Listing: Endangered, IUCN Red List
The Plant’s Story
The isolated archipelago of Socotra lies in the Indian Ocean about 200 miles southeast of mainland Yemen. There are four islands in the group, Socotra, by far the largest, Abd al Kuri, Samha, and Darsa, surrounded by coral reefs profuse in marine diversity. Its tropical flora is one of the richest and best preserved in the world, with over 850 flowering plant species, of which some 300 are found nowhere else. At low altitudes its strange, otherworldly landscape is dominated by stem succulents along with dense woodlands. At higher altitudes, micro-niches among its jagged peaks support species such as Begonia, thriving in crevices, sustained by moisture from monsoon mists. In 2008 the archipelago was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and about 75% of its lands are in national parks and sanctuaries under protection of the Yemeni Conservation and Development Authority. Begonia samhaensis is found only in the northwest part of Samha’s high plateau, on sheltered vertical limestone cliffs above 2,000’ in elevation. Known from only 3 locations, its total population is estimated at fewer than 1000 plants.
The Artist’s Story: Lizzie Sanders
I first became interested in plants from Socotra some 10 years ago. I was taking classes at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and as a result met Dr. Tony Miller and his assistant Mark Hughes, who at that time were involved in a conservation program for the sustainable development of Socotra. The Paintings I made at that time included Begonia socotrana and the newly described Begonia samhaensis. My painting, the first ever of this plant, is now in the RBGE collection. Fast forward to 2008 and Losing Paradise? I had first thought of painting an endangered Scottish plant, but these proved elusive and generally inaccessible. Talking to botanists at RBGE, where I am now teaching, the flora of Socotra was suggested. Begonia samhaensis is one of RBGE’s ‘star’ introductions and together with the other flora of Socotra is under considerable threat.
More of the plant’s story and the artist’s story can be found in the exhibit catalog, available at the exhibition venues or online from the ASBA.