Coespeletia palustris (Espeletiinae: Asteraceae) was collected in 2011 and described as the eighth known species in its genus of flowering plants, which is endemic to páramo ecosystems almost entirely in Venezuela (one species, is native to northern Colombian páramo; Diazgranados and Morillo 2013). Like its congenitors, C. palustris is adapted to its unique high-altitude (3800-4800 meters; 12,500-15,700 feet) neotropical habitat and experiences extreme daily temperature changes.
The plant reaches 100 cm (3.3 feet) high, with long thin linear leaves arranged in a rosette up to 60 cm (2 feet) in diameter. It produces multiple stout stalks bearing purple daisy-like inflorescences 4-6 cm (1.7-2.4 inches) across and small, spiny pollen grains thought adapted for wind dispersal. The species name, palustris, is latin for swampy, reflecting this species’ marshy habitat. It grows in small populations (200-400 individuals) in few, highly-localized marshes in the Páramo de Santo Domingo and the Sierra de la Culata, in areas less than 0.5 km2 in size. Relatives in its genus (e.g. C. moritziana) grow on drier, rocky slopes, rather than soggy wet soils. Previous to its formal description as a distinct species, C. palustris was considered the marshy form of the highly polymorphic C. moritziana. Researchers suggest that even with the separation of C. palustris, C. moritziana may still be a species group warranting further detailed study.
The páramo ecosystem has been identified as a cool-temperature diversity hotspot, one of the richest known ecosystems with plant inhabitants showing high endemism, and many of the most rapidly diversifying lineages on earth (Madriñán et al. 2013). Scientists believe that the very specific and sensitive environment C. palustris inhabits makes this plant especially vulnerable to extinction, especially as the possible result of global warming and climate change (Diazgranados and Morillo 2013).
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