UK Overseas Territories Programme

Botanists traversing elfin woodland

Montserrat: Kew Connections

Historical connections

In 1890, the Assistant Director of the Royal Gardens Kew, Daniel Morris, undertook a botanical mission to the West Indies. His report included a description of the vegetation on Montserrat and of the botanical station near Plymouth and made a number of suggestions relating to crop plants for the island. William Robson (1882-1923), a Kew gardener who became curator of the botanical station in 1905, played an active role in developing a strain of cotton suitable for the island's soil and climate conditions. He also collected plant specimens for Kew's herbarium.

Activities in territory

Kew belongs to a consortium of project partners from Montserrat, the USA and the UK working to enable the people of Montserrat to conserve the Centre Hills. The project is assessing the biodiversity of the Centre Hills which hold the island’s largest area of intact forest. This will be coupled with a survey of the value of forest resources, including water catchment, protection from soil erosion and as a tourist attraction, in devising a management plan to conserve the area.

Before this project began, little was known about the botany of the Centre Hills. Kew's UKOT's team and colleagues from Montserrat have undertaken a field programme within the Hills to collect plant specimens for a reference collection and to carry out vegetation surveys. Kew is mapping the island's vegetation and producing a conservation checklist of the plants of the Centre Hills.

Find out more about this project:
Enabling the People of Montserrat to Conserve the Centre Hills

A new project will develop species action plans to manage the conservation of the island's endemic plants, Epidendrum montserratense and Rondeletia buxifolia.

Pressing specimens

Collecting data necessary to map vegetation

Horticultural activities

Constructing a shade house at the botanic garden

Monitoring growth of Rondeletia buxifolia seedlings

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.

At Kew, a germination trial of Rondeletia buxifolia seed is underway to identify the most appropriate compost and temperature conditions for growing this plant in cultivation.

Find out more about these activities:
Developing Ex Situ Conservation Collections of UKOTs Species In-Territory and at Kew

Seed collecting

A member of the seed collecting team from the Millennium Seed Bank worked with the Darwin Project Forest Officers and staff from Montserrat's Department of Agriculture to collect seed from several plant species, including two that are endemic to the island.

Collecting seed for safe storage

Raising public awareness

Posters featuring Montserrant's endemic plants and invasive species that threaten the island's native vegetation have been developed for display at the botanic garden and other public buildings.

Capacity building

Kew is active in building capacity for conservation within the UK Overseas Territories. Two Montserratians have taken part in Kew’s training programme, attending two of the Darwin Initiative funded courses on the Cultivation and Conservation of Threatened Plant Species.

Find out more about the International Diploma Courses

In May 2006, together with staff from the Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity, Kew's UKOTs team organised a Caribbean Regional Workshop on the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) on Montserrat. Fifteen participants from across the Caribbean region came together to raise awareness of the GSPC, to share their experiences and to identify methods of implementing the GSPC at national and regional levels. Key themes arising from the workshop were sustainable development and the loss of habitats and key ecosystem services resulting from development pressure.

Specimen under the spotlight: Rondeletia buxifolia

During a recent expedition to Montserrat, two of Kew’s conservation team were able to visit the island’s herbarium. No-one had been into the building since the major volcanic eruptions nearly 10 years previously. Although everything inside was covered with ash, the team were thrilled to find that some of the herbarium specimens were more or less undamaged. As they sorted through the piles of pressed plants, they discovered mounted specimens of one of the island’s endemic species, Rondeletia buxifolia. Information with the specimen provided a rough collecting locality. Following up these details, the team managed to track down a population of this species and collected material for herbarium specimens. Subsequently, seeds were collected for storage in the Millennium Seed Bank. The plant has also been brought into cultivation from seeds and cuttings and cultivation trials are underway.

Rondeletia buxifolia - endemic to Montserrat

Herbarium specimen of Rondeletia buxifolia

Find out more about Kew's activities and partner organisations in Montserrat:

Montserrat National Trust

Project: Darwin Initiative Project 'Enabling the People of Montserrat to Conserve the Centre Hills'

Montserrat Centre Hills Project

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and Environment

With funding from the Darwin Initiative

Project: Montserrat Botanic Garden

With funding from Overseas Territories Environment Protection Fund (OTEP) administered by FCO and DFID

Project: Caribbean Regional Workshop on the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
Convention on Biological Diversity

With funding from Defra

Project: Strengthening capacity for Species Action Planning in Montserrat

With funding from OTEP