The unique plants of the Turks and Caicos Islands
By: Sara Barrios - 26/11/2010
Find out more about plants that can only be found in the beautiful Caribbean UK Overseas Territory (UKOT) of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
As part of a three week field trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), Martin, Marcella, Tom and I, together with local partners from the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources in TCI, had the opportunity to visit the island of East Caicos.
East Caicos is situated in the Caicos bank between Middle and South Caicos. Most of the island was converted into a sisal plantation, but has been uninhabited since the beginning of the 20th century. Access to the island can only be made by sea, so we had to pack all our field equipment in waterproof bags before jumping out of Mr. Arthur’s boat and walking to reach dry land.
Landing on East Caicos island (Image: RBG Kew)
The effort was well compensated! Cutting through the abandoned donkey railway line, we found three of the endemic plants of TCI, which had never been recorded on the island of East Caicos. Limonium bahamense, Spermacoce capillaris, and Stenandrium carolinae are three of the plants that can only be found in TCI and nowhere else on earth.
Collecting and pressing Limonium bahamense (Image: RBG Kew)
These plants grow in very specific places. Limonium bahamense is locally known as island heather and is the national flower of TCI. This species is found growing in the often barren salt flats of TCI. Spermacoce capillaris appears in between the limestone, also with poor availability of water and exposed to high temperatures. And the small Stenandrium carolinae, grows on the edges of ridges, in between rocks that catch some soil.
Spermacoce capillaris and Stenandrium carolinae (Image: RBG Kew)
The plant specimens and seeds collected in East Caicos have now arrived at Kew. Now it’s time to confirm their names, using our herbarium collection as a reference. Soon, the plants will be glued onto archive quality paper. Then we will add barcodes and the specimens will be scanned before being incorporated into Kew’s herbarium collection and made available to everyone through the UK Overseas Territories Online Herbarium.
- Sara -
UKOTs bloggers (left to right): Sara Bárrios, Pat Griggs, Colin Clubbe, Marcella Corcoran, Tom Heller, Martin Hamilton.
Using modern plant specimens collected in the field and historic specimens held in Kew’s Herbarium, together with detailed habitat descriptions and other field information, we are documenting the plant diversity of the UKOTs. We are making this information accessible via the UKOTs Online Herbarium. This resource, together with the field research, enables us to undertake conservation assessments, produce Red Lists of threatened species, and rank potentially invasive species – all of which underpin the development of management plans to protect the UKOTs’ plant heritage.
The UKOTs bloggers are:
- Colin Clubbe (Head of UKOTs and Conservation Training)
- Martin Hamilton (UKOTs Programme Co-ordinator)
- Marcella Corcoran (UKOTs Programme Officer – Horticultural Liaison)
- Sara Bárrios (UKOTs Programme Officer – GSPC Targets 1&2 OTEP Project)
- Pat Griggs (UKOTs Public Engagement Officer)
- Tom Heller (UKOTs Millennium Seed Bank Officer)
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