Meryta (Meryta brachypoda)

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Meryta brachypoda
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Meryta fact file

Meryta description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderApiales
FamilyAraliaceae
GenusMeryta (1)

Meryta brachypoda is a Critically Endangered flowering plant found only in French Polynesia and on Henderson Island in the southern Pacific Ocean (1) (3). This simple-structured, lightly-branched plant usually grows as a large shrub or as a small tree, and has a brittle, woody stem with huge, glossy-green, lightly scented leaves (1) (3) (4). The leaves have a slightly crushed appearance, with clearly marked veins, and are borne on short stems (4) (5). Meryta brachypoda produces umbrella-shaped clusters of flowers, each with 5 to 10 overlapping petals, and a small berry-like fruit (5).     

Size
Height: up to 4 m (2)
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Meryta biology

Very little is known about the biology of Meryta brachypoda, but like other members of the Araliaceae family the subtle scent of the leaves and the attractive colouration of the petals likely serve to attract pollinating insects to the ripe flowers. Its fruits are probably dispersed by the wind (2) (4).   

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Meryta range

Meryta brachypoda is only found on the islands of Raivavae, Tubuai and Rapa Iti in French Polynesia and on Henderson Island in the Pitcairn Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean (1) (6).

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Meryta habitat

Meryta brachypoda grows on remote tropical islands (1). On Henderson Island it is found in tall forest, around 1.5 kilometres inland, in areas with the best developed soils (2).  

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Meryta status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Meryta threats

Occupying small, remote islands, Meryta brachypoda is extremely vulnerable to any detrimental activities within its restricted range. On Raivave, the species’ population is in a critical state, while the tiny population on Henderson Island is thought to consist of fewer than six adult plants (1) (6). Like many other floral species on these isolated islands, Meryta brachypoda is highly vulnerable to competition for natural resources with introduced exotic species, and on Tubai the fruit tree Psidium cattleianum is a particularly problematic non-native species. On Henderson Island, natural habitats are threatened by coconut planting and the unsustainable harvesting of certain tree species for timber by neighbouring Pitcairn Islanders (2) (7).

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Meryta conservation

Facing the very real threat of extinction, the survival of Meryta brachypoda may be dependant on the implementation of major conservation measures. The development of ex-situ conservation measures is deemed a priority for this species, while introducing it to new areas of the islands it inhabits is a possibility. Visitors to Henderson Island should also be encouraged to limit coconut planning and measures must be taken to prevent the further introduction of exotic species (2).  

ARKive is supported by OTEP, a joint programme of funding from the UK FCO and DFID which provides support to address priority environmental issues in the Overseas Territories, and Defra
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Find out more

To find our more about conservation on Henderson Island, see:

  • Brooke, M. de L., Hepburn, I. and Trevelyan, R. (2004) Henderson Island World Heritage Site: Management Plan 2004-2009. Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Pitcairn Islands Administration/JNCC, U.K. Available at:
    http://www.ukotcf.org/pdf/henderson.pdf
  • Procter, D. and Fleming, L.V. (1999) Biodiversity: the UK Overseas Territories. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, UK.
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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Ex-situ
Measures to conserve a species that occur outside of the natural range of the species. For example, in zoos or botanical gardens.
Pollination
The transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Waldren, S., Florence, J. and Chepstow-Lusty, A.J. (1995) Rare and endemic plants of the Pitcairn Islands, south-central Pacific Ocean: a conservation appraisal. Biological Conservation, 74: 83-98.
  3. Florence, J., Waldren, S. and Chepstow-Lusty, A.J. (1995) The flora of the Pitcairn Islands: a review. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 56: 79-119.
  4. Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1992) The Families of Flowering Plants: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification and Information Retrival. Version 20th May 2010. Universität Hamburg: Available at:
    http://delta-intkey.com/angio/www/araliace.htm
  5. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (August, 2010)
    http://www.kew.org/science/tropamerica/neotropikey/families/Araliaceae.htm
  6. Oldfield, S., Lusty, C. and MacKinven, A. (1998) The World List of Threatened Trees. World Conservation Press, Cambridge, UK.
  7. Brooke, M. de L., Hepburn, I. and Trevelyan, R. (2004) Henderson Island World Heritage Site: Management Plan 2004-2009. Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Pitcairn Islands Administration/JNCC, U.K. Available at:
    http://www.ukotcf.org/pdf/henderson.pdf
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Image credit

Meryta brachypoda  
Meryta brachypoda

© Jean-François Butaud

Jean-François Butaud
French Polynesia
jfbutaud@hotmail.com

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