Ten Extremely Rare Seeds on the Brink of Extinction

The Millennium Seed Bank has set out to collect 25 percent of the world’s plant species by 2020—before it is too late

(Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

St. Helena Boxwood

St. Helena boxwood (Mellissia begoniifolia)
(Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

Name: St. Helena boxwood (Mellissia begoniifolia)
Status: In the late 1990s, after a century or more of thinking it extinct, conservationists located a few surviving Mellissia begoniifolia on St. Helena, a 50-square-mile island in the South Atlantic. The IUCN listed the species critically endangered in 2003, and by 2010, only one shrub clung to life. That lone survivor has since died, and so the species is considered extinct in the wild. Efforts are being made to cultivate new plants from seeds and reintroduce them to the island.
Threats: Aphids and caterpillars often infest the plants, and mice, rabbits and goats nibble on them. The boxwoods grow between boulders along the coast and often suffer from drought. The rocks can also shift, crushing the plants.

Learn more about St. Helena boxwoods at the Encyclopedia of Life.


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