When Darwin landed on Charles Island on 23rd September 1835 he observed a scrambling vine apparently suffocating the rest of the flora. This rampant plant from the family Cucurbitaceae, the squashes and cucumbers, was “in great beds injurious to vegetation,” clambering over the rest of the plants by means of its numerous tendrils. This pernicious plant was subsequently named by Joseph Hooker as Sicyos villosa, a new species of this widespread Pacific and Australian genus. The specific name refers to its coating of rough, shaggy hairs.
Remarkably, this species was never collected again, nor was it even noted by later visitors to the island and is extinct today. We presume it died out soon after Darwin’s visit. Its demise may have been due to the “wild pigs and goats which abound” on the island.
The herbarium sheet is the only record of this extinct species.
Location : Cambridge Herbarium