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Vegetation and Flora of the Pitcairn Islands

The Pitcairn Islands are a remote group of four islands, roughly half way across the southern Pacific Ocean between Australia and Chile, on the tropic of Capricorn. The raised atoll of Henderson has many endemic plants and animals. Unlike many other raised atolls, Henderson has not been exploited for rock phosphate, and despite a period of Polynesian colonisation, it has very few non-native plants. These factors, together with its many endemic plants and animals, mean that the island is virtually unique and hence irreplaceable- hence its status as a World Heritage Site.

Abutilon pitcairnense Abutilon pitcairnese, endemic to Pitcairn Island (SC Pacific), where a single wild individual was found in 2002. Subsequently killed by a landslide, cuttings were fortunately taken of this plant, and one of these is shown flowering in the College Botanic Garden. The progeny resulting from selfing these plants show some genetic variation, which forms the basis of on-going recovery actions

However, Pitcairn Island is perhaps better known, being the island colonised by the Bounty mutineers. There are two uninhabited atolls, Oeno and Ducie, and the four islands are administered as British Overseas Territories. The Department's involvement in the flora of the Pitcairn Group began when Steve Waldren spent three months in the Pitcairn group in 1991, based mostly on the uninhabited Henderson, but some time was also spent on Oeno and Pitcairn. A subsequent visit 1997 concentrated more on Pitcairn, with a brief visit to Henderson, and focused on mapping the flora and vegetation communities, defining threats to native species and drawing up conservation priorities. This has formed the basis for some conservation actions, including on-going work on species recovery and control of the invasive non-native Syzygium jambos. Recent work, in collaboration with BEC Consultants Ltd., centres around the development of an Environmental Management Plan for the Pitcairn group.

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Last updated 5 March 2013 botany@tcd.ie.