Palo de Ramón

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Palo de Ramón

Banara vanderbiltii

Status Endangered
Listed January 14, 1987
Family Flacourtiaceae (Flacourtia)
Description Tall evergreen shrub with hairy, alternate leaves.
Habitat Semievergreen coastal forests.
Threats Deforestation, restricted range, low numbers.
Range Puerto Rico

Description

Palo de Ramón, Banara vanderbiltii, is an evergreen shrub or small tree that in rare cases can grow up to 33 ft (10 m) tall and attain a trunk diameter of as much as 4.5 in (12 cm). The leaves are arranged alternately in a single plane, have toothed margins, and are covered with a dense down above and below. Although it is known to produce bisexual flowers, the deep red to purple, multiseeded berry of this species has only recently been discovered by biologists, and its reproductive biology is still largely unknown. Flowering occurs in May with fruit appearing from August through September. Seed dispersal occurs in September.

Habitat

Palo de Ramón is restricted to mixed evergreen and deciduous forests of the karst region in northern Puerto Rico. These are old-growth forests that support a distinct community of plants and wildlife. This shrub is adapted to the rugged terrain and moist soils of the region.

Distribution

This plant is endemic to northern Puerto Rico. It was discovered by A. A. Heller in 1899 and named in honor of Cornelius Vanderbilt, financier of Heller's Puerto Rican expedition. Heller collected specimens at Cataño and Martin Pena, near San Juan, but plants have not been found there since that time. A second population, known from the 1950s, was destroyed when the habitat was cleared for agriculture. For more than a decade, the species was thought to be extinct until another population was discovered. When Palo de Ramón was listed as endangered in 1987, the species was represented by a single group of plants situated in a remnant tract of forest in the limestone hills west of Bayamon. Two mature trees and four saplings, the only known surviving plants, were found growing within an area of less than 175 sq ft (16 sq m).

Threats

Deforestation has eliminated almost all of Palo de Ramón's native habitat. The urban environs of San Juan have spread into the surrounding hills, permanently displacing the forest type required by the species. The surviving plants are located near a major highway that has attracted housing and commercial enterprises. Large tracts of forest in the vicinity were long ago cleared for agriculture, and yam cultivation remains a threat to further conversion of the habitat. Further clearing of this area would lead to the species' demise.

Conservation and Recovery

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has focused its recovery efforts on locating new populations and will conduct surveys throughout the region. Because the shrub's reproductive biology is not well-understood, growing it in a greenhouse is problematical. An effort will be made to cultivate the plant, but botanists' options are limited because so few plants survive. Unless additional plants can be located to expand the gene pool, the prognosis for Palo de Ramón in the wild is not favorable.

Contacts

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
http://southeast.fws.gov/

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Boquerón Ecological Services Field Office
P. O. Box 491
Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622-0491
Telephone: (787) 851-7297
Fax: (787) 851-7440

References

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. "Determination of Endangered Status for Two Puerto Rican Plants: Peperomia wheeleri and Banara vanderbiltii. Federal Register 52 (9): 1459-1462.

Vivaldi, J. L., and R. O. Woodbury. 1981. "Status Report on Banara vanderbiltii Urban." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mayaguez, P.R.

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Palo de Ramón

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