A low-growing Mediterranean plant, the felty germander (Teucrium capitatum) is named for its thick, felt-like covering of white or golden hairs (3). It has thick, whitish leaves which are hairy on both sides (2), an adaptation that may help the felty germander to retain moisture in its hot, dry environment (3).
The leaves of the felty germander grow in opposite pairs along the stems and are oblong in shape, with downward-rolled, lobed edges (2) (3). Each leaf measures up to about 2.5 centimetres in length (3) (4), and gives off an aromatic scent when crushed (2) (3) (5).
The felty germander has tiny, rather inconspicuous flowers which vary from whitish to yellow, pinkish or sometimes red (2) (3) (4). The flowers usually grow in globular clusters at the end of the stems (2) (4). As in other species in the Labiatae family, the felty germander’s flowers comprise five fused sepals which form a bell-shaped calyx around the fused petals (2) (5). In many Labiatae species, the bell-shaped flower has two ‘lips’, but in the felty germander the upper lip is absent, and the lower lip consists of five lobes (3) (5).
The fruit of the felty germander consists of four brown ‘nutlets’, each of which contains a single seed (2) (3) (5).
There a number of subspecies of felty germander (1), which vary mainly in the colour and structure of their flowers and in the colour of their hairs (2) (3).
- Also known as
- golden germander.
- Teucrium polium.
- Height: 10 - 40 cm (2) (3)
Felty germander biology
Relatively little information is available on the biology of the felty germander. A perennial species (2) (3) (4), it flowers between April and July (2) (3). As in other Labiatae species, the flowers are hermaphroditic, producing both male and female reproductive parts (5).
The felty germander has commonly been used as a herbal medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including diabetes, inflammation, seizures, insect bites and bacterial infections (2) (4) (6). Its leaves have also been used in steam baths for colds and fevers and in herbal teas (3). However, there is evidence that extracts of this plant can cause hepatitis (damage to the liver) (2) (4) (7).
Felty germander range
The felty germander occurs across the Mediterranean region, in southern Europe, North Africa and southwest Asia (2) (4) (6).
Felty germander habitat
The felty germander typically grows in arid and semi-arid areas, including on dry, rocky or sandy ground and on hillsides (2) (3) (4). It often occurs near the coast or on mountains (3).
Felty germander status
The felty germander has yet to be classified by the IUCN.
Felty germander threats
Very little information is available on the threats to the felty germander, and its conservation status has not yet been assessed by the IUCN (8). However, it is reported to be widely picked for traditional medicinal uses in Tunisia (2).
Felty germander conservation
Research has been undertaken into the diversity of the genus Teucrium in Tunisia, and the felty germander has been recognised as a species that should be protected (2). However, there are not known to be any specific conservation measures currently in place for this species.
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Find out more about the felty germander:
More information on conservation in the Mediterranean region:
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- All of the sepals (floral leaves) of a flower, which form the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
- 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.
- Possessing both male and female sex organs.
- A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
- A floral leaf (collectively comprising the calyx of the flower) that forms the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
UNEP-WCMC (December, 2011)
North Africa Biodiversity Programme: Medicinal Plants of North Africa - Teucrium polium (December, 2011)
Fletcher, N. (2007) Mediterranean Wild Flowers: A Unique Photographic Guide to the Wild Flowers of the Western Mediterranean Region. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.
Barceloux, D.G. (2008) Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances: Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants, and Venomous Animals. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.
Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Jongbloed, M. (2003) The Comprehensive Guide to the Wildflowers of the United Arab Emirates. Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, Abu Dhabi.
Savvidou, S., Goulis, J., Giavazis, I., Patsiaoura, K., Hytiroglou, P. and Arvanitakis, C. (2007) Herb-induced hepatitis by Teucrium polium L.: report of two cases and review of the literature. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 19(6): 507-511.
IUCN Red List (December, 2011)
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This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.