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HomeSeperatorMEPA NewsletterSeperatorOUTLOOK 10SeperatorDISCOVERY OF NEW PLANT SPECIES


new speciesA new type of plant species has been discovered by MEPA’s Ecosystems Management Unit during a survey exercise it was carrying out as part of a project aimed at identifying which plant species may require protection. During one of these field surveys at Il-Wied tal-Fiddien on the outskirts of Rabat, one of MEPA’s nature protection officials discovered a species of the  Zannichellia family that was different from the known endemic species Zannichellia melitensis (Ħarira tal-Ilma), and is therefore a species not yet recorded from the Maltese Islands.

Following further research it resulted that the species found in the Tal-Fiddien/Chadwick Lakes area corresponds to the Great Horned Pondweed (Ħarira tal-Widien). This new plant species differs from the Maltese Horned Pondweed (Ħarira tal-Ilma), mainly by being a perennial and more robust plant, by having wider leaves with pointed tips and by producing longer fruit and fruit stalks.

Horned Pondweeds are plants typical of wetlands and rock pools that occur in the northern hemisphere and the Mediterranean Region. In Malta, these pondweeds are relatively vulnerable, in that wetlands and rock pools are very rare.

In 2001, following a number of studies by Maltese and Italian scientists, the horned pondweeds living in our rock pools (which are habitats usually found in garigue that fill in with rainwater in the wet season) were found to be endemic to Malta, that is, known from nowhere else in the world. These were described as Zannichellia melitensis from plants found at In-Nigret limits of Naxxar.

Notwithstanding this, it was renowned that other horned pondweeds might have occurred in the Maltese Islands, particularly in valley wetlands, which is a different habitat from rock pools.

The plant essentially live submerged in water. This plant offers shelter and is a source of food to several aquatic fauna, namely tadpoles, water snails and numerous insect larvae. Zannichellia major is found principally in the East and Central North of Europe, such as Germany, Romania, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ukraine, Turkey.