She Cabbage

2013 Sep St Helena 055 She Cabbage tree cropThe She Cabbage (Lachanodes arborea in the “daisy” family) is one of the island’s critically endangered and most beautiful endemics with its bright purple leaf veins, shoots and petioles which attach the leaf to the stem. The flowers are small and hang in clusters. The trees lifespan is a very short period of around 20yrs due to the fact that it is a fast growing tree adapted to grow into light gaps in forest. A remnant wild population was found by Mr George Benjamin at Osborne’s, north of Sandy Bay Ridge in 1977.

The Osborne's site

The Osborne’s site

Due to the vulnerability of the She Cabbage a project “cleverly” named The She Cabbage Project was funded by Flora and Fauna International, Flagship Species Fund (FFI/FSF) from January 2012 up to June 2013. One of the main objectives of this project was to prevent the loss of the last remaining fragment of the original wild She Cabbage community. The project supported the re-fencing of the area and intensive planting of seedling She Cabbage trees and their associated species e.g. Lobelia, Gumwood.

Many of the planted She Cabbages and Gumwoods had to be staked against the wind, which was the cause of many problems such as root rock and snapping of the plants. A windbreak was then constructed in order to provide protection as well as the planting of many Gumwoods, which are more durable in windy conditions than the She Cabbage. The Gumwoods will hopefully become the main source of wind protection and also provide dense canopy to shade out the Kikuyu Grass, therefore making conditions much more favourable for the She Cabbage. Kikuyu Grass from the adjacent pastures grows exceptionally fast and smothers the plants causing them to grow at deformed angles. Ferns would have been the best option to shade out the Kikuyu grass; however they posed the problem that they take a long time to grow to a size where they are ready to be planted out. Weeding and removal of other invasive species which were encroaching upon the area was also carried out – namely Bilberry, Arum Lilies, Blue weed and White weed. Most of this was done by hand due to the fragile conditions of the site as it was not advisable to always resort to using pesticides.

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The last wild She Cabbage Trees (small trees in foreground)

The second objective was to develop a technique for translocation of She Cabbage Tree invertebrate communities to new sites without damaging the source populations. During the first stages of the project it was suggested we plant containerised host She Cabbages next to the Older existing She Cabbages with the hope that the invertebrates on the old trees would migrate onto the host She Cabbages. This was later abandoned due to the fact that most of the invertebrates were weevils which fed on dead wood which would not be available on such young trees give the duration of the project. In response to this when a dead part of one of the old trees was broken off by strong winds it was then translocated to Mount Pleasant and Napoleon’s tomb where there are older planted She Cabbages that have dead wood present upon them. Any further wood from the dead trees will be translocated again to the two sites mentioned in the hope that the invertebrate species can be saved.

The original She Cabbages found by George Benjamin at Osborne’s have now sadly all died, mainly due to old age. The site will still be maintained for the surviving planted She Cabbages and other endemics which were planted there.

The last wild trees have died, but we have planted out a lot of their progeny in different places

The last wild trees have died, but we have planted out a lot of their progeny in different places

Much of the maintenance and work carried out upon this site could not have been done without the support of both Cairns-Wicks and Thorpe families, as this site is situated on the boundary line of the two properties. Staff at Scotland, EMD and at the National Trust are also owed a huge thanks for taking on such a task.

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