Common name: Old father live forever

Scientific name: Pelargonium cotyledonis

IUCN status: Vulnerable




This plant was given the name of “old father live forever” by St Helenians because of its ability to stay aliva for months without either soil or water.

It is a relation of the garden geranium which is easy to recognize by its white floers.

The old father live forever occurs naturally in the dry outer parts of the island. Other endemic species with which it is associated are the tea plant, plantain, salad plant, scrubwood and the indigenous hair grass.


The old father live forever grows in the most inaccessible places often where little or no other vegetation grows. This plant has thick chocolate brown stems and is sometimes difficult to distinguish from the rock upon which it grows. The white flowers firts appear when the stems are still leafless about May and June, after the summer rains.

The leaves are light green, rounded and thick, sometimes hairy underneath. The leaves die away so that for much of the year they resemble a knotted mass of old fir tree roots.

Old father live forever produces pointed fruit and small seeds that disperse with the wind.


There are a number of patches growing on the rocky cliffs at South West point, Distant Cottage, Asses Ears, Frightus, Gregory’s Battery and Turk’s Cap.


The old father live forever is regenrating naturally in small scattered populations and since the removal of goats on the Crown wastes, numbers appear to be recovering.

The Environmental Conservation Section monitors the numbers and regeneration of the different populations as part of the rare plant surveys. Regular monitoring of the populations as an early warning of any threats to the populations so that appropriate action can be taken. Occasionally seed and cuttings are collected.