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  Issue No. 2302 Online Edition Saturday 6 February 2016 
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Ascension : New Stamp Issue – Release 28/08/08 - Botanists & Plants
Submitted by The Islander (Ascension Island Government) 28.08.2008 (Article Archived on 11.09.2008)

The earliest visitors to Ascension during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries found very few plants growing on the island.


The reasons for the scant vegetation were mainly two-fold.  Firstly, in geological terms, this is a fairly young volcanic island.  Little could survive in such a barren terrain with its tumbled lava flows, ash and clinker-strewn plains, and craggy basalt peaks, without water and beneath a fierce sun. Secondly, any process of natural colonisation by wave-borne or airborne seeds from other islands or landmasses was slowed down considerably by the island’s remoteness.  However, reports from those intrepid travellers who did venture on to the island from time to time regularly recorded the presence of five plants.  Of these five, two are now extinct, the third, an endemic spurge, is flourishing, and the remaining two are now considered indigenous species. Subsequent observations added to the list of endemics a further four ferns and one grass.


Today the colourful profusion of flowering plants and trees which now cover much of Ascension is the result of introductions from around the world.  This process began in the early 19th century when the island became inhabited for the first time and continued throughout the 20th century.  The first priority was to bring in plants such as shade trees, food plants and crops, with ground cover shrubs to provide organic matter to enrich the soil.  Other plants, including weeds, crept in accidentally, and still other species proved to be rather less useful than anticipated, rapidly becoming invasive. Later came the ornamental species and garden plants.


The ornamentals depicted on the stamps are all examples of introduced species to the island.  The botanists featured on the stamps were all eminent and learned figures of their time.  As a measure of respect their fellow scholars would often accord them the honour of naming a new genus of plants after them.


35p - Valerius Cordus was a German apothecary whose detailed botanical studies advanced pharmacology in the early 16th century.  It was not unusual for young men trained in medicine and in the medicinal use of plants to undertake more specific botanical studies too.  He wrote one of the very first systematic herbals or pharmacopoeias before his untimely death from malaria in 1544.  The genus Cordia (BORAGINACEAE) commemorates his name.  Cordia sebestena is known as the Geiger Tree or Anaconda.


40p - Born in Warwickshire Nehemiah Grew practiced medicine in London where he became famous for his work on plant anatomy.  As Secretary of the Royal Society in 1677 he gained access to the Society’s microscope, which enabled him to further his research and to produce extraordinarily detailed drawings of his findings. The genus Grewia (TILIACEAE), which commemorates his name, is native to tropical Africa, Asia and Australia.  The common names for Grewia occidentalis are Starflower and Four Corners.


50p - The French botanist, Charles Plumier, after whom the genus Plumeria (APOCYNACEAE) was named, was born in Marseilles.  He became a Franciscan monk, devoting himself to the study of natural sciences, to mathematics and to painting.  Louis XIV appointed Plumier Royal Botanist in 1693.  The results of his various botanical expeditions were recorded in his many manuscripts containing species’ descriptions and beautiful illustrations.  Plumeria rubra is perhaps more familiar to people as Frangipani or Pagoda or Temple Tree.


£2 - Carl Peter Thunberg was born in Sweden and went on to study medicine at Uppsala University, where he also became a pupil of Linnaeus.  His expeditions to collect plants took him to the Dutch colonies, to Japan and to Sri Lanka.  Some eight years later he returned to his hometown where he became Professor for medicine and natural philosophy at his old university. The genus of tropical plants, Thunbergia (ACANTHACEAE), is named after him.  Thunbergia grandiflora is known as Bengal Clockvine or Bengal Trumpet.


First Day Cover (£3.75) - Charles Francis Greville was a founder member in 1804 of what was to become the Royal Horticultural Society. Although not a botanist (his main interests lay in natural history) he was passionate about gardening, and successfully grew many exotic plants in his London garden. The genus Grevillea (PROTEACEAE), which contains species of trees and shrubs native to Australia, was named in his honour.  The common name for Grevillea robusta is Silky Oak.


Technical Details

Designer                                               Andrew Robinson

Printer                                                   BDT International

Process                                                 Stochastic lithography

Stamps                                                 35p, 40p, 50p, £2

Stamp Size                                          28.45 x 42.58mm

Sheet Format                                       10 (no gutter)

Perforation                                          14 per 2cms

Release Date                                       28 August 2008

Production Co-ordination              Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd


We acknowledge with thanks the assistance of Wendy Fairhurst, wife of Geoff Fairhurst who was Administrator on Ascension Island from 1999 to 2002 in the preparation of this set as well as for writing this press release. Her book Flowering Plants of Ascension Island South Atlantic Ocean was printed in 2004.  It contains colour photographs and text for 200 species found on the island.


These beautifully designed stamps and official first day cover will be on sale at the Post Office for a period of fifteen months provided stocks last.  Overseas customers may view and purchase them by visiting our website or enquiries may be made to the Philatelic Bureau, Ascension Post Office, Georgetown, Ascension Island, ASCN 1ZZ or Telephone + (247) 6260 Fax + (247) 6583


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