It has been said that the Bermuda Easter lily was brought by a soldier who came from Malta, but it is native to the Liukiu Islands between Japan and Formosa. The beautiful, fragrant flower was planted enthusiastically in gardens, but its commercial possibilities were discovered by General Russell Hastings, a veteran of the American Civil War. General Hastings, who retired to the Colony for his health, decided the lily bulbs would find a good market in the United States. Soon after his first shipment, Bermuda found it was in the bulb business. By the 1890's thousands of bulbs were being shipped each year, but about 1900 a disease, brought in on some Japanese bulbs, nearly wiped out the industry. It was only after some twenty years that the industry began to thrive as before.
Blooms are now exported as well as bulbs, and today lilies are Bermuda's only important export. The bulbs are shipped by air to the United States, Canada and even England, and at the peak of the season airplanes are chartered to carry nothing but lilies. They are picked and shipped as buds, to open within a day or so after arrival. Bermuda Hotels and shops take orders for delivery wherever or whenever you wish.
The Bermuda lily is particularly popular because of its early blooming and the sturdiness of its stalk. A lily field in the spring is a glorious sight, and the air in the vicinity is heavy with the fragrance of the blooms.
Poinsettias bloom from November to February all over the Islands. Nobody bothers to pot them when it is so easy to look out the window and see a whole bush. They give the Colony a gay, Christmas look in the often balmy winter weather, and can be used for interior decorations if the stems are treated to stop their "bleeding" (by plunging them into soft soil or hot water). The first poinsettias, brought from Mexico by a sailor, were red, but now, in addition, there are white and pink varieties.
Passion flowers grow readily and are purple, mauve-pink or white. The flower closes shortly after picking, but if dipped in light wax, will stay open for several days. Many shops sell them, made up as corsages, for visitors to wear or take home. The passion flower was named by early Christian missionaries who found it in South America, and saw in the various parts of the curiously constructed flower symbols of the Crucifixion. In the center is the cross, the stamens are hammers and the styles are the nails. The circle is the crown of thorns and the tendrils are the cords with which Jesus was bound. The ten petals are the ten Apostles (leaving out Judas and Peter, who denied Him). The leaf is a spear and its five points are the five wounds.
Bougainvillea can be purple, cherry red or copper, but is always a glorious sight, whether trained by gardeners or allowed to create its own effective setting by climbing high into trees. This striking plant, which blooms from spring into the winter, was probably brought to Bermuda from Gibraltar by an army officer in 1874.
Among the unusual flowers you will probably notice, is the bird of paradise, so called because it resembles an exotic bird. The chalice cup has large, yellow, waxy blooms resembling a chalice. Freesias are delightful little mauve, white or yellow flowers with bell-shaped blooms which, from February to April, often cover lawns with a fragrant carpet. The night-blooming cereus is a real extravaganza of the horticultural world and can be found hanging over old walls, on trees or trained over gateways. Its long winding stem resembles a big cactus, but the flowers it produces are wonderful. They open after sunset and close at daybreak. Summer is the only time to see them.
Three rubs you will see frequently are "match-me-if-youcan," croton, and bay grape. Match-me-if-you-can, which came to Bermuda from the Fiji Islands by way of the Barbados, never has two leaves quite alike. It can grow twenty feet high, but when trimmed the reddish brown leaves make an attractive hedge. There is at least one variety of croton in almost every garden. It is a shrub with mottled leaves of red, green, yellow or bronze, and varieties differ widely in size and shape of leaves. The bay grape is a hardy shrub that grows to tree size and has saucer-shaped leaves. It flourishes by the sea, where the salt spray kills many other plants, and its berries make delicious jelly.