The Hollick’s Birch or “Grey Bark Birch” is one of Jamaica’s rarest endemic trees in the family Burseraceae (Frankincense and Myrrh). Andreas Oberli and local students from Jamaica recently set out to survey the last remaining populations of the species. Their surveys, undertaken on Portland Ridge on the south coast, led to the discovery of eleven trees – in a forest where it had not been seen before. This brings the total known population in Jamaica and world-wide to twenty!
It is one of the most outstanding and striking trees in Jamaica’s tropical dry forest, by its big size and silver-grey, smooth bark on long, often curving branchless trunks. It is larger than the other three native Bursera species, the common red birch (B. simaruba), the black birch (B. lunanii) and the siboney (B. aromatica) (the latter two are also Jamaican endemics).
At 25 to 30 meters, it is one of the tallest trees in this forest, together with the equally very rare West Indian mahogany and the silk cotton tree. Some of the remaining dry forests have been relatively well conserved by being leased by hunting clubs, and the growing collaboration between hunters and scientists should provide future protection of these unique and beautiful ecosystems and their plants and animals.