Amsterdam Island - Flora


Original flora | Present flora | Phylica


Amsterdam Island is the only French subantartic isle with a native tree: the Phylica (Phylica nitida), which can also be found on the isle of Trista de Cunha in the southern Atlantic ocean. The Phylica belongs to the Rhamnacea family ; its leaves are small and narrow and its flowers are honey-like scented yellow inflorescence.

In 1726 Valentyn described an almost impenetrable Phylica forest belting the island on about 27 % of its surface (1500 hectares = about 300 acres) 100 to 250 metres above sea-level. In 1875 it was estimated by Velain that the remaining thick forest covered then only 500 acres (250 ha).

At present the "Grand Bois" (large forest) is the only thick remnant of Phylicas on the eastern coast covering 20 acres (10ha.- 0.2 % of the whole island ). The dramatic decrease in the number of those trees might result from man-made cutting, fires or destruction by the cattle brought in (and left) by Heurtin in 1871. The "Grand Bois" is nowadays a preserved natural area which has been fenced and bordered by cypresses (an introduced species) for protection against cattle. Some isolated trees still subsist outside this area in either protected zones or naccessible to cattle.

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