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Maltese Everlasting

(Scientific: Helichrysum melitense; Maltese: Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex)

The Maltese Cliff-orache described in 1987, is endemic to the Maltese Islands. It is a branched woody shrub, with dense foliage. The leaves are somewhat succulent, while the yellowish flowers which appear between late summer and early autumn are inconspicuous. The fruits, which appear in November, turn purplish-red as they ripen.

This plant is restricted to the north-west and south of the main islands of Malta and Gozo, inhabiting sheer coastal cliffs. Its relatively discontinuous distribution and its low natural recruitment indicate that the species range is possibly declining. Recruitment in its natural habitat is very low, probably due to an insect that feeds on the seeds and a fungus that apparently limits reproductive capacity. Amongst other threats to this species are cliff collapse and erosion, dumping and other human influences, and non-native plants.

The Maltese Cliff-orache is considered to be critically endangered. Indeed, it is protected through both national and international legislation. Special areas of conservation have been designated to further protect this species and its habitat. The management of such sites, law enforcement and research are crucial. Ex situ conservation for this species has been considered; indeed it has been successfully micropropagated.