Origanum ehrenbergii 

Scope: Global & Mediterranean
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Lamiales Lamiaceae

Scientific Name: Origanum ehrenbergii Boiss.
Common Name(s):
English Ehrenberg's Marjoram
French Origan d'Ehrenberg
Taxonomic Source(s): The Plant List. 2012. The Plant List. Available at:

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v)+2ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2013-05-03
Assessor(s): Leaman, D.J.
Reviewer(s): Perez Graber, A.
Global assessment:  Vulnerable (VU)

Origanum ehrenbergii, a species endemic to Lebanon, is known from six to ten locations in Mount Lebanon and South Lebanon Governorates on sandy soils under pine forest, where its estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) is 1,300 km2 and estimated area of occupancy (AOO) is between 40 km2 and 130 km2, including areas of known occurrence within the predicted suitable habitat. This species has been assessed as Vulnerable based on continuing decline in habitat quantity (EOO, AOO, and number of locations) inferred from observed conversion of forest and grassland to industrial, commercial, residential, and agricultural uses, pressures that are particularly intense near the Lebanon coast. Continuing decline in habitat quality is inferred from the observed impacts of uncontrolled grazing of goats and increasing incidence and intensity of fire in pine forest and grassland habitats throughout the estimated range of this species. Wild collection of this species for local use in food and medicine is a present but likely minor impact on accessible subpopulations.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Origanum ehrenbergii is known only from the Mount Lebanon and South Lebanon Governorates in the Lebanese Republic (Mouterde 1983, Post 1983, Tohme and Tohme 2007, GEF-UNDP-LARI 2013b).
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:40-130Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):UnknownEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:1300
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):Unknown
Number of Locations:6-10Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:Unknown
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The global population of O. ehrenbergii is estimated to be more than 2,600,000 individuals, based on density and distribution surveys (estimated density of 65,000 individuals/km2 x estimated lower limit of AOO=40 km2) undertaken in 0.06% of the predicted suitable habitat in 2012 (GEF-UNDP-LARI 2013b). Although the distribution of this taxon may qualify as fragmented based on reproductive isolation of the known subpopulations in the Mount Lebanon mountain chain, the estimated size of these subpopulations suggests that they are currently viable. Past and ongoing decline in the number of mature individuals is inferred from the patchy distribution of suitable existing habitat in areas under intensive development pressure, particularly near the coastline (Talhouk et al. 2005, UNEP-Ministry of Environment 2013).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:2600000-8450000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Population severely fragmented:No
All individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Origanum ehrenbergii is a perennial chamaephyte (subshrub) growing primarily on sandy soils in grassland and under pine forest (Pinus pinea L.) between zero to 2,000 m asl on the western slopes of Mount Lebanon and South Lebanon Governorates in Lebanon, where it is endemic (Mouterde 1983, Post 1933, Tohme and Tohme 2007, GEF-UNDP-LARI 2013b). The observed fragmented distribution of this species suggests both a naturally patchy distribution of suitable habitat and loss of suitable habitat caused by industrial, agricultural, and urban development (Talhouk et al. 2005, UNEP-Ministry of Environment 2013). White flowers, appearing June-October, are likely insect-pollinated, and produce hybrids with O. syriacum (Tohme and Tohme 2007).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Dried and ground leaves and flowers of O. ehrenbergii are locally added to or substituted for O. syriacum as a principal ingredient of Za'atar, a topping for traditional breads (Mankousheh). Fresh shoots are used in salads (Fattouch) or as a fresh topping on baked breads (Ftyreh). It is also used as a seasoning in traditional cuisine and in household remedies in Lebanon. In traditional medicine this species is not differentiated from co-occurring species of Origanum, Thymbra, and Thymus, known collectively as Za’atar in Lebanon. These species are traditionally used to stimulate memory, as analgesics and sedatives, and as remedies for cold, flu and cough, respiratory problems, hypotension, and a wide range of stomach and intestinal problems. These species are also used externally as emollients and antiseptic ointments. Trade in local markets has been observed, but wider use and trade has not been documented (GEF-UNDP-LARI 2010, 2013a, 2013b).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Existing scattered subpopulations of this plant species are likely declining in size, area, extent, and number of locations primarily due to conversion of limited suitable habitat for development of quarries and expansion of agricultural, industrial, commercial, and residential development, particularly near the coast (Talhouk et al. 2005, UNEP-Ministry of Environment 2013). Forest, scrubland, and grassland habitats are subject to ongoing degradation from uncontrolled grazing of goats and increasing incidence and intensity of fire, particularly in pine forest vegetation. This species was considered threatened by picking of wild plants in a national review of Lebanon's biological diversity (Ministère de l'Agriculture, République Libanaise, 1996). Recent field studies confirm direct pressure on this species from wild harvest of shoots and flowers for local use in traditional foods and medicines (GEF-UNDP-LARI 2013a, 2013b). The eastern Mediterranean is considered to be a region with high exposure to the effects of climate change (Giorgi and Lionello 2008). Origanum ehrenbergii has some traits (rarity and habitat specificity) that contribute to high sensitivity to climate change impacts as defined by Carr et al. (2013), although its adaptability to several vegetation types and the buffering effects of forest may reduce its vulnerability to climate change impacts (increasing periods of drought, elevated temperatures, and extreme weather events).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The presence of this species in protected areas is not documented, however its observed and predicted distribution (UNDP-LARI 2013) may overlap with several protected areas in Lebanon (Jabel el Qariqif Forest Reserve, Shouf UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve, and Jabal Al Rihane UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve; see IUCN and UNEP-WCMC 2013). It may be present in at least three proposed Important Plant Areas in Lebanon (Tannourine, Keserwan, Rihane, but less likely in a fourth, Mount Hermel) described by Radford et al. (2011). No ex situ collections are documented in botanic gardens or seed/gene banks (BGCI 2013, Bioversity International 2013). Although public education and awareness of the need for better harvest management (e.g. to control timing and intensity of wild harvest) may be helpful, habitat protection and management are needed to address the main threats identified for this species. Identification, designation, and management of protected areas in which this species occurs, controlled grazing in pine forest habitat to reduce risk of fire, and ex situ conservation are needed conservation actions (Talhouk et al. 2005, GEF-UNDP-LARI 2013b). Research on population and habitat distribution, size, and trends is needed to support these conservation actions.

Citation: Leaman, D.J. 2015. Origanum ehrenbergii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T203576A2768878. . Downloaded on 22 July 2018.
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