The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve is currently steward to more than 170 native Bahamian plant species. The number of species present on the site will continue to grow through new introductions and new discoveries. So far, more than 2,000 specimens of native trees, shrubs, and herbs have been planted in the Preserve. The dynamic nature of the Preserve’s biodiversity was illustrated recently with the discovery by Bahamas Natural Trust botanist Dr. Ethan Freid of the first fern to be found on the site, a species of the genus Acrostichum. In reporting the discovery, Dr. Freid stated on March 11, 2011, "we have been cleaning out the rocks at the pond to open them up and in doing so some of them connect with ground water and when the dirt is all gone they form small solution holes. This is perfect habitat for Acrostichum. I am not sure which species it is but we will know over the next year or so [as the plant matures and produces its reproductive structures, the spores]."
The native plants of the Preserve represent a diverse sampling of the flora of Eleuthera and all of The Bahamas. Because of its easy access and protected status as a national park, the Preserve is an excellent site to conduct research on various aspects of the plants’ life histories, such as flower pollinators and seed dispersers, activities that require long-term observations and study. The Preserve is also a wonderful venue for teaching about the rich cultural and natural histories of the Bahamian native flora, which is characterized by very many species used in traditional bush medicine and in other activities important to the local economy. It is projected that there will be more than 100 medicinal plant species present in the Preserve when the development of the collection is completed, thus creating a living legacy for teaching residents of the Bahamas, and tourists alike, of the cultural and botanical heritage of the islands.
As with the plants of the Preserve, this Web page will continue to evolve as more information is gathered and entered into the database. This effort, a joint initiative of the Bahamas National Trust and The New York Botanical Garden, represents an ongoing undertaking to provide accurate and accessible information about the Preserve’s plants and their uses. So far, information from more than 1,800 specimens from the Bahamas has been added, including more than 120 from Eleuthera. These specimens, many historical and of great scholarly value and general interest, from the Garden’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, have been databased as part of the Garden’s C.V. Starr Virtual Herbarium and made available on the Web for free access to specialists and the general public alike. These specimens so far databased represent more than 100 species of plants that are known to occur at the Preserve. Of these, many are known to have uses in traditional Bahamian bush medicine, such as those highlighted in the Bush Medicine showcase. Others are known to have important economic and other cultural uses, such as these highlighted in the Economic Plants showcase. Lists of all the plant species so far databased from the Preserve are shown in the Scientific Names checklist and the Common Names checklist. Finally, the Species Pages section compiles botanical, cultural, habitat, and distributional information, along with digital images of the species from the field, and includes a checklist to the plant species known to occur in the LevyPreserve, as recorded by Dr. Ethan Freid; we launch this section with six featured plant species.