Kew's cuttings from one of the world's rarest plants have finally produced seed
Kew's scientists have propagated café marron seedlings and sent them back to their native Mauritius.
25 Sep 2009
Carlos Magdalena examining Ramosmania rodriguesii at Kew (Image: RBG Kew)
One can save a species
The café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii) only grows wild on Rodrigues, a remote island in the Indian Ocean. The flowery shrub not seen for 40 years was thought to be extinct. But in 1979 a 12-year-old boy, encouraged by his teacher, noticed an unusual looking plant near his house. A sample sent to Kew 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.
The wild species seed bank in Curepipe was set up by Kew in 2006 with funding from the Darwin Initiative. We have now trained 24 local staff to collect and process 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.'
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