Toromiro tree (Sophora toromiro)

loading
Toromiro tree flowers
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Toromiro tree fact file

Toromiro tree description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderFabales
FamilyLeguminosae
GenusSophora (1)

Sophora toromiro is a small tree or shrub that no longer exists in its natural habitat. The bark of this shrub is a reddish brown colour and has vertical fissures (2). The long leaves are made up of small grey-green leaflets, which extend from either side of the leaf stem and are covered on the underside by silky hairs (3). When new, the leaflets are a yellowish to bright green colour and papery in appearance (2). The yellow flowers may be up to 3 centimetres long, there are 10 free stamens per flower and the thin ovary is particularly distinctive being 1.6 centimetres long and densely covered with small white hairs (2).

Size
Height: up to 5 m (2)
Main stem diameter: 10 - 20 cm (2)
Top

Toromiro tree biology

The toromiro tree was already rare by the time European settlers arrived on Easter Island in the 1700s, and very little is known about this tree's natural ecology (4).

Top

Toromiro tree range

Once endemic to Easter Island (Rap Nui) in the South Pacific; possibly the remotest area of inhabited land on the planet (2). The native habitat of the island has been all but destroyed and this tree only persists in cultivation in a handful of botanic gardens and private collections around the world (2).

Top

Toromiro tree habitat

The original habitat of Easter Island is thought to have been low scrub and woodland with palm thicket (4).

Top

Toromiro tree status

Classified as Extinct in the Wild (EW) by the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Extinct in the Wild

Top

Toromiro tree threats

The native flora of Easter Island has been decimated over the centuries ever since the first settlers arrived on this remote island. Forests were cleared for timber and agriculture and by the time the first European explorers arrived on the island there were no large trees to be seen (4). The introduction of livestock in 1866 was a further blow, as sheep, cattle and rabbits stripped the land of its remaining native plants (4). The last recorded specimen of Sophora toromiro was seen growing on the inner slopes of the Rano Kau volcano crater, but this last tree was cut down for firewood in 1960, and another part of Easter Island's floral heritage was lost (4).

Top

Toromiro tree conservation

The toromiro tree persists today only in cultivation. In 1955 - 56 a Norwegian archaeologist and explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, collected seeds from the last remaining Sophora toromiro tree, protected within the volcanic crater on Easter Island (4). It is thought that trees found today in European botanic gardens are all descended from this one specimen (4). Other toromiro trees are known from botanic gardens in Chile and Melbourne and from private collections. The Toromiro Management Group (TMG) is responsible for managing these collections to ensure that this tree is not lost forever. The TMG is a consortium of botanic gardens, geneticists, foresters and archaeologists working together to secure the future of the tree, and ultimately to re-introduce it to Easter Island (5).

Top

Find out more

For more information on the toromiro tree see the Toromiro Management Group:
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/conservation/cpdu/Toromiro/toro_t1.html

Top

Authentication

Authenticated (9/5/03) by Gwilym Lewis, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

Top

Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Leaflets
The individual 'leaf-like' parts of a compound leaf.
Ovary
In plants, known as the gynoecium, the female reproductive organs of a flower.
Stamens
The male reproductive organ of a flower, it is made up of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk). (See http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/pdfs/flower.pdf for a fact sheet on flower structure).
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2003) www.redlist.org
  2. Mackinder, B & Staniforth, M. (1997) Sophora toromiro. Curtis's Botanical Magazine, 14(4): 221 – 226.
  3. Lobin, W. & Barthlott, W. (1988) Sophora toromiro: the lost tree of Easter Island. Bot. Gard. Conserv. News, 1 (3): 32 - 34.
  4. Maunder, M. (1997) Conservation of the extinct toromiro tree. Curtis's Botanical Magazine, 14(4): 226-231.
  5. Toromiro Management Group (January, 2003) http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/conservation/cpdu/Toromiro/toro_t1.html#Introduction
X
Close

Image credit

Toromiro tree flowers  
Toromiro tree flowers

© Wolfgang Stuppy / Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 3AB
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 332 5000
Fax: +44 (0) 208 332 5197
info@kew.org
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Toromiro tree (Sophora toromiro) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS