Carthamus balearicus 

Scope: Global, Europe & Mediterranean
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Asterales Asteraceae

Scientific Name: Carthamus balearicus (J.J.Rodr.) Greuter
Common Name(s):
Spanish Gatosa
English Distaff thistle of Majorca
Acosta balearica (J.J.Rodr.) Holub
Carduncellus balearicus (J.J.Rodr.) G.López
Centaurea balearica J.J.Rodr.
Femeniasia balearica (J.J.Rodr.) Susanna
Taxonomic Source(s): Greuter, W. 2006-2009. Compositae (pro parte majore). In: Euro+Med Plantbase – the information resource for Euro-Mediterranean plant diversity. Berlin. Available at:
Taxonomic Notes: Susanna de la Serna (1987) proposed placing this species within the monotypic distinct genus Femeniasia based its outstanding position within the Cardueae tribe and the Centaureinae subtribe. Although widely followed, we at present maintain the species within Carthamus following Greuter (2006-2009).
Identification information: This is a small shrub up to 150 cm tall, usually showing in a cushion-like habit. Stems are somewhat fleshy, profusely branched in a regular pattern. Numerous sharp spines about 1 cm long, arranged in groups of three, cover the stems. It has two different types of leaves; those produced in spring are linear and entire, whereas the summer leaves are divided. Flowers are gathered together in yellow flower heads, surrounded by a spiny involucre. It blooms between May and July, while the fruits ripen from the end of summer to the beginning of autumn.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2018
Date Assessed: 2018-03-09
Assessor(s): Fraga i Arquimbau, P.
Reviewer(s): Allen, D.J.
Contributor(s): Sáez Goñalons, L., Rita Larrucea, J., Bibiloni, G., Peraza Zurita, M.D., Mus Amézquita, M. & Moragues Botey, E.
Carthamus balearicus has a restricted distribution on Menorca in the Balearic Islands. It has an extent of occurrence (EOO) of 33 km2, an area of occupancy of 1.7 km2 (28 km2 using the recommended 2x2 km2 grid), and presence confirmed in five locations. In the past, negative trends have been reported for the extent and quality of its habitat due to urban expansion and recreational activities, however in recent years several conservation actions have been implemented within LIFE Nature projects (LIFE FLORA MENORCA, LIFE+ RENEIX), thus now populations are stable with signs of recovery, and threats have been controlled at most sites. It is therefore assessed Near Threatened as it qualifies as threatened under B1 and B2, but there is no evidence of continuing decline, and is close to qualifying as VU (D2) based on the restricted number of locations. Ongoing monitoring and efforts to prevent the recurrence of threats is required, and the population at Fornells-Tirant needs an evaluation of the real impact of the threats and the development of suitable actions if needed in order to prevent a return to a higher risk category.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic to Menorca in the Balearic Islands (Spain), where it occurs in three areas in the north of the island; Favàritx, Cala Mica-Binimel là and Fornells-Tirant. Recent research showed that the three known subpopulations are somewhat genetically differentiated, thus their isolation might have occurred a long time ago. Its extent of occurrence is c.33 km2 and its actual area of occupancy is 1.7 km2, but measured using the recommended 2x2 km grid the AOO is 28 km2. It occurs in five locations.
Countries occurrence:
Spain (Baleares)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:28Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:33
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:5
Lower elevation limit (metres):10
Upper elevation limit (metres):80
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:A population census found over 3,400 individuals in 2014. Within the last ten years, no negative fluctuations have been observed, whether in the distribution area or in the number of mature plants. Moreover, an acceptable recruitment level has been confirmed through monitoring.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:3400Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This small shrub grows in open scrublands close to the sea, on sandy, stony or clayey soils. It is a coastal species adapted to strong and persistent north winds (tramuntana). It grows mainly in dry sunny places, especially on steep and stony slopes and is part of a plant community dominated by spiny cushion-like shrubs (Launaeetum cervicornis, habitat 3.8.3: Spiny Mediterranean heaths - phrygana, hedgehog heaths and related coastal cliff vegetation).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is not utilised.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the last 12 years some of the most important threats have been controlled in the two most important subpopulations (Favàritx and Cala Mica-Binimel·là) i.e., uncontrolled roads, alien invasive plant species occurrence, mainly Carpobrotus spp., soil tillage from small-holder farming, and excessive recreational activities. However, the subpopulation at Fornells-Tirant is still threatened with soil tillage, concentrated to small areas, and with the development of touristic resorts.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

This taxon is listed as priority species on Annex II of the Habitat Directive and under Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) under the name Centaurea balearica. It is included as a species "En peligro de extinción" in the national catalogue of threatened species of Spain. It is listed as Vulnerable (A1e; B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii); D2) under the name Femeniasa balearica in the Spanish Red List (Moreno 2008). In the last version of the Balearic Red List of vascular plants (Saéz et al. 2017) it is listed as Vulnerable (C2a(i); D2), the evaluation included in this work was developed in 2015. A more recent evaluation (2017) done within the conservation plan suggests and improvement of its conservation status to Vulnerable (D2) or even NT. The species was retained as VU (D2) in the recent Mediterranean Island Plant assessment (Fraga i Arguimbau et al. 2017).

In situ

The entire population falls within Spanish Natura 2000 network sites; Dels Alocs a Fornells (ES0000231), La Mola i s'Albufera de Fornells (ES0000232), and D'Addaia a s'Albufera (ES0000233). Since 2001, two LIFE Nature projects have focused on the long-term conservation of this species. Within LIFE2000 NAT/E/7355 (2001 to 2005), actions related to the conservation of this species were mainly addressed at the eradication of the alien invasive Carpobrotus spp., social awareness, and the development of a management plan. Later, in 2012, this management plan was approved by the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands and updated as a Conservation Plan according to regional legislation.

Some actions of the LIFE+ Reneix - Priority species’ habitats restoration in the island of Menorca programme (LIFE07/NAT/E/000756; 2009 to 2014) were aimed at the conservation the largest population of this species (at Cala Mica-Binimel·là) by addressing two threats: uncontrolled roads and excessive human frequentation. Recent monitoring of the restored areas within this project showed that the species is able to perform active re-colonisation.

Besides the actions of these projects and the development of the management plan, active management activities focused on this species, such as the monitoring of the populations and their threats, are still ongoing.

Ex situ
This species is cultivated in several botanic gardens, and at the regional level at the Sóller Botanic Garden (Majorca). Moreover, seeds from three subpopulations have been collected in 2014 and 2015 and will be stored at the germplasm bank of Sóller.

Conservation actions required
Monitoring of the outcomes of the conservation actions developed within the LIFE projects is recommended in order to see if they are effective in the long-term and, in particular, to see what will be the long-term response of the species to habitat restoration. It is also very important to assess if the recruitment patterns observed in some areas will last with a regular positive trend.

The population of Fornells-Tirant needs an evaluation of the real impact of the threats and the development of suitable actions if needed in order to prevent a return to a higher risk category.

Citation: Fraga i Arquimbau, P. 2018. Carthamus balearicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T195499A102930638. . Downloaded on 25 September 2018.
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