The clubmoss cudweed (Chevreulia lycopodioides) is a perennial herb that grows only on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean (1). It is a member of the Compositae, or sunflower, family, which is one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world, with about 1,100 genera and 25,000 species (2). The clubmoss cudweed grows in a matt of flattened stems, with tiny, oval, flat, haired, grey-white leaves that are arranged in opposite pairs. Silvery-purple bracts enclose tiny white flowers, which measure around four millimetres in length. The fruit is hard and roughly oval, and has a modified calyx that forms a parachute-like ring of hair, which aids the fruit in wind dispersal (3)(4).
There is currently very little information available on the specific biology of the clubmoss cudweed. However, it is known to flower from December to January. After pollination, the furry white flower stem extends to around eight centimetres in length, and the pale brown, papery fruits open, exposing the haired seeds to the wind (3).
The clubmoss cudweed is widespread on the Falkland Islands, and it is considered to be common, with no identified major threats to its survival. However, many floral species on the Falkland Islands are threatened by the loss and degradation of natural habitats. Overgrazing by introduced sheep is a particularly significant problem on the Falklands, and it is one of the main causes of decline in many threatened floral species (6). Competition with introduced plant species, such as gorse (Ulex europaeus) and broom (Cytisus scoparius), which can out-compete native species for natural resources, is a further threat, while disturbance from recreational land-use and vehicle damage can also harm natural habitats. These threats are exacerbated by the widespread pasture improvements and road-building programmes currently being conducted on the Falklands (7).
Despite being of relatively low diversity, the plant communities on the Falkland Islands have a high proportion of threatened species and a number of endemic species. Of the island’s 172 native plant species, some 13 are found no where else in the world and 5 are threatened with extinction (6)(7).
It has been recommended that conservation programmes on the Falkland Islands focus on protecting these endangered species, while mitigating the threats to their survival (7). To this end, the Falklands Islands Plant Conservation Project, with assistance from Falklands Conservation, is developing a strategy for the long-term conservation of the islands’ threatened flora, with plans for sustainable land management and protection. Public education projects are also aiming to tackle human disturbances to natural environments (6).
A number of rare plant species on the Falkland Islands are also protected by law, making it an offence to pick, collect, cut, uproot or destroy a protected plant. In addition, there are a number of protected areas on the islands, as well as several privately owned reserves, although the level of protection afforded these areas varies greatly (7).
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All of the sepals (floral leaves) of a flower, which form the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
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.
A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
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.
An elongated part of the female reproductive organs of a flower that bears the stigma (the receptive area where pollen germinates), usually at its tip.
Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Woods, R.W. (2000) Flowering Plants of the Falkland Islands. Falklands Conservation, The Falkland Islands.
Kubitzki, K. (Ed.) (2007) The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. Volume VIII: Flowering Plants. Eudicots: Asterales. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Broughton, D.A. and McAdam, J.H. (2005) A checklist of the native vascular flora of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas): new information on the species present, their ecology, status and distribution. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, 132: 115-148.
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