Mellissia begonifolia 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Solanales Solanaceae

Scientific Name: Mellissia begonifolia
Species Authority: (Roxb.) Hook.f.
Common Name(s):
English Boxwood
Mellissia begoniifolia (Roxb.) Hook.f. [orth. error]
Physalis begonifolia Roxb. in Beatson

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B2ac(iv); D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2003
Date Assessed: 2003-04-30
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Cairns-Wicks, R.
Reviewer(s): Cronk, Q. & Clubbe, C. (South Atlantic Island Plants Red List Authority)
This taxon is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future. The wild population currently numbers 16. The population size fluctuates year by year dependent largely on the weather but is also impacted by predation. Only one plant found growing can be considered mature, it is from this plant that the majority of seed has been collected to establish plants in cultivation. Up to 60 seedlings have germinated at the site since 2001, forty of which were translocated to the Nursery at Scotland. The seedlings germinated in crevices between the rock boulders across an area of about 10 m².

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Endemic to St Helena, the St Helena Boxwood, Mellissia begonifolia was formerly abundant in the dry south and eastern parts of the Island (Long Range, Stone Tops and Boxwood Hill). Melliss (1875) stated that it was extremely rare, and it was presumed extinct towards the end of the 19th Century. However, in November 1998 a single specimen was found by Stedson Stroud growing between scree boulders on the southern, sea-facing slope of Lot’s Wife about 100 m. above sea level. This site is currently the only known area where Boxwoods grow. The wild population currently numbers 11.
Countries occurrence:
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: A much branched, pungently scented shrub or small tree 1-2 m. All the individuals have been found growing amongst scree boulders below Lot’s Wife.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The population at Lot’s Wife is extremely fragile. It is small in size, with only one mature flowering individual. The plants are prone to heavy attacks of aphids and caterpillars (Penelope worm), although Ladybirds have kept the aphid infestations under control and manual removal of caterpillars reduced their impact.

Mice and rabbits are also present in the area. In the past rabbits have nipped off the tops of plants, which has led to the death of the plant. The prevalence of plant pests could well pose problems in the future.

All the individuals are growing amongst scree boulders below Lot’s Wife. The rocks are loose and prone to movement when traversed. This puts the plants at risk from either all or parts being broken or crushed.

Growing in such a dry environment, the plants are prone to drought.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Four specific objectives for the recovery of M. begonifolia has been laid out in the Draft Recovery Action Plan. These objectives are:

1. To maintain and encourage the growth of Boxwoods at Lot’s Wife
2. To establish three field gene banks, two at White’s Cottage and one at Distant Cottage
3. To determine the life history characteristics and genetic diversity of the Boxwoods as an aid to recovery planning.
4. To maintain ex situ stocks at RBG Kew and Eden Project and establish long-term seed storage at Wakehurst Place Seed Bank.

Citation: Cairns-Wicks, R. 2003. Mellissia begonifolia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2003: e.T44011A10848988. . Downloaded on 30 May 2016.
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