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Papaya, Soursop, Guava, Allspice: Trees of Little Caribbean Opens at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The new exhibition celebrates the plants and history of the Caribbean and Brooklyn’s Little Caribbean.
Shelley Worrell of I Am caribBEING and Meera Jagroop and Chelsea Forgenie of Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

A new exhibition has opened at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrating of the trees cherished by Caribbean people. Trees of Little Caribbean is on view in its Steinhardt Conservatory from Feb. 20–Dec. 17, 2023. The new showcase was created in partnership with I AM caribBEING.

“I AM caribBEING is honored and deeply humbled to center Caribpolitan communities, small businesses, and culturally iconic places in Flatbush, East Flatbush, Prospect Park South and Prospect Lefferts Gardens alongside Brooklyn Botanic Garden," said Shelley Worrell, cofounder of I AM caribBEING. 

"Over the next year, Trees of Little Caribbean will educate visitors on West Indian culinary and wellness practices, both of which are integral to Caribbean life back home and across the Diaspora.” 

The exhibition highlights 25 trees and plants and ties them to markets, restaurants and recipes that connect to culture, food and traditions in Brooklyn’s Little Caribbean. Visitors can learn about native Caribbean trees like papaya, guava, soursop and allspice, and nonnative plants brought from across the globe under colonialism.

Co-curators Meera Jagroop and Chelsea Forgenie approached the exhibition by considering the history of Caribbean plants as tightly woven into legacies of violent exploitation and European colonization. 

Simultaneously, the plants are entwined with stories of rebellion, resilience, spirituality and joy. These plants have become staples in Caribbean food and are celebrated and delicious.

People might think plants are removed from politics, “But they come with a lot of history,” Forgenie said. “They come with living — with all the things involved in living.”

The opening of the Trees of Little Caribbean celebration was Monday, Feb. 20.  Local chef Isra Gordon of Mint Porch Café led a tasting of foods from the Caribbean. This free drop-in program is part of the Garden's February Break Discovery Days programming for families with children of all ages. 

Trees of Little Caribbean and its related programs are free with Garden admission. Learn more about Trees of Little Caribbean.