ST HELENA TEA PLANT
Common name: St Helena Tea Plant
Scientific name: Frankenia Portulacaefolia
IUCN status: Vulnerable
There is very little known about the St Helena Tea Plant, although it was recorded by Melliss in 1875 as abundant in Sandy Bay Barn and near Asses Ears, it was also abundant on the southern and eastern sides of the island growing on the dry rocky ground, and a few stray plants were recorded on the eastern side of High Knoll.
There are no records of this plant ever been used as a substitute for tea, possibly its name derived from its small leaves when dry resembling the appearance of dried tea.
This is a small leaved, crooked wiry stemmed plant that is brittle with branching stems. It grows to a height of 1-1.5m. The wood is hard when dried and of mahogany colour. It has minute round leaves that turns brown when they age and fall to the ground looking like dried tea leaves (hence the local name). The small white flowers often cover the bush and give rise to minute seeds. The seeds are not so free germinating particular in the drier parts of the island presumably because of habitat loss or the mice eating the seed pods.
NUMBER OF SURVIVING POPULATIONS
There are only small populations growing in the wild which are found on The Barn, Gregory’s Battery, Turks Cap and Prosperous Bay. However, healthy populations along the cliffs of Man and Horse and Old Joan Point are supported by hair grass and scrubwoods. A group of bushes are also foud at Old Father Point only a few metres from the sea.
CONSERVATION RECOVERY PROGRAMMES
St Helena Tea Plant like the other drylan species are regenerating naturally on their own.
The small size of these isolated populations poses a threat to their future survival particularly beacause regeneration in some places are very low.
The Environmental Conservation Section continues to monitor all populations as part of the rare plants survey. Seed will be collected when available for storage in case there is a need to restock these populations.