Untitled Document Rare Plants of American Samoa



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American Samoa and its small group of islands were first settled by the Polynesians some 3,000 years ago. In 1722, they were discovered Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutch explorer.

In 1900, it became an unorganized U.S. territory, and in fact, it's today the only U.S. territory located south of the Equator. These rugged islands (fringed by reefs) have narrow coastal plains. All are volcanic in origin.

The native vascular flora of American Samoa, based upon Whistler 1980, 1992b, 1994, 1998, and the present work, is now estimated to be about 343 flowering plants, 135 ferns, and 9 fern allies. Rare native plants have not been well documented.

The angiosperm flora of the Samoan archipelago is about one third as large as that of Fiji, which lies just 1140 km (700 mi) to the west, but it is larger than that of any other tropical Polynesian archipelago or island except Hawai'i, which has more species but fewer genera.

The flora is estimated to comprise about 540 native species of flowering plants (Whistler 1992a), two thirds of them dicots. These are included in about 283 genera in 95 plant families. The level of endemism of the angiosperms is estimated to be about 30% at the species level, but only one genus, Sarcopygme of the Rubiaceae family, is endemic to the archipelago.

In September 2007, Michael Thomas and Art Whistler in conjunction with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation embarked on a project to document the rare plants of American Samoa. 109 plants were documented as a result of the project.

Supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
© 2008. CIEER. Past last updated: April 20, 2008.