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Berula bracteata 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Apiales Umbelliferae

Scientific Name: Berula bracteata
Species Authority: (Roxb.) Spalik & S.R.Downie
Common Name(s):
English Jellico, Large Jellico
Angelica bracteata Roxb.
Sium bracteatum (Roxb.) Cronk
Sium helenianum Hook.
Taxonomic Notes: Very close to Berula burchellii, which was formerly considered by some Botanists to be a dwarf variant of B. bracteata, but growth habit and fruit clearly distinguish the two species (Cronk 2000). Cronk (2000) also remarks that the two Berula (Sium) species kept their distinctive characteristics when grown side by side from seed in the Temperate House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Hybridization is suspected but not confirmed and further study is needed.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable D2 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-06-09
Assessor(s): Lambdon, P.W. & Ellick, S.
Reviewer(s): Maxted, N. & Clubbe, C.P.
Contributor(s): Cairns-Wicks, R.
Past records of Jellico (Berula bracteata) are insufficiently detailed to evaluate changes in the distribution, so there is not adequate evidence to demonstrate or infer a population decline. However, it qualifies as Vulnerable under criterion D2, on the basis that the area of occupancy is less than 20 km2, there are few (arguably only two to three) locations and there is a plausible future threat from encroachment by invasive species, damage by rats and (with less certainty) climatic changes.
Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2003 – Vulnerable (VU)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Jellico is endemic to the island of St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean, where it occupies upland areas along the Central Ridge.

The extent of occurrence (EOO), based on the area of a minimum convex polygon around known localities, is 3.61 km2. The area of occupancy (AOO), based on a 2 km × 2 km grid, is 16 km2. Following IUCN Red List Guidelines, the EOO is therefore increased to 16 km2 to match the AOO.

This large umbellifer typically forms extensive stands, but it remains a very localized species and most of the population is confined to four focal areas. Three of these are found along Diana’s Peak Ridge, occupying cloud forest remnants above 700 m: A cluster is centred around gullies on the steep slopes at the northern end of the ridge (Taylor’s, Wells’ and Byron’s Valleys, and above Wrangham’s); a second cluster occurs on the south-eastern slopes (Banana Gut, Legg Gut, upper Warren’s Valley to High Ridge and around the base of Cuckold’s Point); and the third cluster is centred towards the southern end of the Ridge around Wash House, with a notable large expanse in a hollow below the cliffs. It is perhaps inappropriate to consider these as separate subpopulations as they all lie within a distance of less than 2 km and there are some individuals between the main concentrations. The fourth major focal area at High Peak is more distinct, occurring on slopes at the foot of the cliffs (630 – 700 m altitude). In addition to the above, small outlying patches are found at lower altitudes (down to 430 m) in Grape Vine Gut and at Deep Valley Waterfall, and cultivated plants have been established at Mt Pleasant. The combined area of all patches is less than 5.7 ha.

Countries occurrence:
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (Saint Helena (main island))
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:16Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:16
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:2-4Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):700
Upper elevation limit (metres):820
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Assessing the population size is difficult because the species forms continuous stands in which it is very difficult to separate individual plants. Many ‘crowns’ are multi-stemmed, but the number produced can vary considerably. A census conducted in 2014 estimated the stem count across the entire range was close to 10,000 (central value: 9,961, with approximate 95% confidence limits of 8,874 – 11,945). If it is assumed that the average number of stems per plant is between 4 and 8, this would equate to 1,200 – 2,500 individuals.

The most important of the focal areas was at Wash House, which comprised 50.0% of the population. A further 14.7% occurred in the south-western part of Diana’s Peak Ridge and 11.4% in the northern cluster. High Peak accounted for 23.2%.

Since most patches occur on the reasonably wild and inaccessible steep slopes of the Central Ridge, the localities have been poorly documented in the past and there is little evidence to assess how the distribution has changed. Most 19th Century records were focused on the Diana’s Peak area. Cronk (2000) suggested that the High Peak subpopulation stemmed from recent introductions, probably dating to the 1980 – 90s. It is likely that there was at least a small natural presence here before this because J.C. Melliss collected a herbarium specimen from High Peak in the 1860s, but numbers may well have been supplemented since then, and the area has perhaps expanded considerably. However, at least some colonies elsewhere are likely to have contracted as a result of competition with invasive species.

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1200-2500Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-4Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Jellico is a tall perennial herb which attains heights of 3 m, but despite its conspicuous appearance, little is known of its ecology. The stems are fast-growing and root easily. As a result, it has been cultivated freely in recent decades and re-established by conservation workers in a number of small patches across the slopes of the Diana’s Peak area. However, these efforts have somewhat obscured the natural distribution and the true habitat preferences are now unclear. The species seems well adapted to wetland areas, particularly on damp ground in valley beds and occasionally also occurs in shallow, slow-flowing water. On open slopes in mist-prone areas it can form monoclonal patches of considerable size, and small numbers are occasionally found in cloud forest amongst tree ferns and cabbage trees. There is less certainty over the origins of these latter areas.

Plants usually flower freely, generally in winter, and set abundant seed which has high fertility. Due to the large size and the spread of the lax, sprawling stems,  the patches are able to cover the ground effectively and appear reasonably resistant to invasion by non-native weeds. It is not yet clear how these large patches develop: seedlings are somewhat scarce around the perimeter of the patches, yet the plants are not known to spread via creeping rhizomes. It is possible that rooting of fallen stems may contribute to the spread. If so, the surviving population could be derived from very few clonal individuals, resulting in little genetic diversity.

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Jellico is not currently exploited as a resource, although during the 19th Century it was harvested as a culinary vegetable similar to celery, and sold in Jamestown (Melliss 1875).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

One of the major threats facing St Helena’s cloud forest arises from the widespread encroachment of invasive non-native weeds through areas of native habitat. Jellico is a robust species which is clearly better able to compete with tall, vigorous incomers than many of St Helena’s endemic plant species. However, it is unlikely to displace invaders from areas they already occupy, and as the seed has no specialized dispersal mechanism it is likely to be slower to colonize new gaps than species such as Whiteweed (Austroeupatorium inulifolium (Kunth) R.M.King & H.Rob.), New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.), Blackberry (Rubus pinnatus Willd.) and Bilberry Tree (Solanum mauritianum Scop.). As a consequence, there is a risk of gradual, long-term decline, especially since some of the existing strongholds are prone to land slides which could periodically damage the existing vegetation cover. Damp areas may also be colonized by pasture grasses which dry the soil and remove germination niches.

Since the most vigorous colonies are associated with damp ground, there is also a concern that their ability to compete with invasives will decline if there is a sustained reduction in water flows in the Peaks. There are currently no data to evaluate this and no climate change predictions have yet been developed for St Helena. However, some residents believe that catchment volumes have decreased, perhaps as a result of the loss of cloud forest and the associated reduction in water retention capacity. Many of the gullies of the Central Ridge that may once have provided suitable habitat are now densely choked with non-native vegetation.

A more immediate threat stems from herbivory by rats (Rattus rattus and R. norvegicus). These introduced species are now abundant pests throughout the Peaks area, and may eat the stems of Jellico. Outbreaks are sporadic but may cause substantial local damage. The problem is usually suppressed by baiting programmes initiated by conservation workers, and once the offending group of herbivores have been destroyed it may be some time before the behaviour is learned again.

A final possible threat is posed by hybridization with the closely-related Small Jellico (Berula burchellii (Hook.f.) Spalik & S.R.Downie). A large monocultural patch of plants at High Peak exhibits intermediate characteristics between the two species, and similar phenotypes have been reported in the north of the Diana’s Peak range, on the slopes above Wrangham’s (Cairns-Wicks 2003). The identity of these plants has not been confirmed, but it is likely that they are of hybrid origin. If so, it is not clear how much of a threat is posed. Cronk (2000) reported that the species seemed to have little cross-fertility in cultivation, and thus it may be very rare for spontaneous hybridization to develop. However, the intermediate genotype is clearly able to reproduce and may become more of a concern should it spread more widely. Further back-crosses could dilute the integrity of either parent species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

St Helena is currently in the process of developing a Protected Areas Network. Most of the Jellico population is already protected within the Central Peaks National Park, and the tiny Deep Valley cluster is also due to be included within the Deep Valley Nature Reserve. National Conservation Area development plans are expected to be in place in 2016. The species will also be protected under the new Environmental Protection Ordinance, presently in the final stages of drafting and expected to be issued in 2016.

St Helena Government currently employs a 'Habitats Team' who operate within the Diana’s Peak management area to control invasive species and implement forest restoration objectives. Jellico has been cultivated and included in reintroduction schemes in this area since the 1980s. However, its use has declined somewhat in recent years, partially due to a shift of focus towards the more threatened Small Jellico, and perhaps partly due to a lack of consensus over when and where it should be used appropriately. The species promises to be an excellent option for restoring upland streams, maintaining healthy flow rates and excluding more less desirable non-natives. A renewed focus based on this highly degraded yet important habitat would be highly beneficial.

In addition, attempts to understand the genetics and possible hybridization issues between the two endemic Berula species should be an important part of upland habitat management objectives.

Citation: Lambdon, P.W. & Ellick, S. 2016. Berula bracteata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T43985A67378473. . Downloaded on 24 July 2016.
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