The Landscape and Ecology Mitigation Programme (LEMP) for the Airport development has re-discovered a population of St Helena’s endemic Tea Plants (Frankenia portulacifolia) in Fisher’s Valley. Some of the specimens in this population are larger than any currently known Tea Plants on the Island, reaching over 1.5m in height.
This handsome Tea Plant population is not mentioned in any of the current literary sources or species records, and no seed is known to have been collected from it before now. The Environmental Management Division’s Conservation Nursery at Scotland believes this population is one which George Benjamin knew of many years ago, but the knowledge was not recorded. It can be said that for the wider conservation community this population has thus been effectively re-discovered.
The St Helena Tea Plant is one of St Helena’s wonderful dry land endemics, with petite white flowers, tiny leaves and delicate branches. The species is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but that status is under re-consideration. Thus, the inclusion of this population in Island records is extremely important.
Tea plant populations are known in the dry coastal areas in both south-west and north-east St Helena.
LEMP Ecologist, Mikko Paajanen, commented:
“The Tea Plant population at Prosperous Bay Plain has naturally been affected by Airport construction activities so it is very positive to see this little known population in Fisher’s Valley doing so well. Seeds collected from six of the plants are already germinating in the LEMP’s Nursery in Half Tree Hollow. Plants produced will be used in the LEMP restoration activities.”
31 March 2015