Salvia caymanensis (Cayman sage)
For nearly 40 years it was thought that the Cayman sage was extinct, but after the distribution of 'Wanted' posters in 2007 it was rediscovered.
About this species
The Cayman sage is one of 21 plant species that are restricted to the Cayman Islands, one of the UK's Overseas Territories. Until 2007 it was thought to be extinct, as no specimens had been found since 1967. Knowing that it often appeared in disturbed areas, conservationists on the Cayman Islands working on the Darwin Initiative-funded Biodiversity Action Plan, realised that the environmental damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 might have created the ideal conditions for this plant to reappear. They issued 'Wanted' posters of the plant and offered a reward for its rediscovery. Within a few weeks, a motorist waiting at some roadworks spotted the plants with the characteristic blue flowers growing in roadside vegetation.
Geography & Distribution
Cayman sage is endemic to (found only on) the island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean.
Salvia caymanensis is a short-lived perennial that can reach up to one metre in height. It has strongly aromatic grey-green leaves, covered on the undersurface with a felt of tiny white hairs. The flowers, which are less than half a centimetre across, are a vivid sky blue.
Threats & Conservation
Salvia caymanensis occupies disturbed habitats (Image: Colin Clubbe, RBG Kew)
This species vanished from its natural habitat for nearly forty years and is now known only from a few sites. Conservationists think that its population may fluctuate naturally as the disturbed habitats which it occupies appear after storm damage and then disappear under scrub growth. Seeds from the Cayman sage are being stored in the Cayman Islands and in the Millennium Seed Bank. It is now in cultivation at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on Grand Cayman and is being promoted there as a native garden plant.
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.
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: 10 (comprising some 9000 seeds in total).
Germination testing: Seedlings resulting from the MSB's germination tests have been sent to Kew for cultivation trials.
Cayman sage at Kew
There are two groups of Cayman sage on display at Kew: one group is planted during the warmer months in the Salvia Border, running along the wall between the Order Beds and the Rock Garden, and the other in the Islands section of the Temperate House. There are also some plants originating from different seed collections growing in one of the nursery glasshouses. These may represent two different forms of Salvia caymanensis as there are significant differences in leaf size and colour and in flower size.
The vivid blue flowers of Salvia caymanensis (Image: Colin Clubbe, RBG Kew)
This species is being tested in an outside border and a glasshouse at Kew, to find the most suitable cultivation conditions and to assess its hardiness in the UK.
Horticultural staff have noticed that the tiny flowers of this species smell like freshly laid tarmac.
Kew's work on the Cayman Islands
Salvia caymanensis (Image: RBG Kew)
Conservationists from Kew's UK Overseas Territories team have been involved in projects on the Cayman Islands for over five years. As part of the project 'In Ivan's Wake: a Darwin Initiative Biodiversity Action Plan for the Cayman Islands', they provided support for the development of a native plant nursery and orchid shade house at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. They also worked with partners on the islands to map their natural vegetation and assess the threats they face, in particular from invasive plants. A seed-collecting programme was established, with seeds from native species taken into safe storage on the islands and at the Millennium Seed Bank. Kew has also supported the project by publishing The Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands: The Red List by Frederic Burton and the forthcoming second edition of The Flora of the Cayman Islands by George Proctor.
Read more about Kew's involvement in 'In Ivan's Wake: a Darwin Initiative Biodiversity Action Plan for the Cayman Islands'
Partner organisations also involved in this project include:
- Cayman Islands Department of the Environment
- Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter in Cornwall
- Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
- National Trust for the Cayman Islands
- Darwin Initiative project website
- Darwin Initiative project newsletters
- Marine Turtle Research Group project
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
- Callicarpa argentii
- Clerodendrum paniculatum (pagoda flower)
- Gmelina arborea (gamhar)
- Lamium album (white dead-nettle)
- Lamium maculatum (spotted dead-nettle)
- Lavandula dentata (fringed lavender)
- Lavandula minutolii
- Mentha suaveolens (apple mint)
- Ocimum basilicum (basil)
- Ocimum tenuiflorum (holy basil)
- newly discovered
- around the world
- of use
- ground breaking
- english garden
- garden plants
- english heritage
Plants & Fungi blogs from Kew
09 Dec 2013
Sarah Cody explains how gap analysis is helping our partners collect the seed of crop wild relatives (CWR) for a project called 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change', run jointly by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
28 Nov 2013
Orchids have the smallest seeds in the world and they produce millions of them, but why? Kew's seed morphologist Wolfgang Stuppy explains the clever survival plan that lies behind this seemingly wasteful strategy.
13 Nov 2013
Sarah Cody explores the valuable contribution that visiting researchers to the Millennium Seed Bank make to our understanding of seed behaviour, through the experiences of Ceci and Nelson, two visitors from Brazil who are helping us unravel the mysteries of orchid seeds.
25 Jan 2013
He may be a Seed Morphologist but Wolfgang Stuppy of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank discovers there is more to the snake gourd than just some strange fruit and eccentric seeds.