New Cactus Found in Virgin Gorda
- December 20th, 2011
- in Yachting
A new cactus species has been identified for the BVI.
A columnar cactus, known scientifically as Stenocereus fimbriatus, has been recorded for the first time in the British Virgin Islands. Although larger and more imposing, it is similar in appearance to the more commonly found cactus known scientifically as Pilosocereus royenii. However, the newly discovered plant is much rarer and is considered to be extremely threatened in the BVI due to destruction of its habitat.
The new and rare cactus S. fimbriatus in the foreground and the common
P. royenii in the background. Note that the latter is grayish blue.
The BVI population of Stenocereus fimbriatus was discovered along the mangrove trail that runs from Bitter End to Biras Creek. It is known to be endemic to the Greater Antilles (i.e., Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico) and has also been recorded on nearby St John, USVI, where it is considered to be quite rare.
The discovery of this rare cactus is one of many exciting research findings of scientists Kevel Lindsay and Jean-Pierre Bacle of Island Resources Foundation (IRF). Kevel and Jean-Pierre are members of an environmental study team currently preparing an Environmental Profile for Virgin Gorda. The Virgin Gorda Profile is part of a larger environmental profile programme under the leadership of IRF, which includes the Jost Van Dyke Environmental Profile prepared in 2009 and current studies to prepare profiles for Virgin Gorda and Anegada by the end of 2012.
Biodiversity researchers from Island Resources Foundation: Jean-Pierre Bacle (l) and Kevel Lindsay. The two carried out research in Virgin Gorda to assess the flora and fauna of the island as part of the Foundation’s Environmental Profile Programme for the British Virgin Islands.
In addition to the identification of a new cactus species for the BVI, Lindsay and Bacle also discovered other rare plant species including a rare shrub (Nashia cf. inaguensis), locally used as a medicinal plant. It is another first record for the BVI. Other rare and endangered BVI plant species were observed, including a rare Virgin Islands Endemic shrub, Croton fishlockii, and the Machaonia woodburyana, a shrub or small tree endemic to St John and Virgin Gorda.
The IRF team also investigated wildlife on and around Virgin Gorda. With the help of members of the Virgin Gorda community, they were able to locate a bat cave in the area of Spanish Town, and recorded the first species of Antillean Cave Bat (Brachyphylla cavernarum) for Virgin Gorda. The Jamaican Fruit Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis) and the Velvety Free-tailed Bat (Molossus molossus) were also identified at other sites across the island. The team also observed the very rare endemic Virgin Gorda Blind Snake, Typhlops catapontus.
In all, over 20 species of birds and over 100 plants were observed on Virgin Gorda during the October field studies by the IRF research team.