The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are situated in the eastern Caribbean some 96 km east of Puerto Rico. BVI consist of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke, along with over fifty other smaller islands and cays. Guana Island, BVI The two largest islands, Tortola and Virgin Gorda, are volcanic in origin, comprising steep-sided hills arising from the sea. Anegada, in contrast, is a flat coral limestone island, no higher than 8 m above sea level. The British Virgin Islands enjoy a tropical climate, moderated by trade winds. Rainfall averages around 1150mm (45 in) per year, with higher amounts in the hills and lower amounts on the coast.

Botanically, the BVI are part of the Puerto Rican Bank Floristic Province which also includes the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Dry scrub vegetation on Anegada, BV In the past, much of the islands' vegetation was cleared to make way for sugar cane farming. Dry forest, once the predominant vegetation on islands of the Puerto Rican Bank, still occurs in patches on the volcanic islands of BVI. Mesic forest species grow at higher altitudes on Tortola, where there is enough rainfall. Some stretches of coast are still protected with mangrove swamp. Anegada's dunes and limestone areas are covered with a mix of dry scrub, usually dominated by cacti and dry thicket vegetation.

Based on the Smithsonian Institute's Catalogue of Seed Plants of The West Indies, there are roughly 940 species (including non-native) recorded from Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Anegada is the most botanically studied island in BVI having recently had a species list and candidate Red-list produced as part of a Biodiversity Action Plan in 2006. 332 different types of plants have been recorded on Anegada. Of these 288 (87%) are considered native to Anegada and 44 (13%) are non-native. A total of 11 (4%) of Anegada's plants are Puerto Rican Bank endemics, the important ones being Cordia rupicola (Anegada & P. Rico only), Leptocereus quadricostatus (Anegada & P. Rico only) and Malpighia woodburyana (Puerto Rican Bank only). There are three Anegada endemics: Acacia anegadensis (poke-me-boy), Metastelma anegadense (wire wist) and Senna polyphylla var. neglecta. BVI are also home to ten Caribbean endemic genera; Dendropemon (2spp.), Leptocereus (1sp.), Margaritopsis (1sp.), Pachyanthus (1sp.), Pictetia (1sp.), Poitea (1sp.), Psychilis (2spp.), Scolosanthus (1sp.), Tetramicra (3spp.) and Tolumnia (2spp.).

Field data collection on Anegada, BVI

In the 2006 Anegada Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), 'future loss of habitat and invasive species' are considered the major threats to BVI's indigenous flora. As hotel and resort developments increase in number, BVI plant species and their habitats are disappearing. Of the 44 introduced species, the following three species are of highest concern: Scaevola taccada (a beach shrub originally from the Indo-Pacific and introduced as a landscaping plant), Casuarina equisetifolia (originally from Australia and introduced as a shade tree) and Cryptostegia madagascariensis (originally from Madagascar and introduced as an ornamental).

Kew's conservation staff have been involved in two major projects in the BVI, both funded by the UK Government's Darwin Initiative and both in partnership with the BVI National Parks Trust (BVINPT) as well as other local and international organisations. The first project documented the plants and animals of Gorda Peak National Park on Virgin Gorda and of a proposed protected wetland area on Anegada. The second project assessed the coastal biodiversity of Anegada. Both projects have helped to develop specialist skills in biodiversity monitoring and conservation management for staff from partner organisations within BVI.

BVI as a whole are under-studied, especially the uninhabited islands. Preliminary botanical studies have been undertaken in Gorda Peak National Park (GPNP) where 9 known Red List taxa were assessed to ascertain the level of threat of extinction and a full species list and candidate Red-list have been compiled as part of a BAP conducted in 2006.

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National Parks Trust - BVI
Kew's UK Overseas Territories team collaborates with the BVI National Parks Trust on plant conservation activities.

Progress in implementing the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Targets

  • Target 1
  • Species checklist complete for some individual islands and protected areas; full BVI checklist in progress
  • Target 2
  • 8 BVI species listed as globally threatened; Anegada red list complete; full BVI red list in progress
  • Target 3
  • Horticulture protocol complete for BVI endemic Acacia anegadensis
  • Target 4
  • Co-ordinated internationally
  • Target 5
  • Several candidate Important Plant Areas (IPA) identified
  • Target 6
  • Production land well defined but not always respected
  • Target 7
  • Comprehensive Parks and Protected Areas Systems Plan published and approved by BVI Government in 2007
  • Target 8
  • Acacia anegadensis in long-term storage in the Millennium Seed Bank and in cultivation at the J.R. O'Neal Botanic Garden on Tortola and and RBG Kew.
  • Target 9
  • No current activity
  • Target 10
  • Key invasive species identified for some islands
  • Target 11
  • No plant species in international trade
  • Target 12
  • No plant-based products produced
  • Target 13
  • Indigenous usage of plants and plant parts on the island for souvenirs and other objects
  • Target 14
  • Production of several awareness raising materials including a series of conservation posters (Acacia anegadensis, Metastelma anegadense and Scaevola taccada), highlighting key endemic and invasive species
  • Target 15
  • Completion of six training workshops in botanical identification; inventory, monitoring and data analysis techniques, recovery planning and botanic garden management. Attendees were drawn from all BVI Departments involved at any level with biodiversity. Provision of training for and starting a seed collecting programme.
  • Target 16
  • BVI National Parks Trust developed strong international partnerships with RBG Kew, RSPB and The Marine Turtle Research Group

    Please use the links below to see further details on conservation activities in the UK Overseas Territories


    Ascension Island


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    Pitcairn Islands

    South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

    Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus

    St. Helena

    Tristan da Cunha

    Turks and Caicos Islands

    Homepage of the UKOTs Online Herbarium

    Site published by
    UK Overseas Territories Science Team, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
    Please cite as
    UKOTs Online Herbarium (2011). Published on the internet at (date accessed).
    For further information
    Please contact Kew UKOTs Team

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