Arbutus andrachne L.
Ericaceae – Heather family
Conservation status. Critically Endangered [CR C2a(i); D]. BDA.
Morphology and biology. Slow-growing evergreen tree, up to 6 m high, with a wide crown. Bark reddish, peeling off in papery sheets. Twigs glabrous. Leaves oblanceolate, entire. Inflorescence an erect panicle, flowers white, bell-shaped, scented. Fruit an orange berry, up to 12 mm in diameter, surface reticulate-sulcate. Insect pollination. Fl. III–IV, fr. IX–X. Reproduction by seeds.
Habitats and populations. Dry, Mediterranean scrub and low-growing wood, mostly on stony slopes, more often on acidic soils. The population consists of dispersed mature individuals without young plants. Since the discovery of the species in Bulgaria in 1986 six plants have been found, of which two were transplanted in the villages by the local inhabitants (one of which died).
Distribution in Bulgaria. Rhodopi Mts (eastern – Dolno Lukovo, Gorno Lukovo, Mandritsa, Kostilkovo, Cherna Cherkva villages); up to 300 m alt.
General distribution. E Mediterranean (Albania, Bulgaria, Crete, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey).
Threats. In Bulgaria the species occurs at the northern climatic limit of its distribution area and therefore is represented by a few individuals. This makes the taxon critically endangered in the country. The main threatening factors are forest fires and the attempts of the local people to collect living specimens from nature and cultivate them in the villages for decorative purposes.
Conservation measures taken. The species is protected by the Biodiversity Act. The localities are in a site of the European ecological network Natura 2000 in Bulgaria.
Conservation measures needed. Search for new individuals; monitoring of the known trees; marking of the trees with a sign of protection; raising awareness of local people and foresters about the conservation value of the species.
References. Velchev et al. 1989; Petrova et al. 1999.
Author: Antoaneta Petrova