BLACK CABBAGE TREE
Common name: Black Cabbage Tree
Scientific name: Melanodendron integrifolium
IUCN status: Rare
Black Cabbage Tree once grew in great abundance amongst the Tree Fern thicket (Dicksonia arborescens) of the island’s central ridge. It grew alongside other common species such as: the Olive (Nesiota elliptica) and Dogwood (Nesohedyotis arborea) and spanned the ridges from the depot to Green Hill, at altitudes between 700 metres and 820 metres above sea level.
The Black Cabbage Tree has considerably declined in numbers since 1502. This has been due the clearance of natural vegetation of the central ridges for flax plantations and pasture and through the invasion of alien plant species, in particular flax.
Seedlings of the Black Cabbage tree can often be seen germinating on the trunks of the Tree Fern. The ferns fall over as the Cabbage Tree grows to heavy for them to support, thereafter both Tree Fern and Cabbage Tree continue to grow. Thus the Tree Fern plays an important role in the regeneration of the Cabbage Trees.
The Black Cabbage Tree is a large spreading tree. Its rough bark is permanently moist and darkened by the presence of mosses and lichens. The smooth dark green leaves are thick and fleshy and crowded towards thhe end of the branches, a little like cabbages. The daisy-like flowers are borne in clusters on the ends of the branches, surrounded by the leaves. The blossoms appear in the months of October and November. Each flower head is about 12mm in diameter. The seeds germinate well on the Tree fern Ferns in the moist habitat of the Peaks.
NUMBER OF SURVIVING POPULATIONS
The most common of all cabbage trees, Black Cabbages can be found scattered across Diana’s Peak National Park where there are approximately 800 trees. Fewer numbers can be found at High Peak and only one or two grow at the Depot.
CONSERVATION RECOVERY PROGRAMMES
There is an on-going programme of clearance of invasive exotic plants from the Peaks both to encourage natural regeneration and restock populations with nursery raised seedlings.
Seed is collected from many different trees across the population ranage. It is then brought to the Endemic nursery at Scotland where it is raised before being used to restock the natural populations which have been cleared of exotic weeds.
Cuttings have also been collected which will be used for a seed orchard at High peak. This will not only allow easy access to the trees but will mean that seed for replanting programmes can be taken without putting pressure on the natural populations. Long term storgae of seed does not appear possible because the seeds onlu remain viable for a short period of time.