Morne LaBaye Trail
Etang National Park trail
The Morne LaBaye Trail is less than a mile, a walk of about 15 minutes. The hike trailhead is behind the park headquarters. The Morne LaBaye Trail provides access to the Grand Etang Shoreline Trail.
The Morne LaBaye Trail is a short interpretive walk with excellent examples of Grenada's rich foliage. It's a good introduction to the park.
The mountain palms, whose fruit and fronds Grenadians use in many different ways, are also characteristic of this part of montane forest.
As you walk the trail, you'll observe an interesting symbiotic relationship between the slender bois canot tree (Cereropia) and the ants living in its hollow trunk. In return for shelter, the ants repel opossums and other animals trying to climb the tree to graze on tender new shoots. What botanists call a pioneer species, bois canot is one of the first to reappear after severe hurricane winds destroy a forest.
Another pioneer species is the colorful heliconia (or balisier, pronounced "bah-lee-zyay"), a member of the banana family. You've probably seen the blooms, shaped like a long row of lobster claws, made into decorative bouquets in hotel rooms.
These yellow, orange or red ornamentals have flower-like bracts that are almost scimitar-shaped. Mosquitoes thrive in the water pockets of these bracts, which sometimes provide the only stagnant water for breeding.
Looking skyward you'll see 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 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. This elephant grass was originally planted decades ago to provide a convenient refueling stop for horse and donkey-drawn wagons crossing the island. It is still used for fodder when meadows on the farms lower down wither away in the dry season.
At the morne ("small hill" in French) itself is a small weather station to monitor the complex and frequently changing conditions of Grand Etang. At the River Turning Crater you'll find lingering evidence of Hurricane Janet's destruction back in 1955: a stand of huge, dead gommier (gum) trees, now serving as display posts for countless air plants.
The gommier (Dacryodes excelsa) is the most common large tree of the rain forest. Its bark contains a gum that can be used to light fires. Only, some of the gommier trees have no bark.
Their trunks withstood the hurricane's 150-mph winds, but their branches and leaves were stripped away. Unable to photosynthesize (the process which turns sunlight into the sugar), they died.