Ital Anthony Shares His Extensive Knowledge of Local Herbs and Plants

Delroy “Ital” Anthony shared information  about numerous local plants and herbs — and their uses — during a Friends of VINP seminar.

From Monkey No Climb to Prickly Pear, Delroy “Ital” Anthony shared his extensive knowledge of local herbs and plants with about a dozen participants at a Friends of V.I. National Park seminar on Wednesday afternoon, January 12.

Standing behind several tables laden with plants, fruit, herbs and sticks at St. John School of the Arts, Anthony hosted “Medicinal Herbs,” a new seminar in the Friends 2011 seminar series.

Anthony passed around a sample of each plant he discussed, giving participants the chance to smell and touch the specimen while learning about its traditional and current uses.

The group even got to sip on tamarind juice and soursop juice while listening to Anthony explain the  uses of items like PC Bed Bush, which was commonly used to treat heat rash.

“You mash it up a bit and boil it in water,” said Anthony. “You put it on the heat rash for a few days and it goes away.”

Showing a piece of birchwood and another of guavaberry, Anthony explained that the two are often confused.

“To identify the difference you have to know that birchwood is more rough and guavaberry is smooth and grows little fruits,” he said.

Guavaberry is used to make tarts and stews while birchwood bark is used for the handles of brooms and for fashioning fish pots and bird feeders, Anthony explained.

“We used to harvest guavaberry in November and December,” he said. “Recently our weather patterns have changed and it’s hard to tell when things are ripe. But you use it for drinks, tarts, in rum but you have to take your time and remove all the seeds.”

Sweet lime, which has little thorns and berries, can be used as a glue or to enhance lemonade, according to Anthony.

“It can give your lemonade a good kick, but just use a little,” he said. “You can find sweet lime out by Hawksnest.”

A good way to tell the difference between wild and imported frangipani is the size of their leaves, explained Anthony.

“Wild frangipani has thin leaves instead of the fat leaves with the white milky-substance in them,” he said.

Anthony also showed some plants to avoid in the wild.

“This is wild pineapple,” he said, holding a bunch of the small yellow fruit. “It will tear up your mouth and lips and make them itch for hours. You can use it, but you have to cut off all of the skin.”

Bay rum, balsam, wild thyme, papaya, mauby, wild tamarind, cow heel, wild coffee, cat’s claw; Anthony didn’t leave many plants found on St. John unexplained.

“This is sweet scent, or cattle tongue,” he said, holding up a leafy green stalk. “It used to be used back in the day for deodorant. You would just take it and rub it under your arms.”

Anthony also showed edible plants like what he called seaweed or seagrass, which can be eaten like a salad, and can be found near Salt Pond.

With a display of his local crafts and jewelry, Anthony also showed the group which plants he uses to make many of his creations, from a birchwood musical instrument to a necklace made from jumbie beads from the crab’s eye tree.

“All of this was passed down to me from my mother, my elders and my ancestors,” he said. “This is our environment and we need to take care of it. These native plants are very important for us to protect because a lot of the exotic plants brought in here bring invasive insects and such.”

Friends of VINP has interesting seminars planned  for the next few months wrapping up their series in April. For a complete list of seminars check out, or to register call the group’s program manager Audrey Penn at 779-4940.