Category Archives: Life on St. John USVI

St John Virgin Islands stories, events, happenings, photos -everyday life in Love City, St. John USVI

St. John Flora: Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

While pulling out some weeds on my ground, I noticed a stingy itchy sensation, which I quickly attributed to a lowlying plant that I thought was some kind of vine. It was, in fact, stinging nettle. Over to the digital microscope it went and here’s what I saw:

Notice the needle-like fibers. They act like hypodermic needles injecting histamine into the skin, which itches and burns. It effects some worse than others.

Treatments include ointments containing antihistamine and hydro-cortisone as well as a host of natural remedies. Me, I just left it alone and it soon stopped hurting.

Stinging nettle has been used for food, teas, medicines and fiber.

In World War I, a shortage of cotton led to German uniforms being made of stinging nettle fiber – no wonder they lost the war!

Want to know more about stinging nettle; you know what to do – Google it!

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St. John Dust Comparison

Sahara Dust and Road Dust

Sahara Dust
The Virgin Islands are in the path of streams of airborne dust sent aloft by storms over the Sahara Dessert, which are carried over the Atlantic by the westerly trade winds. This dust accounts for most of the haze often seen especially during the summer months.

One side of my house faces east towards the Caribbean and as a result, I have been able to collect some of the dust that accumulated on that side of the house that presumably originated in African deserts.

Road Dust
The many unpaved roads on St. John also produce their share of dust. As westward side of my house lies exposed to an unpaved road the dust that I collected there presumable came from vehicles passing over the dirt road.

In the magnified photos of the two samples of dust you can see the difference between the sandy Sahara dust and the sticky fibrous road dust.

Sahara Dust
dust sample from the east (Sahara dust)
road dust
dust sample from the west (road dust)

In a report by researchers from the University of California, Davis, Thomas A. Cahill called the Virgin Islands the dustiest place in the United States and stated, “the Virgin Islands have more dust than the Grand Canyon, the Badlands, or Death Valley.”

St. John Happenings

Sol Driven Train will be performing at the Inn at Tamarind Court at 5:30 this evening

Inn at…

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St. John Beach Sand

Ever notice the different looks and feels of of beach sand on St. John? Well, I’ve decided to look into this phenomenon more closely:

I examined samples of sand from three beaches, Trunk Bay, Maho Bay and Chocolate Hole and found them to be quite different from each other.

Trunk Bay, Maho Bay and Chocolate Hole Sand

Trunk Bay Sand
Trunk Bay
maho bay sand
Maho Bay
Chocolate Hole Sand-
Chocolate Hole
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High Surf Advisory

The high surf advisory issued yesterday by the National Weather Service will remain in effect until 6:00 am AST tomorrow.

Yesterday, as I’m sure they’ll do today also, the cruise ships activities operators cancelled their Trunk Bay tours.

I was at Trunk Bay yesterday morning and the surf was indeed up, but not quite as bad as the 10 to 12 foot breaking surf that the weather service had predicted. Nonetheless, swimming that morning seemed uncomfortable, and I decided to change locations to the much calmer Maho Bay.

However, being that I was at Trunk Bay anyway, I took the time to record the following video:

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Bougainvilleas and Aphids


Almost all the new and many of the older homes on St. John use exotic, as opposed to native, landscaping plants; one of the most popular of which, are bougainvilleas.

Bougainvilleas have beautiful foliage and are in the most part easy to take care of, but they still need to be sprayed for pests from time to time and do a lot better with irrigation, than they do depending on the rain. Other varieties of exotics used for landscaping can be even more problematic and expensive to maintain. For this reason, I would advocate landscaping with native varieties and work on eliminating the pesky exotics such as the ubiquitous  wild tamarind.

I’ve kept my bougainvilleas, however, but they have to fend for themselves now. One in particular hangs on to life, but has a horrible problem with aphids.

Bougainvillea with aphids
Aphids on a bougainvillea leaf
Aphids close up
Enlarged image of aphids on the underside of a bougainvillea leaf

Aphids Video

Endangered Lizards

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that seven species of Caribbean skinks found only in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection. The Caribbean skinks are near extinction (or already extinct) due to introduced predators like mongooses and cats and habitat destruction.

Four of the seven species are found in the Virgin Islands: the Greater St. Croix skink (St. Croix and its satellite Green Cay), The Lesser St. Croix skink (St. Croix), Greater Virgin Islands skink (St. John and St. Thomas) and the Virgin Islands bronze skink (St. Thomas and several of its islets and several British Virgin Islands).

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