Thursday, October 20, 2011

Menorcan Vincetoxicum with pink flowers

A new species? A hybrid?

The conservative of the Soller Botanical Garden told me its history. A fan to the botany of Menorca does found about ten years ago in a precipice of the island a Vincetoxicum very different from the two habitual species, the one of black flowers and the one of white flowers. This one had the flowers of an alive pink color with the target-yellowish center. Suspecting that he had found a small treasure, he gathered seeds and he sent them to the botanical garden, where they came to seed them in the section of native plants of the Balearic Islands. 

Flower of Menorcan Vincetoxicum photographed at the end of April. It seems a small starfish that shines with own light. Truth that is pretty?. As it can see the ants are very sweet-toothed of its nectar and they act like true pollinator. 

The seeds germinated and after several years of growth they gave its first flowers. Genetically speaking the plant does not seem hybrid then in theory its flowers would have to be completely pink, halfway between the almost black dark garnet of the Vincetoxicum nigrum and the slightly yellowish target of the Vincetoxicum hirundinaria.

Intrigued by knowing more on this Asclepiadaceae I tried to find information exceeds it and I did not find anything. I looked for species of pink flowers in Europe and the Mediterranean basin and I did not have luck either. Between the photographies on Vincetoxicum that shows the Google finder is no similar one. 

 Combined image with the three flowers of Vincetoxicum.

I contacted with a professor of botany of the University of the Balearic Islands, I spoke to him of this plant and I sent him a few photos, but he did not say me nothing because he did not know its existence. I asked him what names could put to it to insert the photos in my website and he suggested me provisionally called Vincetoxicum. hirundinaria var.balearicum. If finally it turns out to be a new species its name could be Vincetoxicum minoricensis, like the famous Lysimachia minoricensis already extinct in the nature. When it advances and the study of the genome becomes easier and cheap, perhaps then there are surprises. The genes do not lie.

In the vast scientific work even without finishing on the Iberian Flora two species in Spanish territory, both presents in the Island of Menorca are only mentioned: Vincetoxicum nigrum and Vincetoxicum hirundinaria.

New buds of Menorcan Vincetoxicum in April. 

Three years ago an eminent French scientist, René Sforza, contacted with me by email. He is very interested in seeing plants of Vincetoxicum nigrum of Majorca, because he was making a study of the plagues that affect this plant in order to find a natural enemy that it serves for the biological control against the Vincetoxicum nigrum introduced and feral in Canada and north of USA, where this Mediterranean plant has proliferated as much that it has become an uncontrollable plague. Don't mention it they have served chemical products, because it turns out to be resistant to them. 

 Flowers of Menorcan Vincetoxicum in May.

Days later Professor René Sforza came to Majorca and I showed him several dozens of plants of Vincetoxicum nigrum that grow in mountains of Serra de Tramuntana. From each of them he kept a few leaves in separated envelopes to calmly study them once from return to France. He is coverall interested to find some pathogenic fungus or virus for the Vincetoxicum.

I spoke him of the Vincetoxicum of pink flowers and we went to see it in the botanical Garden. It said to me that it knew tens Mediterranean and American species of Vincetoxicum, but those pink flowers were not known for him. He suggested that perhaps it was a hybrid, but that stops to assure its identity made lack a genetic study. 

 Fruit of Menorcan Vincetoxicum still immature.

Every spring undergoes the ruthless parasitization of thousands of aphids of the Aphis nerii species.

 Luckily the aphids respects the flowers and the Vincetoxicum can reproduce.

Although logically the aphids debilitates the plant sucking the sap, this one is so vigorous that supports perfectly the parasitization without apparent damages.

Therefore this peculiar asclepiadaceae continues being a stranger for science, nobody is interested in it and still remains without studying. One does not know if it is a species, a subspecies, a variety or a hybrid. Luckily its survival is assured thanks to the Soller Botanical Garden that takes care of it and keeps its seeds in the Germplasm Bank, one richest in species of the Mediterranean.

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