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Trochetiopsis ebenus - St. Helena ebony

The remote island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic is more known as the place Napoleon was exiled to, but it made botanical history when a plant thought to be extinct was rediscovered there in 1980.  The beautiful St. Helena Ebony - Trochetiopsis ebenus - was found clinging to a steep cliff; its population had dwindled to just 2 plants.  It was given endangered species status and saved from extinction.  It was cross-bred with another plant from the island, St. Helena Redwood - Trochetiopsis erythroxylon - which unfortunately has gone extinct in the wild.  The resulting hybrid, shown here, is called Trochetiopsis x benjamini.  This charming Hibiscus relative blooms throughout the year, with silky white petals that unfurl to reveal red & yellow stamens.  The plant comes from a mild climate and is untested in warm conditions.  It is very rare, and might not be available elsewhere online.

Trochetiopsis ebenus - St. Helena ebony

It is a well-shaped bush, growing to about 4 or 5 feet tall.  It has attractive leaves with a bronze underside that has a soft, fuzzy texture.  The plant flowers all throughout the year here in San Francisco, with the heaviest show in summer and autumn.  Each 3 inch blossom stays open for about a week, and then turns pink before dropping.  The St. Helena Redwood went extinct on the island after goats were brought to it, but its genetics live on in this hybrid.

Trochetiopsis ebenus - St. Helena ebony

The flowers turn pink!

It comes from a mild climate that rarely gets above 85 F (29C).  It hasn't been tried in hot climates, but it's possible it might not thrive if temperatures consistently get above 85 degrees, particularly if nights are warm (over 65F / 18C).  It tolerates winter temperatures in the 30s (2C), but i don't know if it can survive more than a light frost.  I recommend protecting it from frost.  It grows great in a pot in a typical well-draining soil mix.  It likes mostly sunny conditions, but some afternoon shade might be needed in warmer climates.  It looks the best when the soil is kept evenly moist.  In the right conditions, it is an easy plant.

Trochetiopsis ebenus - St. Helena ebony

 

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Germinating the seeds

 

 

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