Grey matplant (Tiquilia nesiotica)

Grey matplant growing in volcanic habitat
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Grey matplant fact file

Grey matplant description

GenusTiquilia (1)

Growing in sparsely distributed clumps, Tiquilia nesiotica is one of the few plants that can tolerate the arid, ash-covered volcano slopes of the Galapagos (2). This species is a low-growing, small shrub, which spreads itself along the ground, forming a mat-like structure. Tiny, light-coloured hairs found on the stems and leaves reflect sunlight, giving this species a grey, rather than green, appearance (3). The base of Tiquilia nesiotica is woody (4), and clusters of small leaves grow from the ends and joints of the twigs, with tiny white flowers hidden amongst them (2).


Grey matplant biology

In order to survive in its harsh environment, Tiquilia nesiotica has evolved various strategies. Competition for water forces the individual plants to grow widely spaced apart, spreading their roots horizontally beneath the surface to maximise the uptake of any available moisture. Like many plants in arid regions, the small leaves and grey appearance of Tiquilia nesiotica are adaptations to reduce the amount of heat the plant receives, preventing damage to its photosynthetic tissue and reducing moisture loss (3). As one of the few plants able to colonise the barren volcanic slopes of the Galapagos, Tiquilia nesiotica plays an important ecological role, as its roots stabilise the loose, ashy soil (5), its flowers provide food for lava lizards, and its pollen and nectar are a source of nutrition for insects (2).


Grey matplant range

Endemic to the Galapagos Islands (1), Tiquilia nesiotica is particularly abundant on the island of Bartolomé (3).


Grey matplant habitat

Tiquilia nesiotica occupies the arid zone of the Galapagos, an inland area that stays extremely dry for most of the year, where it mainly grows on the ash-covered slopes of volcanoes (2).


Grey matplant status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Grey matplant threats

With its restricted range, and populations clustered around the slopes of a small number of volcanoes, it is possible that, in the future, the effects of human activities or unforeseeable natural events could rapidly cause Tiquilia nesiotica to become Critically Endangered or even Extinct (1). One obvious human-induced threat to this species is people climbing the scenic volcanoes that it grows upon, causing disturbance to the loose substrate and thereby destroying the plants (6).


Grey matplant conservation

The Galapagos National Institute (INGALA) employs a number of measures to reduce the impact of tourists on the Galapagos’ environment. Regulations for tourist conduct are well enforced and trails and walkways are provided to prevent degradation and destruction of the local wildlife (7). Nevertheless, threats to the Galapagos such as introduced species and increased demand for resources are ongoing, and continuous conservation action is required in order to preserve the islands’ unique environment (8).


Find out more

To learn more about conservation in the Galapagos visit:



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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Plant tissue capable of photosynthesis, a metabolic process in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2008)
  2. Jackson, M.H. (2001) Galapagos: A Natural History. University of Calgary Press, Calgary.
  3. Williams, E.H. (2005) The Nature Handbook: A Guide to Observing the Great Outdoors. Oxford University Press US, New York.
  4. Horwell, D. and Oxford, P. (1999) Galapagos Wildlife: A Visitor's Guide. Bradt Travel Guides, Chalfont St. Peter.
  5. Stephenson, M. (2000) The Galapagos Islands: The Essential Handbook for Exploring, Enjoying & Understanding Darwin's Enchanted Islands. The Mountaineers Books, Washington.
  6. Kricher, J.C. (2006) Galapagos: A Natural History. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
  7. The Galapagos National Institute (October, 2008)
  8. The Galapagos Conservation Trust (October, 2008)

Image credit

Grey matplant growing in volcanic habitat  
Grey matplant growing in volcanic habitat

© Martin Withers /

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