Ascension : Conservation Weekly
Submitted by The Islander (Conservation Office) 07.01.2010 (Article Archived on 21.01.2010)
The last weeks leading to Christmas have been very busy in the Conservation Department, particularly work involving the endemic plants project. One of the main priorities has been to finish the Island-wide endemic plant census before the end of the year.
Ascension Island Conservation Department
Endemic Plants Project
The last weeks leading to Christmas have been very busy in the Conservation Department, particularly work involving the endemic plants project. One of the main priorities has been to finish the Island-wide endemic plant census before the end of the year. Going through apparently impassable thickets of bamboo and shrubs is one of the main obstacles – and all the time one must be on the lookout for very tiny plants. With a final push of a few long and hard days, this job is now finally finished.
Other work we set out to do included the separation of plants of the Ascension spurge (Euphorbia origanoides) that are currently being cultivated into two different locations. This was necessary as one collection represents a now-extinct population that used to grow in Comfortless Cove. The plants from this location have a different appearance from those still found in the wild. We do not want them to hybridise with spurge collected from elsewhere, in order that they retain their genetic distinctiveness.
Apart from pests, competition from invasive species and genetic drift, one of many threats that this Critically Endangered (www.iucnredlist.org) species faces is hybridisation with other species of spurge. Plants believed to be hybrids of Ascension spurge have been found in a few places, but so far it has been unclear what the other parent of these plants is. The most reliable way to find out the parentage is genetic testing. In order to do this, we had to find one of the potential parents, the tiny Euphorbia serpens. After some search we did manage to locate this elusive species. The DNA is now collected from it, ready for a paternity (or maternity) test!
The time spent looking for the weedy spurge was certainly not wasted, as two new locations of a rare native, possibly even endemic Adder's Tongue Fern (Ophioglossum species) were found as well.
In our two nurseries the next generation of ferns is finally starting to grow. At this point they are at a state called gametophyte, and do not look at all like ferns, rather more like moss. Nevertheless, it is great to see the plants growing, and sooner or later they will become mature plants, ready for a move out.
The critically endangered endemic Euphorbia origanoides
Thanks to volunteers
We would like to thank Helen Wilkinson, the Chipp family and Elizabeth Penrose for all their hard work and valuable and contribution to the Conservation activities they have been involved in. Our very best wishes to you all from the Conservation team.
Volunteers welcome. Please contact Olivia Renshaw or Natasha Williams. Ascension Island Conservation Department. Georgetown. Tel: 6359.