Antirrhinum (Antirrhinum subbaeticum)
Antirrhinum subbaeticum is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Antirrhinum subbaeticum is a beautiful perennial herb found only in the eastern Andalusia mountain ranges of Spain (2). It is a member of the genus Antirrhinum, which comprises some 25 species that are mainly found in the western Mediterranean region (3). The genus name comes from the Greek words ‘anti’, which means ‘opposite’, and ‘rhis’, meaning ‘snout’, and refers to the lopsided petals on the flowers (4).
The flowers of Antirrhinum subbaeticum are densely clustered into an attractive inflorescence, borne on a branching stem measuring 20 to 30 centimetres in height. The stem is densely covered in short hairs. The petals are pink, with white centres, and have dark purple veins running across them. The leaves are fairly fleshy and elliptical, and are arranged in opposite pairs near the bottom of the plant, but at alternate points nearer the top of the plant. The seeds of Antirrhinum subbaeticum are roughly oblong, black and have prominent ridges (2).
Endemic to the eastern Andalusia mountain ranges of Spain, Antirrhinum subbaeticum occurs in the canyons of the Mundo and Bogarra rivers in Albacete and Mundo province (1).
Antirrhinum subbaeticum grows in calcareous vertical rock fissures, in moderately shady conditions (1).
Although the genetics of Antirrhinum plants have been well studied, very little is known about their biology and reproduction. However, Antirrhinum subbaeticum is thought to flower mainly between April and June, when various types of insects are attracted by nectar secretions to pollinate the plants. The insects visit several flowers on the same plant before leaving, carrying pollen between the flowers and fertilising them. This method of reproduction is thought to be unusual amongst Antirrhinum plants, as most cannot self-fertilise (3).
Centuries of human activities have degraded the habitat of Antirrhinum subbaeticum, leaving it with a highly fragmented distribution (1) (5). It now occurs in only four sub-populations, three of which have suffered drastic declines over the last few years, and the estimated number of surviving individuals is now as low as 400 (6).
Collection by botanists for herbariums, as well as habitat degradation by tourist activities and grazing by domestic livestock are all threats to Antirrhinum subbaeticum. Droughts, which may increase in severity with global climate change, and parasitism by insects may also threaten this species (1). The small population sizes of Antirrhinum subbaeticum could also increase the frequency of inbreeding (3).
Due to its ability to self-fertilise and produce large amounts of seed fairly quickly, Antirrhinum subbaeticum populations could recover if this species’ habitat is protected. The creation of protected areas where this species occurs is therefore a conservation priority for Antirrhinum subbaeticum (1) (5).
In addition, due to the low amount of genetic diversity within some sub-populations of Antirrhinum subbaeticum (6), seeds have been taken from the wild and preserved in herbariums. Germination experiments have been undertaken in the hope that this species can be grown in controlled environments, so that these plants can be used to supplement wild populations in future (1).
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- Alternate leaves: leaves that are located at alternating points along a stem, rather than in opposite pairs.
- Calcareous: containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Fertilisation: the fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
- Genetic diversity: the variety of genes within a particular species, population or breed causing differences in morphology, physiology and behaviour.
- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Germination: the beginning of growth, usually following a period of dormancy and in response to favourable conditions. For example, the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.
- Herb: a small, non-woody, seed bearing plant in which all the aerial parts die back at the end of each growing season.
- Inbreeding: the breeding of closely related individuals. An inbred population usually has less genetic variability and this is generally disadvantageous for its long-term survival and success.
- Inflorescence: the reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
- Perennial: a plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
- Pollination: the transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
- Güemes, J,. Mateu, I. and Sánchez-gómez, P. (1994). Antirrhinum subbaeticum Güemes, Mateu & Sánchez-Gómez (Scrophulariaceae), a new species from the Iberian Península. Anales Jardín Botánico Madrid, 51(2): 237-247.
- Carrió, E., Jiménez, J.F., Sánchez-gómez, P. and Güemes, J. (2009) Reproductive biology and conservation implications of three endangered snapdragon species (Antirrhinum, Plantaginaceae). Biological Conservation, 142: 1854-1863.
- Armitage, A.M. (2004) Armitage’s Garden Annuals: A Color Encyclopedia. Timber Press Inc., Portland, Oregon.
- Mateu-Andrés, I. (2004) Low Levels of allozyme variability in the threatened species Antirrhinum subbaeticum and A. pertegasii (Scrophulariaceae): implications for conservation of the species. Annals of Botany, 94: 797-804.
- Jiménez, J.F., Sánchez-Gómez, P., Güemes, J., Werner, O. and Rosselló, J.A. (2002) Genetic variability in a narrow endemic snapdragon (Antirrhinum subbaeticum, Scrophulariaceae) using RAPD markers. Heredity, 89: 387-393.