Ascension Island Government

Conservation > Explore the Island > Green Mountain

Green Mountain

National Park

Location

Description

Green Mountain National park was designated a park in June 2001. The peak of Green mountain reaches 859m and is the highest point on the island.

Early visitors to Ascension Island at the beginning of the 19th century, described it as exceptionally barren, with very few plants - including the mountain that we know now as Green Mountain. Only a handful of species - mostly ferns, mosses and some grasses, most of them endemic to Ascension - were found on the higher slopes of Green Mountain. It was a far cry from the lush vegetation that now spans across the mountain. The mountain we see today is the result of a huge venture into ecological terraforming.

Charles Darwin visited Ascension in 1836 and admired the 'active industry' on the mountain, where the Royal marines had established a garden to supply vegetables and fruit for the garrison, but lamented that the Island was "destitute of trees". It was Joseph Hooker, close friend of Charles Darwin and later Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, who proposed a plan to increase vegetation on the mountain, following a visit in 1843.

Hooker's strategy involved planting trees to increase rainfall, introducing vegetation on steep slopes to prevent soil erosion and introducing a wide variety of crops. There was a mass planting of organised forests, shrublands and pasture on the island, introducing over 220 exotic plant species from diverse parts of the world. Records show early naval ships carrying seed and seedlings from botanical gardens in Europe, South Africa and Argentina. Kew Gardens in the UK sent over 330 plant specimens to Ascension and continue to be closely involved with the conservation work on Green Mountain today. Ultimately only the fittest of the introduced species survived, leaving us today with an eclectic mix of plants from all over the world. Prior to human settlement, the native ecosystems on Ascension were at a relatively early stage of development and while Green Mountain is an unmistakable success at creating a green oasis, it can also be argued that it was a man-made biological invasion that has degraded a previously pristine island environment.

Most of Ascension's native and endemic plants are now being severely out-competed by those that were introduced; however, the Conservation and Fisheries Directorate is working to find a balance between native and endemic flora, and those that were introduced. Some introduced species can actually be beneficial for native species, such as bamboo, which provides habitat for endemic ferns to grow on.

There is a wide variety of trails that are maintained by the Reserve Warden team. These offer fantastic views of the island and mountain itself. As elevation increases, so does rainfall, and this provides dramatically different scenery. Trails around the Residency, such as Convalescent's,  will meander through eucalyptus trees, while climbing to the peak of Green Mountain will take walkers into a dense, misty bamboo forest. The Conservation and Fisheries Directorate encourage visitors to the park to explore the many paths and historic sites within it, whilst also reminding visitors to respect the park in order that it may be enjoyed by all island residents and visitors.