Almost Extinct

Though gone in the wild, a rare plant lives on at the Missouri Botanical Garden. 

By Catherine Martin and Andrew Wyatt, Missouri Botanical Garden.

Photography by Andrew Wyatt


Where to find them: 

Abutilon pitcairnense just came into bloom for the first time at the Garden in the Oertli Family Hardy Plant Nursery. It is being moved to the Linnean House for public viewing.

Abutilon pitcairnense was thought to be completely extinct until a single specimen was found in the wild in 2003. The plant was propagated and sent to the National Botanic Garden of Ireland and The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Unfortunately, in 2005 the last remaining wild plant died in a landslide, making the plant extinct in the wild. However, the species survives from material held in botanic gardens. The Missouri Botanical Garden received some seed for this species about a year ago.

Name and native habitat: This plant's native home is the remote Island of Pitcairn,  famous for the Mutiny on the HMS Bounty. The Bounty was dispatched by the Royal Navy to introduce Breadfruit from Tahiti to the Caribbean, but did not make it because a mutiny broke out in 1789. The captain and a small contingent of the crew were put in a rowboat, and the mutineers took the ship to Pitcairn and scuttled it. Pitcairn was chosen because of its remote location and not being on the Royal Navy charts at the time. Today, the descendants of the mutineers still live on Pitcairn.