Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Zahora ait-atta: A new species of Brassica from Morocco.

Brassicas, Brassicaceae, are a large and commercially important group of Flowering Plants, which includes crops such as Mustard, Kale, and Cabbage and garden plants such as Wallflowers. There are over 4000 described species of Brassica, tbe majority of which are herbaceous, although the group also includes some small shrubs and vines. Almost all Brassicas are pollenated by Insects, and the group is almost global in distribution, being absent only from Antarctica and some tropical areas; Brassicas form an important part of the highest known plant communities in the Himalayas.

In a paper published in the journal PhytoKeys on 5 December 2019, Marcus Koch of the Centre for Organismal Studies at Heidelberg University, and Claude Lemmel of Atlas Sahara, describe a new species of Brasicca from the Drâa-Tafilalet Region of Morocco.

The new species is named Zahora ait-atta, where 'Zahora' means 'Flower' in Arabic, and 'ait-atta' refers to a Berber tribal confederation of south eastern Morocco. The species is a herb reaching a maximum of about 180 cm in height, with a woody base. Plants arise from a fleshy rhizome (underground stem) 2-3 cm in diameter. Flowers are yellowish-white and born on branching stems up to 100 cm in length.

Zahora ait-atta in its natural environment. Border region with Algeria. Near Errachidia. Oued Bou-Ibourine, type locality (a) sandy habitat (b) flowering plant (c) rosette during winter (d) lyrate leaf from lower part of the plant (e) rosette starts building the inflorescence (f) ripening heteroarthrocarpic fruits (g) flowers and detailed view on sepals (h) siliques releasing seeds from dehiscent distal part of fruit. Claude Lemmel & Zahora Attioui in Koch & Lemmel (2019). 

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