St. Helena Olive

(nesiota elliptica)

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Little is known about the natural ecology of the St Helena olive, but the flowering time was reported to be June to October. It is thought that pollination occured through the endemic fly Loveridgeana beattiei, and that fruits take a year to mature. The tree is 99 percent self-incompatible, and so could not set seed with itself or closely related individuals


In 2002, the St Helena olive had been lost from the wild and persisted only precariously, as one cultivated individual, but since then this individual has died, making this species totally extinct . This olive was a relatively low and spreading tree with numerous branches and dark brown to black bark. The dark green leaves were oblong in shape with curved tips; they had a pale underside with flat-lying hairs. The fruits were hard, woody capsules measuring one to two centimetres long, they split when mature revealing the triangular, shiny black seeds inside.


Formerly found on the highest points of the eastern central ridge.


Endemic to the remote island of St Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean, this species became very rare in the 19th Century. It was then believed to be extinct until a single tree was found in 1977; with the death of this specimen in 1994, however, the species was lost from the wild. Despite tenacious attempts to cultivate cuttings from this plant, success was limited and in 2004 the St Helena olive went extinct.


The remote island of St Helena was once home to a stunning array of endemic flora and fauna, which have developed there in isolation. Humans have exploited the island's resources for over 450 years, destroying much of the native vegetation through deforestation for timber and agriculture, and the grazing of introduced goats. The self-incompatibility presented serious problems for a tree confined to such a small area as the population size has been limited throughout history.