Rhamnus lycioides, black hawthorn, european buckthorn, mediterranean buckthorn, is a species of flowering plant shrub in the Rhamnaceae (buckthorn) family, in the Rhamnus genus. It is found in the Mediterranean region, in southern Europe and northern Africa.
Rhamnus lycioides is a slow growth shrub adapted to dry Mediterranean climate. It is deciduous or evergreen, shrub of 1.5-3 meters high with a tangled, thorny and many branched form. The bark is grayish stems and these are topped with spikes. Older branches are gray.
Leaves are light green and, 0.5 to 3.5 centimeters long and 0.3 to 1 inch wide. The tip is obtuse to apiculate. It has narrow leaves entire, flat, linear-spatulate to obtuse. The leaf is entire is linear to obovate, glabrous, narrow and elongated sometimes slightly broadened towards the apex. They are sometimes leathery and persistent. Lateral nerves have little or no markings on the underside.
The yellow flower s are inconspicuous, standing in groups and appear in the winter. The calyx shows four sharp corners. Flower is very small, solitary or in small bundles in the axils of the leaves, greenish-yellow with 4 triangular lobes. The petals are rudimentary or nonexistent. The yellow flower s are inconspicuous, standing in groups and appearing in the winter. The calyx shows four sharp corners.
The fruits ovoid, 4-6 millimeters large, yellowish and are beginning to ripen black. The fruit is a globose berry, with little meat, which resembles a tiny green grape initially and black at maturity. The berry is having inside a single seed or more, depending on the subspecies. Fruit round, small, dark.
It does not bloom and bear fruit at the same time. Several specimens of the same population bear fruit in different months extending the availability of the species as food for birds, such as the warblers, that disperse their seeds. The berry is purgative, very bitter and in large quantities is toxic to humans.
In the Iberian Peninsula is distributed throughout the central, eastern and south and its natural habitat are the sclerophyllous forest, and woods of pines, oaks, holm oaks and quercus coccifera. Its scientific name, and sometimes even its common name refers to its resemblance to the botanical genus lycium.
The species is found in the Mediterranean region, particularly in Spain and the Balearic Islands. It also grows on mediterranean Islands and islets, Norther Africa, the Apennine Peninsula and in former Yugoslavia on rocky, nutrient-poor soils.
The plant appears in sclerophyllous forests, scrub, and even solitary in severely degraded drylands as a pioneer species as the species is resilient to overgrazing and trampling by livestock. It is very resistant to drought, preferring calcareous soils. In extremely dry and windy climates it appears in the rocks. It survives in desert areas with annual rainfall of 200 mm.
The plant thrives in dry forests and bushes, under the Kermes oak, the Holm oak, Aleppo pine and juniper. It is a very hardy plant, which occupies poor soils, gritty and highly eroded. Along with the gorse and thistles are the latest species to disappear in overgrazed areas, being of inestimable value to small birds for its fruit and as the protection and support for their nests. The species is very important for desert birds by their fruits with high water content. The fruit can cause death in mammals, but is consumed by ants and birds.
Carl von Linné have described the Rhamnus lycioides subspecies Oleoides as a separate species Rhamnus oleoides, but it was in 1932 attributed to Rhamnus lycioides.
Four subspecies of the black thorn have been identified:
- Rhamnus lycioides ssp. borgiae (Borja) - on the Mediterranean coast east of the Iberian Peninsula.
- Rhamnus lycioides ssp. oleoides (Olive tree) - on the Atlantic and west of the peninsula,.
- Rhamnus lycioides ssp. velutina (velvet) - in the provinces of Murcia, Almería, Granada and Malaga.
- Rhamnus lycioides ssp. lycioides - widespread.
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