Common name: She Cabbage
Scientific name: Lachanodes arborea
IUCN status: Critically endangered
Before 1977 the she cabbage was considered quite rare (or probably even extinct). In 1997 a group of mature trees were discovered (by George Benjamin) growing in the pasture land at Osbornes surviving within a hedge line of boundary trees, the thorn tree, Erythrina caffra.
In 1993, 89 individuals were recorded to be growing at Osbornes, however, by March 1995 only 56 were recorded. These trees are now growing in an environment very different to that which they would once naturally have grown. The site is surrounded by pasture land and the trees are growing in grass with a number of exotic trees and scrubs, instead of surrounded by other endemics, tree ferns, redwoods and false gumwoods in a moist rich organic soil.
The she cabbage is a fast growing quickly maturity tree species with a slender upright habit. Within ten years it can grow up to a height of 7.5 metres. It has a single unbranched stem up to 2 to 3 metres tall with very large leaves clustered on the top like a cabbage. As the tree ages it will begin to branch.
NUMBER OF SURVIVING POPULATION
The are only two susrviving populations in the wild, Osbornes and Coles Rock. The populations are isolated from each other and surrounded by no-native vegetation: flax and or pasture land.
Since March 1995 the Osbornes population has declined rapidly from 56 trees to 19 trees. The trees, of all ages, are suffering from attack by Lepidopteran (moth) larvae of the Taeniad family which bore into the wood leaving it severely (fatally) damaged. It is not yet vlear whether the moth larvae are the primary or secondary cause of death in the trees. It is possible that the trees are initially attacked by by fungus or bacteria which then provides the opportunity for the moths to lay their eggs in the soft wood. Investigations are continuing into this serious problem.
Only five trees survive at Coles Rock. Recently the area around the trees has been cleared of exotic vegetation and young seedlings raised at Scotland planted beside them.
Cultivated populations can be found growing on the Island. There are five trees at Pounceys, three at the George Benjamin’s Arboretum, five at the Clifford Arboretum, two at Hardings Spring, one at Napoleon’s Tomb, one at Taylors and four at Mount Pleasant.
A seed orchard was established in 1996 below the Environmetal Conservation Nursery at Scotland. Twenty six trees were planted. These trees are representative of the variation that exists in this species having been raised from seed or cuttings from as many inviduals as possible. Eventually it is hoped that healthy seed will be produced from this planting that can be used to restock the wild populations and for reintroducing seedlings to areas where they have been lost, for example the Peaks.
CONSERVATION RECOVERY PROGRAMME
Efforts have been made to save the trees at Osbornes, but as yet these have been unsuccesful. Cuttings have been taken to try and ensure that individuals (genotypes) are conserved. Seed is also collected regularly bu has very low viability.
Efforts continue to identify the cause of tree death and find ways of preventing it.
Seedlings have been planted at Osbornes and Coles Rock, seedlings will also be planted at Mount Pleasant.
The seedlings and cuttings in the seed orchard at Scotland in August 1996 are well established and are already nearly two metres in height.
As young seedlings become viable from the seed orchard, these will be used to re-stock the wild populations and also to establish new ones. New populations will be established in areas where the she cabbages are known to have grown, that is they will be re-introductions. These re-introductions will largely be based within the Diana’s Peak National Park.