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  1. Family: Lamiaceae Martinov
    1. Genus: Salvia L.
      1. Salvia caymanensis Millsp. & Uline

        The Cayman sage is one of 21 plant species that are restricted to the Cayman Islands, one of the UK's Overseas Territories.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Until 2007 the Salvia caymanensis was thought to be extinct, as no specimens had been found since 1967. Knowing that it often appeared in disturbed areas, conservationists on the Cayman Islands working on the Darwin Initiative-funded Biodiversity Action Plan, realised that the environmental damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 might have created the ideal conditions for this plant to reappear. They issued 'Wanted' posters of the plant and offered a reward for its rediscovery. Within a few weeks, a motorist waiting at some roadworks spotted the plants with the characteristic blue flowers growing in roadside vegetation.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Cayman sage is endemic to (found only on) the island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean.


    Salvia caymanensis is a short-lived perennial that can reach up to one metre in height. It has strongly aromatic grey-green leaves, covered on the undersurface with a felt of tiny white hairs. The flowers, which are less than half a centimetre across, are a vivid sky blue.

    Threats and conservation

    This species vanished from its natural habitat for nearly 40 years and is now known only from a few sites. Conservationists think that its population may fluctuate naturally as the disturbed habitats which it occupies appear after storm damage and then disappear under scrub growth.

    Seeds from the Cayman sage are being stored in the Cayman Islands and in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank. It is now in cultivation at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on Grand Cayman and is being promoted there as a native garden plant.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: 10 (comprising some 9,000 seeds in total).

    Germination testing: Seedlings resulting from the MSB's germination tests have been sent to Kew for cultivation trials.

    Cayman sage at Kew

    There are two groups of Cayman sage on display at Kew, one group is planted during the warmer months in the Salvia Border, running along the wall between the Plant Family Beds and the Rock Garden, and the other in the Islands section of the Temperate House.

    There are also some plants originating from different seed collections growing in one of the nursery glasshouses. These may represent two different forms of Salvia caymanensis as there are significant differences in leaf size and colour and in flower size.


    This species is being tested in an outside border and a glasshouse at Kew, to find the most suitable cultivation conditions and to assess its hardiness in the UK.

    Horticultural staff have noticed that the tiny flowers of this species smell like freshly laid tarmac.

    Kew's work on the Cayman Islands

    Conservationists from Kew's UK Overseas Territories team have been involved in projects on the Cayman Islands for over five years.

    As part of the project 'In Ivan's Wake: a Darwin Initiative Biodiversity Action Plan for the Cayman Islands', they provided support for the development of a native plant nursery and orchid shade house at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

    They also worked with partners on the islands to map their natural vegetation and assess the threats they face, in particular from invasive plants. 

    A seed-collecting programme was established, with seeds from native species taken into safe storage on the islands and at the Millennium Seed Bank.

    Kew has also supported the project by publishing The Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands: The Red List by Frederic Burton and the forthcoming second edition of The Flora of the Cayman Islands by George Proctor.

    Partner organisations

    Partner organisations also involved in this project include:

    Cayman Islands Department of the EnvironmentCentre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter in CornwallQueen Elizabeth II Botanic ParkNational Trust for the Cayman IslandsDarwin Initiative projectMarine Turtle Research Group project
    Sandy thickets and clearings, often in areas disturbed by storms and hurricanes.
    Rated by the IUCN as Critically Endangered. There are currently only two known populations of this species.

    Not known.



    Native to:

    Cayman Is.

    Common Names

    Cayman sage

    Other Data

    Salvia caymanensis Millsp. & Uline appears in other Kew resources:


    First published in Publ. Field Columb. Mus., Bot. Ser. 2: 94 (1900)

    Accepted by

    • Proctor, G.R. (2012). Flora of the Cayman Islands, ed. 2: 1-724. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London.
    • Burton, F.J. (2008). Threatened plants of the Cayman islands: The red list: 1-105. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

    Not accepted by

    • Davidse, G. & al. (eds.) (2012). Flora Mesoamericana 4(2): 1-533. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D.F. [Cited as Salvia serotina.]
    • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192. [Cited as Salvia serotina.]
    • Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS: 1-216203. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. [Cited as Salvia serotina.]


    Kew Backbone Distributions

    • Burton, F.J. (2008). Threatened plants of the Cayman islands: The red list: 1-105. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2020. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2020. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles