. At lower levels, fern groves are plentiful and lower still, cacti, sage bush and acacias.
Flowers and fruit are typical of the Caribbean with many bay trees, from which bay oil (or rum) is distilled, the national tree, the mango and the national flower, Heliconia caribaea (a wild banana known locally as ‘lobster claw’). There are 34 species of birds resident on the island and many more migrants. Unique to Montserrat is the Montserrat oriole, Icterus oberi, a black and gold oriole named the national bird. There are also the rare forest thrush, the bridled quail dove, mangrove cuckoo, trembler and purple throated carib. Many of these can be seen along the Centre Hills trail in the middle of the island between the ash-covered Soufriere Hills and the Silver Hills. The vegetation here is biologically diverse and supports a variety of wildlife. Montserrat cannot boast many wild animals, although it shares the terrestrial frog, known as the mountain chicken, only with Dominica. Agoutis, bats and lizards, including iguanas which can grow to over 4 ft in length (they used to take the balls on the golf course, mistaking them for eggs), can all be found and tree frogs contribute to the island’s ‘night-music’. A walk around the Silver Hills in the extreme north reveals a dramatic coastline where you can find lots of seabirds. At Pelican Point on the east coast is the only breeding colony on the island of magnificent frigate birds, while elsewhere you can see the red-billed tropic bird, the mangrove cuckoo and the pearly-eyed thrasher. Contact the Montserrat Forest Rangers for trail hikes across the island to see the variety of fauna and flora.
The Montserrat National Trust has been relocated to Olveston, on the North Main Road, T4913086, F4913046. It is rebuilding its museum and constructing a Natural History Centre and a Botanical Garden. There will be a volcanic interpretative centre created with the help of the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory and the reference library on the island’s fauna and flora will be accessible for visitors.