St Helena Rosemary


Common name: St Helena Rosemary

Scientific name:Phylicia polifolia

IUCN status: Endangered



Natural History

In 1875 Melliss describes this species growing in cultivation at Fairyland, Plantation, Rosemary Hall, Oaklands, Oakbank and only at one wild site about a dozen bushes growing on top of Lot.

The rosemaries were also recorded by Burchell growing in the rocks of Lot. At another site he records rosemaries growing alongside bastard gumwoods, aloes and gobblegheer in a painting from 1808.

On Lot the rosemaries grow amongst wild mango, scrubwood and Phlebodium aureum. In 1970 Norman Kerr recorded several bushes growing at High Hillcliffs.

At High Hill the rosemaries grow amongst the fir trees Pinus pinaster, gobblegheer, wild coffee, wild carrot, cow grass, bilberry, small bellflower, hair grass and ferns.

The St Helena Rosemary resembles the UK herb from where it takes its name.


The rosemary forms a straggling or upright herb, the leaves are bright green on the upper, and have dense white hairs on the lower sourface giving a silvery appearance to the underside of the leaves. The flowers appear in the month of October and these are small green and inconspicuous. Round green fruit are formed then turning black when mature about the size of a pea containing viable seeds.


TThere are four sites where the rosemaries are growing in the wild. On top of Lot with about 60+ plants, High Hill cliffs and Man’s Head where numbers have not been recorded, and one plant growing on the cliffs between Distant Cottage and Asses Ears.


The rosemary is one of St Helena’s most endangered plants. As part of the WWF funding project the Environmental Conservation Section has identified all sites getting accurate counts. Cuttings and counts for High Hill and Lot have been completed, and Man’s Head still to be visited.

Once rooted, the cuttings are being planted to develop a seed orchard at Scotland. Nine plants are already well established. Seed from the seed orchard will be used to restock the wild populations and reintroduce rosemaries to areas where they have been lost.