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Saving café marron - one of the world's rarest plants

Café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii) only grows wild on Rodrigues, a remote island in the Indian Ocean. This flowery shrub, not seen for 40 years, was thought to be extinct and is now growing at Kew Gardens.

Plant hunting on Rodrigues island - Nabiihah (left) collecting from a wild palm

 

 

Café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii) is a flowery shrub that until recently, was thought to be extinct.

In 1979 a 12-year-old boy, encouraged by his teacher, noticed an unusual looking plant near his house. He sent a sample to Kew and our scientists confirmed he had rediscovered the long-lost café marron!

Cuttings of the café marron sent to Kew became known as ‘the living dead’ when, for 20 years, no matter what we tried, no seeds were produced. Finally we got a berry to ripen, containing seeds of new individuals. At last, we were able to send healthy plants back to their island home.

Working together to save café marron

The wild species seed bank in Curepipe was set up by Kew in 2006 with funding from the Darwin Initiative.

Kew has trained 24 local staff to collect and process café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii) seeds. As well as giving a chance of survival to the 357 local plant species considered particularly at risk, this is also a good grounding for future conservation projects on the island.

Pushpa Seepaul says “After my training at Kew, I have been training my colleagues at the Mauritian seed bank. We have to choose seeds carefully from many plants at just the right time to get a good sample without damaging the plants themselves.”

See this special survivor growing in the Palm House or The Princess of Wales Conservatory.

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