ⓘ Daphnopsis hellerana

                                     

ⓘ Daphnopsis hellerana

Daphnopsis hellerana is a rare species of flowering plant in the genus Daphnopsis of the family Thymelaeaceae. It is endemic to Puerto Rico, where there were only four populations remaining in 1992, with a total of 125 individuals. It was federally listed as an endangered species of the United States in 1988.

This is a shrub or evergreen tree, which is restricted to limestone substrates on the island of Puerto Rico. It grows in moist forest habitats among almacigo Bursera simaruba, Clusia Rosea flower with pink, Holywood, Guaiacum Sanctum, pigeonplum Coccoloba diversifolia and other plants.

This shrub or tree grows up to 6 meters in maximum height. The leaves have oval blades up to 13 cm in length and 6 in width. New leaves are Golden brown. Mature leaves are green and hairless on the upper surface, drying to reddish-brown. The plant is dioecious with male and female flowers occurring on separate plants. Male plants have small, hairy, tubular flowers under a centimeter. Female plants bear small, hairy, bell-shaped flowers half an inch long. Flowering occurs from February to April. The fruit is a white berry up to two inches in length, and contains one seed. Plants in two of the population is inferior to many seedlings, but two several other sites, suggesting that the sex ratio may be skewed towards one gender or the other.

The plant was first discovered in 1900 but not recorded until 1958. Three of the four populations in Toa Baja, and a fourth in Isabela. Its probably always been quite rare, but the remaining plants face threats. Deforestation has limited the amount of the remaining habitat for this and other endemics, such as Cornutia ate. Forests were cleared for agriculture, including pastures and Yam farms, and trees used for construction timber and charcoal. Extraction of limestone in the mountains where the plants occur is threatening the ecosystem.