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His name isCynara tournefortii, a species included in the Red List of the Spanish Vascular Flora and that is part of a group of five threatened plants with which the Royal Botanical Garden of the CSIC has been investigating. The last time this endemism was rediscovered in the field was in the province of Seville in 2016.
Popularly known as ‘morra’,Cynara tournefortiiIt is included in the Red List of the Spanish Vascular Flora (2008) and the Atlas and Red Book of the Endangered Vascular Flora of Spain (2006).
It lives in loamy soils and cultivated fields, so the widespread use of herbicides and other agricultural practices have caused it to be in critical danger of extinction.
The loss of habitat, its slow growth rate and limited competitive capacity, the passage of livestock and the predation of seeds by larvae ofTerellia fuscicornis are other causes of its extinction.
Thanks to the techniques of the Royal Botanical Garden (RJB) of the CSIC, it has been possible to make a specimen of this plant flourish in the garden facilities. Its plantation began in 2011 with the aim of recovering and publicizing this Iberian endemism that is in danger of extinction.
This critically endangered species on a national scale, located in the center and south of the Iberian Peninsula, has been part of the Phoenix 2014 project, a state breeding programex situ of threatened species in which the RJB-CSIC participates together with 15 Spanish botanical gardens and other plant conservation centers integrated into the Iberomacaronesian Association of Botanical Gardens (AIMJB).
According to Nuria Prieto, a technician at the RJB-CSIC, who, together with Silvia Villegas, head of the Germplasm Bank of the Royal Botanical Garden, “one of the objectives of the program has been achieved: the development of protocols for the germination and cultivation of the most threatened species of the Spanish flora in the garden nurseries”.
The other two objectives of the project are “the knowledge of the most appropriate moment to introduce the plant successfully in its natural habitat and the exhibition of a sample of the species in the collections of the Botanical Garden, contributing to create a social awareness about the growing problem of the loss of biodiversity through its divulgation”, Emphasizes Villegas.
The year of its last location in its habitat
The last time there is information about the rediscovery of this species in its natural habitat was in 2016 in the province of Seville, in the transition zone between the natural regions of the Vega del Guadalquivir and the Sierra Norte, a territory where, furthermore, it had never been located before. It was a study carried out by researchers José Luis Medina-Gavilán and Francisco Delgado Román.
The work of the two RJB-CSIC techniques with this species began in 2010 with the study of two populations, one near Bolonia beach and the other in Alcalá de los Gazules, both in the province of Cádiz.
Nuria Prieto recalls that at that time there were also three towns in the province of Madrid, in Paracuellos del Jarama, Coslada and in Bosquesur, in the municipality of Leganés, with a high risk of disappearance due to urbanization and poor conservation practices.
Along with this species, the Royal Botanical Garden is also currently investigating another threatened species,Lapiedra martinezii, and has also done so, studying their germination protocols, withThymelaea lythroides, Malvella sherardiana, YAstragalus nitidiflorus, equally threatened.