Oldenlandia adscensionis


 
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Ascension Island Oldenlandia
(Oldenlandia adscensionis)

 
syn. Hedyotis adscensionis, Sherardia fruticosa

 
distribution:

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

 
local name: -

 
size: (?)

extinction date: last seen in 1889

 
Ascension Island is an very isolated volcanic island with an total land area of about 91 kmē, located in the South Atlantic Ocean, almost midway between Africa and the horn of South America.

The island has always been barren and harboured only a scanty vegetation consisting mostly of ferns and several species of grass. Because the lower parts of the island have a rather arid climate this native vegetation was concentrated majorly on the island's highest point, the 859 m high Green Mountain also known as The Peak.

Native trees did never exist on the island, this could be doubtlessly proved by pollen analyses. The Ascension Island Oldenlandia is the only plant, native to the island, that could at least be called a shrub.

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In the diary of a castaway (actually this men was intentionally set out on the island to die there), which struggled to survive on Ascension Island in the year 1725, can be read:

13 June 1725 - I went to look out for Wood, but found non but little Weeds somewhat like Birch; brought it to my Tent, and boiled some of it for Dinner.

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The last record of this plant is a herbarium specimen that was collected in the year 1889 by a naval surgeon named H. Gordon, and which is now kept in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew / Great Britain.

This species may have died out because it could not sustain the competition of the many plant species that were introduced to the island after its occupation by the British Royal Navy in the year 1815.

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The species was described as Sherardia fruticosa in 1753, later redefined and renamed into Hedyotis adscensionis, and is now included in the Genus Oldenlandia as Oldenlandia adscensionis.

 
left:

Ascension Island Oldenlandia (Oldenlandia adscensionis)


photo: by courtesy of Ph. D. Arne A. Anderberg

Swedish Museum of Natural History
http://www.nrm.se
 
left:

scaled up version


photo: by courtesy of Ph. D. Arne A. Anderberg

Swedish Museum of Natural History
http://www.nrm.se

 
References:

- Eric Duffey: The Terrestrial Ecology of Ascension Island. The Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Nov., 1964), 219-251
- Alex Ritsema: A Dutch Castaway on Ascension Island in 1725. Lulu.com (July 3, 2006)