Rondeletia buxifolia (pribby)
In 2006 Kew botanists discovered several populations of pribby using data from specimens rescued from Montserrat’s volcano-damaged herbarium.
About this Species
Until 2006, Rondeletia buxifolia was known only from one book about the vegetation of its home island of Montserrat. Much of the island's vegetation had been destroyed during the volcanic activity of the mid-1990s. During fieldwork on Montserrat, as part of a project funded by the Overseas Territories Environment Programme to assess the vegetation of the Centre Hills region, Kew botanists rediscovered populations of the species. Initially, their information about possible locations for the plant came from herbarium specimens rescued from the Forestry headquarters, which had been inaccessible since the eruptions. Once they had been made aware of the significance of this species and its endemic status, members of the island's Forest Department were able to pinpoint other populations of this endemic.
Geography & Distribution
Rondeletia buxifolia is restricted to the Caribbean island of Montserrat, which is one of the UK Overseas Territories.
Rondeletia buxifolia flower (Image: RBG Kew)
Rondeletia buxifolia is a multi-stemmed shrub up to 3 m in height. Its arching branches bear hairless leaves, which have a narrow base expanding to a broader tip. The petals of the cream, yellowish or orange flowers form a tube that splits into four lobes. It is free-flowering, with flowers appearing throughout the year.
Threats & ConservationMore Information
Rondeletia buxifolia on Montserrat (Image: RBG Kew)
The Caribbean island of Montserrat is rich in plant diversity. The plant life there is threatened by volcanic activity, and a large area of the island's forest was destroyed during the volcanic eruptions of 1995 to 1997. Most of the populations of Rondeletia buxifolia that were newly discovered in 2006 are situated outside the island's only protected forest area. Their habitat is vanishing due to continuing volcanic activity, invasive alien plant species and grazing by goats and other feral animals.
Kew is working with the Montserrat National Trust to establish a new botanic garden for the island, to support plant conservation and for education. Horticultural staff from Kew have assisted with the development of a plant nursery with a shade house and mist propagation unit so that the botanic garden can grow plants for display and propagate native species for conservation activities. The endemic Rondeletia buxifolia is now in cultivation on Montserrat and at Kew. Seeds from the populations of the species found in 2006, and since then, have been taken into safe storage at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB). Bringing the species into cultivation and holding its seed in the MSB are insurance policies for its survival.
The Botanic Garden in Montserrat has planted a demonstration hedge of Rondeletia buxifolia along the garden boundary, to assess its potential as a native hedging plant, for possible use instead of introduced exotic species.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Description of seeds: 1000 seed weight: 0.11g
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: 1
Germination testing: Unsuccessful (60 % germination; germination medium = 1% Agar; germination conditions = 25°, 8/16)
Cultivating Rondeletia buxifolia at Kew (Image: RBG Kew)
At Kew, a cultivation trial of Rondeletia buxifolia has been carried out to identify the most appropriate compost, temperature, humidity and watering regimes for germinating seed and growing seedlings on successfully. This horticultural protocol has been shared with partners on Montserrat so that the number of specimens in cultivation can be increased. It has recently flowered in Kew's nursery glasshouses, the first time its flowers have been seen outside Montserrat.
Partner organisations for this project include:
Find out more about another of Montserrat's unique plants, Epidendrum montserratense (Montserrat orchid).
Read about Nick Johnson's visit to Montserrat to see Rondeletia buxifolia in the Tropical Nursery Blog
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