Nicknamed “the island of flowers”, Martinique is an island with many different aspects to it ! Its very hilly territory, dominated by the Pelée Mountain, is host to a huge amount of trees and lianas which are spread across the island, and vary according to the rainfall levels !
Martinique is an island of volcanic origin. This fact gives it a particularly contrasted landscape. The old volcanoes in the south and the east have become gloomy valleys over the years, while to the north the recent eruptions of the Pelée have created a mountainous landscape, reaching heights of up to 1,397 metres !
The forest dominates the whole of the island, with many varying stratae, and its vegetation is determined by the levels of rainfall. In the north near the Pelée Mountain, the summit of the mouth of the volcano looks like a sad shrivelled up savanna, while a few hundred metres lower down, sheltered from the strong winds, grow trees of over twenty metres high. This humid, tropical-like forest is unique in that the temperature at high altitude drops greatly at the same time as the rainfall exceeds 2,500 mm. of water a year ! As wall as this, the soil is volcanic (and therefore has a high acidity level) so the vegetation is very peculiar as it has had to adapt to these strange conditions. This is why many species are unique and endemic on Martinique.
As you descend towards the sea, the forest goes from very humid to reasonably humid. This is where the tree ferns abound with vitality. They can grow up to 2 metres high ! They explode with a profusion of multicoloured flowers.
On the coast, the forest is dry. It gets less than 1,500 mm. of rain per year. This coastline forest has almost disappeared, due to property speculation and agriculture. To preseve this unique environment, the peninsula of La Caravelle was declared a natural reserve a few years ago. The mangrove, sheltered from the bays and the estuaries, plays an essential ecological role. Its trees, with their stilt-like roots, filter the sediments which would otherwise cover over the natural grassbeds protected by the coral reefs.
As we can see, this small island, measuring only 60 kms. long is home to a stunning diversity of flora. It has forests which vary from tropical to dry, and emblematic plants as diverse as the porcelaine rose, heliconias, hibiscus, flamboyants and bougainvillea, their flowers lighting up the landscape with their thousands of amazing colours !