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Polygala helenae

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA MAGNOLIOPSIDA POLYGALALES POLYGALACEAE

Scientific Name: Polygala helenae
Species Authority: Greuter

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2006
Date Assessed: 2006-01-31
Assessor(s): Latroú, G.
Reviewer(s): Strahm, W. & de Montmollin, B. (Mediterranean Island Plants Red List Authority)
Justification:
This species is only presently known from a single subpopulation that occurs in a very small area. There are clear threats to the habitat and hence continuing decline is inferred.
History:
1997 Vulnerable (Walter and Gillett 1998)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is endemic to Kithira, a small Greek island of 284 km² which lies opposite the eastern tip of the Peloponnese, Cape Malea, in the Ionian Sea. The taxon is known from a population near Kalamos, but it may also occur in other sites on the island. It is difficult to find not only because it is rare, but also because it is rather inconspicuous.
Countries:
Native:
Greece (East Aegean Is.)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Known with certainty only from a single subpopulation.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This perennial herb grows on sandy soil and rarely occurs in open areas. Usually its slender branches can be seen protruding from spiny cushions composed of other plant species growing in the same vegetation type.

P. helenae has a narrow ecological range. It usually grows in association with Spiny Broom (Genista acanthoclada) and Thorny Burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum) which typically characterize "phrygana" vegetation. This vegetation type is composed largely of spiny or aromatic dwarf shrubs, growing in lowland areas on dry soils. In Greece there are several types of phrygana, depending upon grazing pressure, the incidence of fires, exposure, soils and geology. A purple tulip, the Greek endemic Tulipa goulimyi, may also be found growing in the same areas as P. helenae. Related species are Polygala venulosa and P. supina, which are Balkan endemics.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The natural habitat of P. helenae was once cultivated. While the area is no longer used for agriculture, there is an increasing risk that it may be needed for agricultural purposes again. Should this happen then the species would probably disappear. Increased tourism also poses a threat to this plant.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Actions in Place
Legally: This species is not included in any international conventions or national legislation.

In situ: No measures taken as of yet.

Ex situ: Cultivation from seeds and attempts to transplant this species from the wild into the Botanic Garden of the University of Patras have both failed.

Actions Needed
Given that to date ex situ conservation efforts have been unsuccessful, it would seem that the best option to conserve this species is to protect and manage the area where it is known to occur. More fieldwork on Kithira is also needed to see if this species might occur in other areas.

Citation: Latroú, G. 2006. Polygala helenae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 02 September 2014.
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