The vanilla daisy is a flowering plant found only on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean (2). So named for its sweet scent, this herb, like other Asterales plants, is characterised by its large inflorescences of many tightly-packed stalkless flowers (florets) that are surrounded by bracts and arranged into a large disc shape (3)(4). The inflorescence is a beautiful white colour and the well-developed leaves are dark green. The vanilla daisy produces a dry, closed fruit that is crowned with numerous hairs that aid in dispersal, and contains a single seed (3).
The vanilla daisy flowers between November and January and, as a monecious species, separate male and female flowers are found on each plant (5)(6). The strong scent of the vanilla daisy serves to attract pollinating insects to its flowers, and upon arrival at the plant, pollen-carrying insects inadvertently brush the pollen against the greatly elongated, two-armed styles(3)(6). Like other plants in the compositae family, a single seed is produced per fruit, and the ripe fruit is dispersed by wind (3).
The vanilla daisy grows on coastal cliffs and slopes, as well as inland heath and rocky areas from seal level up to around 600 metres (1)(5). It is typically found growing in exposed areas among rocks on well drained peat (4).
While the vanilla daisy is still a widespread and common species on the Falkland Islands, it is vulnerable to overgrazing by introduced sheep (1)(2). This is a significant problem on the Falklands, and it is one of the main causes of decline in many threatened floral species (7). 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 (2).
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 species are found no where else in the world and 5 are threatened with extinction (2)(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 (2). 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 island’s threatened flora, with plans for sustainable land management and protection. Public education projects are also aiming to tackle human disturbances to natural environments (7). A number of rare plant species 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 (2).
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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Area of open, uncultivated land, usually dominated by dwarf shrubs on acid, free-draining soils.
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
An organism in which separate male and female organs occur on the same individual.
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.
Broughton, D.A. and McAdam, J.H. (2002) A red data list for the Falkland Island vascular flora. Oryx, 36: 279-287.
Panero, J.L. and Crozier, B.S. (2008) Asteraceae: Sunflowers, Daisies. Tree of Life Web Project, The University of Arizona. Available at: http://tolweb.org/Asteraceae/20780
Davies, T.H. and McAdam, J.H. (1989) Wild Flowers of the Falkland Islands. Bluntisham Books, Huntingdon.
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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