Thank you again to Krystyna Szulecka for contributing a photograph to Botany Photo of the Day (originally posted in this thread on the UBC BG Forums). More of Krystyna’s images can be seen by searching for “Krystyna” on the FLPA web site.
St. Helena ebony is endemic to the island of St. Helena, located in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The introduction of goats to the island devastated the flora and fauna, catapulting a number of species to eventual extinction, including Nesiota elliptica and Acalypha rubrinervis. Trochetiopsis ebenus, believed to have been the dominant tree species in lower elevations of the island, was thought to have been extinct by 1850. However, 2 individuals were rediscovered growing along a steep cliff in 1980 by Quentin Cronk (yes, that Quentin Cronk) and George Benjamin. Comparison of propagations of these living plants with herbarium specimens revealed that this species was lacking a scientific name (because of a case of mistaken identity with another species now extinct), and so it was formally described and published by Cronk in 1995, nearly 500 years after first being encountered by humans. Needless to say, with only two wild individuals (though the plant is now being reintroduced), the species is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.
Krystyna’s photograph illustrates an interesting phenomenon associated with this species, secondary pollen presentation. The pollen-producing anthers split open while the flower is still in bud. This has the effect of depositing some pollen on the top edges of the petals. Pollinators visiting the flower are nearly certain to brush against the petal-borne pollen and thereby increase cross-pollination.
To read more on Trochetiopsis ebenus, visit The Trochetiopsis Page. A research article about the plant was also published, but it unfortunately requires a fee or institutional access: see Brodie S, Cheek M and M Staniforth. 1998. Plate 334. Trochetiopsis ebenus. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 15:1, 27-36.