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Sarcocornia hispanica (Chenopodiaceae), a new species from the Iberian Peninsula.


Three species of Sarcocornia A.J. Scott have been recognized in the Iberian Peninsula: S. perennis (Mill.) AJ. Scott, S.fruticosa (L.) A.J. Scott and S. alpini (Lag.) Rivas--Martinez. The taxonomy of the genus Sarcocornia has been widely discussed by many authors due to the inter--specific hybridation (Lagasca, 1817; Willkomm, 1862; Ball, 1964; Scott, 1977; Castroviejo & Coello, 1980; Pastor & Valdes, 1986; Castroviejo 1990; Castroviejo & Lago, 1992; Ball, 2003; Shepherd & al, 2005; Kadereit & al., 2006, Alonso & al., 2008, etc.).

As a result of a exhaustive revision of the Sarcocornia communities of the Iberian Peninsula we have the opportunity to collect and study numerous wild populations from the east of the Iberian Peninsula. In these territories the dominant species in the saline depressions close to the Mediterranean coast is S. fruticosa. However in our study we have observed specimens that do not correspond to the description of this species. The macro--and micromorphology, ecology and cytology data from these specimens convinced us that it should be ascribed to a new species.


Plant material

Complete fresh specimens from different coastal and inland Sarcocornia species of the Iberian Peninsula were collected directly from the field in different stages: summer--autumn (flowers) and autumn--winter (fruit). Plant material was preserved at--20[degrees]C for subsequent analysis. Voucher specimens of analyzed material are preserved in MAF Herbarium (Faculty of Pharmacy, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain) and in our personal collections (V. de la Fuente, Autonomous University, Madrid, Spain).

Besides fresh plant material, the morphological study of seeds and fruits was completed with voucher specimens of different herbariums: MA Herbarium (Real Jardin Botanico, CSIC, Madrid, Spain); MAF Herbarium, and UPS Herbarium (Uppsala University, Sweden).

A complete list of collected plant material and voucher specimens employed for this study is presented in the attached appendix.

Morfological and micromorphological characters

Scanning electronic microscopy analysis (SEM)

Cross--sections of flower, fruits and seeds were cut with a sharp blade. Dry samples were fixed in situ with formyl acetic alcohol (FAA). After washing with a 0.1M phosphate buffer (pH 7.4), they were dehydrated through a graded ethanol series. Dry samples were mounted flat on the surfaces of conductive graphite stubs and sputtered and gold--coated in a Bio--Rad SC 502 apparatus for electrical conductivity and to prevent charging under the electron beam. Samples were examined with a Hitachi S--3000N (Japan) SEM using an acceleration voltage of 20 kV and a working distance of 15 mm. The temperature of the sample stage during analysis was room temperature.

Chromosome counts

Mitotic chromosome counts were made from root meristems. Young radicles from root tips taken from germinated seeds were used. Samples were pretreated with 0.002 M 8--hydroxyquinoline at 4[degrees]C for 24 h. The material was fixed with Carnoy at 4[degrees]C overnight. The radicles were then hydrolysed with 5 N HCl for 5--15 min at room temperature stained with 2% acetic orcein and squashed. At least ten counts were made from each population (Appendix 1).


Sarcocornia hispanica Fuente, Rufo & Sanchez--Mata, sp. nova

Holotypus: Spain, Alicante: Villena, Las Virtudes, 29.VIII.2008, 30SXH8176, V. de la Fuente & al., MAF 169314.

Diagnosis: Frutex erectus, altus usque ad 100150 cm, multicaulis; caules succulenti, articulati, erecti vel erecti--ascendentes. Rami virides; ramificatio ordinate decussata, saepe verticillata. Folia opposita, connata--amplexicaulia, squamiformia, margine hyalino, scarioso--membranaceo, apicibus subacutis vel rotundatis. Inflorescentiae laterales et terminales, spicatae, segmentis longis; cyma triflora cum floribus duorum staminum et duorum stigmatum.

Affinis Sarcocorniae fruticosae (L.) AJ. Scott, sed a qua nuculae pericarpio membranaceo semini connato differt; semina rotundata; testa seminum dense papillata et in margine vestita pilis brevibus (35-52 mm. longis).

Description: Perennial woody shrub, 100--150 cm tall. Erect. Woody erect and not rooting stems and main branches. Secondary branches erect and ascending. Regular decussate ramification, occasionally whorled. opposite amplexicaule scale--like leaves, fused to form a collar--like segment, with a membranaceous / scarious hyaline margin 0.3 mm wide with a subacute to rounded apex, not or slightly keeled.

Inflorescence 2-3 mm wide, spicate, terminal and lateral, segmented; each fertile segment composed of two 3-flowered cymes, decussate, immersed in the pair of opposite scale--like bracts, arising from the node above. Cymes formed of three sessile flowers in a row, free from each other; central flower a bit bigger than the lateral flowers, far from the upper segment. Fleshy perianth formed of four fused tepals, becoming spongy in fruit. Stamens 2; superior ovary with two stigmas.

Fruit an achene. Membranaceous pericarp parcially fused to the seed. Round vertical brownish seeds 0.9-1.1 mm long and 0.7-0.8 mm wide. Surface exotesta verrucate covered with papillae (35-52) [micro]m long and 29-40) [micro]m wide) on the radical edge of the seed (Figure 1). Conduplicate embryo.

Cytology: 2n = 54. Our counts confirm the hexaploid level previously established by Castroviejo and Coello (1980).


Distribution: Western Mediterranean biogeographical territories. We know Sarcocornia hispanica, only from the Iberian Peninsula, from the Manchego--Murciano biogeographical sector (Manchego sector, Castellana subprovince, Mediterranea Iberica Central province), and Murciano--Almeriense biogeographical province; our taxon reachs also some inland localities of the eastern Betica biogeographical province (Accitano--Baztetano sector, Hoyano Accitano--Baztetano subsector) (Rivas--Martinez & al., 2002; Rivas--Martinez & col., 2011).

Ecology and Phytosociology: Sarcocornia hispanica occurs in saline depressions where usually it is not reached by sea water. It could also be found far away from the coast in endorreic lakes derived from Tertiary materials, or even in canals of salt works. It usually grows on saline sandy to clayey gypsiferous soils where it can be accompanied mainly by Arthrocnemum macrostachyum [Arthrocnemenion macrostachyi (Rivas--Martinez & Costa 1984) Rivas--Martinez & Costa in Rivas--Martinez & col. 2011, Arthrocnemion macrostachyi RivasMartinez & Costa 1984 nom. mut., Sarcocornietea fruticosae Br.--Bl. & Tuxen ex A. & O. Bolos 1950 nom. mut.] (Rivas Martinez & col., 2011). We know the new proposed taxon from Xeric oceanic and Pluviseasonal oceanic Mediterranean bioclimates, meso--and thermomediterranean thermotypes, dry and semia rid ombrotypes, and euoceanic territories (Gimenez Luque & Gomez--Mercado, 2002; Salazar & al., 2002; Alonso & de la Torre, 2002; Rivas--Martinez & col., 2007).


We have found as main characters to differentiate Sarcocornia hispanica from the rest of Sarcocornia species of the Iberian Peninsula: life form, shape of the leaf apex, pericarp and seed shape and testa ornamentation.The perennial habit (plants up to 100 m high), the pericarp fused to the seed and the verrucate surface exotesta of this species distance it from the others European species of this genus.

The relation between pericarp and seed has been found to be variable between some species (Sheperd & al., 2005). Most of them presents a pericarp adhered to the seed. S. hispanica species is an exception, presenting a pericarp partially fused to the seed. In both cases the pericarp only tears at the radical edge of the seed at maturity.


We thank the directors and curators of the studied herbaria (MA, MAF, and UPS) for the facilities to study the requested material necessary for our researchs. The authors want to thank also Dr. Maria Felisa del Barrio Vega from the Latin Philology Department of the Complutense University of Madrid for the translations to Latin concerning the description of the new proposed taxon. This investigation was carried out within the framework of the research projects CGL200911059, CGL2008-901 and CTM2010-18456 supported by the Ministries of Science and Education and Science and Innovation (Government of Spain).


Studied specimens

Sarcocornia hispanica Fuente, Rufo and Sanchez--Mata, spec. nova. SPAIN: Alicante: Villena, Las Virtudes, 29.08.2008, 30SXH8176, V. de la Fuente (MAF 169314 *, holotypus). Alicante: San Felipe Neri, El Hondo, 29.08.2008, 30SXH9647, V. de la Fuente (MAF 169357*, 169475, 169476, 169477). Alicante: Santa Pola, Playa Lisa, 29.08.2008, 30SYH1230, V. de la Fuente (MAF 169311, 169312). Alicante: Torrevieja, Laguna Grande, 22.09.2009, 30SYH0308, V. de la Fuente, L. Rufo & N. Rodriguez (MAF 169310). Granada: De Corte(s) a (Banos de) Benzalema. Lag. Pl. Barr. P 49. (1817), leg. S.R. Clemente (MA 29392, 29393). Granada: El Margen del Culler, Baza, alt. 850, 9.10.1981, J.M. Losa Quintana (MA 346484).

doi: 10.5209/rev_LAZA.2011.v32.37817

Recibido: 5 octubre 2011

Aceptado: 26 octubre 2011

* Populations with chromosome counts.


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Vicenta de la Fuente *, Lourdes Rufo Nieto * & Daniel Sanchez--Mata **

* Departamento de Biologia. Facultad de Ciencias. Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. Cantoblanco. E--28049 Madrid. Email:;

** Departamento de Biologia Vegetal II. Facultad de Farmacia. Universidad Complutense. E--28040 Madrid. E--mail:
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Author:de la Fuente, Vicenta; Rufo Nieto, Lourdes; Sanchez--Mata, Daniel
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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