Commidendrum robustum   ((Roxb.) DC.)


 
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Saint Helena Gumwood
(Commidendrum robustum ssp. gummiferum ((Roxb.) Cronk))

 
syn. Aster gummiferus (J. N. Fitch)

 
distribution:

British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha: Saint Helena

 
local name: -

 
size: ca. 7 - 8 m (height)

extinction date: (?)

 
The genus Commidendron consists of only four species, all of which are restricted to the island of Saint Helena.

The Saint Helena Gumwood (Commidendrum robustum) is Saint Helena's national tree and probably was once by far the most abudant tree on the island.

The ssp. gummiferus however is extinct today, but there remains a population of hybrides at Peak Dale, in the island's southwestern centre, in which this subspecies is at least genetically contained. The time of its extinction seems to be unknown.

... but of course the reasons ...

T. Cavendish in his report about the island (The Prosperous Voyage of M. Thomas Candish esquire into the South Sea, and so around about the circumference of the whole earth, begun in the yere 1586, and finished 1588.) wrotes:


There are in this yland thousands of goates, which the Spaniards call Cabritos, which are very wilde: you shall see one or two hundred of them together, and sometimes you may beholde them going in a flocke almost a mile long. Some of them, (whether it be the nature of the breed of them, or of the country I wot not), are as big as an asse, with a maine like an horse and a beard hanging downe to the very ground: they will clime up the cliffes which are so steepe that a man would thinke it a thing unpossible for any living thing to goe there. We tooke and killed many of them for all their swiftnes: for there be thousands of them upon the mountaines.

Those trees, that escaped the goats appetite, were later cut down for fire wood.

 
left:

Saint Helena Gumwood (Commidendrum robustum ssp. gummiferum)


Depiction from 'John Charles Meliss: St. Helena: A Physical, Historical, and Topographical Description of the Island, including its Geology, Fauna, Flora, and Meteorology. London: L. Reeve & Co., 1875'

(This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.)

 
References:

- Q. C. B. Cronk: The decline of the St Helena gumwood Commidendrum robustum. Biological Conservation Vol. 35(2): 173-186. 1986