Your mission – Go find them on Green Mountain – I found three, maybe four.
Ascension Island’s unique flora is under threat from invasive introduced species (both plant and animal) and loss of habitat, with only small areas of undisturbed vegetation remaining, principally in the highland elevations of Green Mountain National Park. Several hundred plant species have been introduced to the island many of which are invasive including the Mexican thorn. I have written a separate review on land animals on Ascension (most introduced) and their impact on the native flora.
Approximately twenty-five species of plant are thought to be native to Ascension, ten of which are considered to have been endemic (unique). Of the ten endemic plants seven survive – two flowering plants and five ferns. The remaining seven are all approaching extinction and conservation plans are in place to save them. In fact, it was thought that there were only six species left until the Ascension parsley fern was rediscovered in 2009 on an unstable rock face and under threat from an invasive fern. Spore-bearing fronds collected from this fern were sent to Kew Gardens in London which has managed to germinate and cultivate them. Although still vulnerable in its re-discovered habitat, this species has been successfully secured ex situ – in London.
The local Conservation Department is supported by, and works closely with, Kew Gardens. DNA samples from each endemic species are now at Kew for future genetic analysis. Seeds from the two plants have been banked in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank and spores from the ferns have been cultivated there.
The pictures attached are of endemic plants I found on Green Mountain and in particular on the Elliot’s Pass walk. I am pretty sure I have correctly identified these ones – if not please let me know. I think I saw another one too but have not posted it as I am unsure. I am not a botanist and sometimes with these things one sees what one wants to see.
Samples of most of the endemic plants (and a few other non endemic native species) can be seen in a small garden bed at the Red Lion car-park where most of the Green Mountain walks start. This is, in addition to an nearby greenhouse and other specific conservation areas, maintained by the Conservation Department to preserve these plants.
For those botanically inclined my pictures, in the order presented, depict:-
Brief botanical details of each of the endemic plants excluding the Anogramma ascensionis, Ascension Island parsley fern (rediscovered post leaflet production) can be found in a leaflet downloadable via the link below
Address: Green Mountain
Directions: Your best chance of finding endemic plants is along Elliot’s Pass Walk