Overview

Brief Summary

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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Comprehensive Description

Description

 Acaulescent (or subsessile) rosette of 60–80(–100) cm (including inflorescences) and of 40–60 cm in diameter; numerous inflorescences monocephalous, twice longer than leaves, with naked axes. Rosettes whitish, densely covered by whitish lanose indumentum, with little accumulation of marcescent leaves at the base. Leaves linear, with laminae (28–)32–36(–38) cm long, (0.7–)0.8–1.2(–1.3) cm wide, length to width ratio (28–)30(–35):1, thick, subsessile, with a pseudopetiole greenish and almost glabrous, 2 cm long and 0.5 cm wide. The leaves are covered by a dense lanose indumentum, grey-whitish. When young, leaves are golden yellow in the distal portion, and white in the proximal portion. The sheath is oblong, adaxially glabrescent and greenish or whitish, abaxially reddish-brown and slightly covered by hairs, (7–)7.5–9.5(–10) cm long, (2–)2.2–2.5(–2.7) cm wide.  Inflorescences numerous (>30), coetaneous, axillary, aphyllous, monocephalous, with a single nodding capitulum. Scape about twice longer than leaves, 60–80 cm long, 1.0–1.4 cm in diameter, erect, densely lanate, yellowish, relatively thick and stout, totally naked, without leafy bracts at the base.  Capitula radiate, patelliform, nodding, 4.5–6 cm in diameter including the ligules of the ray flowers; ligular circle well developed, as large as the involucre; discs (without counting ligular circle) 2.2–2.4 cm in diameter. Involucre sub-hemispherical, densely lanate, the pubescence unkempt, yellowish or whitish. Phyllaries pluriseriate, narrow and curved (almost curly), the outer ones 18–20 mm × 4.0–4.2 cm, linear to narrowly-lanceolate, becoming progressively shorter towards the inner-most phyllaries, 13–14 mm × 2.8–3.2 mm, only apically hairy.  Ray flowers ligulate, 95–200 per capitulum, in 3–5 rows. Corolla abaxially dark pink, adaxially yellowish becoming brown-reddish towards the apex, carnosulous, 12–14.2 mm long; ligules elliptical or oblong, bi- or tridentate, with 6 reddish-purple conspicuous nerves. Tube glanduliferous, 0.6–1.0 mm in diameter and 3.8–4.8(–6.0) mm in length, dark pink, the glands pediculate capitate, 150–160 μm long × 30–35 μm in diameter; tubes with 2 linguiform appendages 1.5–2.2 mm long; ovary whitish when young, becoming red in the extremes. Paleas 12–16(–17.5) mm long, 2.7–3.0 mm wide, brownish, with 3 main nerves. Styles 8–9 mm long, 0.2–0.3 mm wide, with branches about (1.7–)2.0–3.2 mm long, papillose. Cypselae oblong, triangular, 3.6–3.9 mm × (1.6–)1.7–2.3 mm.  Disc flowers 215–280, (8–)9–10 mm long (not counting the anthers), of purple appearance; corolla 5–5.5 mm long, reddish, yellowish pink or translucid in the lower half, lobes 5, 1–1.1 mm long and 0.5–0.6 mm wide at the base; tube glanduliferous, 0.8 mm wide × 2.6–4.5 mm long; anthers purple, sometimes exceeding the corolla by 2 mm, slightly translucid; paleas 9.8–10.2 mm long, 1.5–1.7 mm wide, brownish, with 3 main nerves.  Pollen yellow when fresh, tricolporate, 22.1–23.7 μm in equatorial diameter (not including spines), 25–26 μm in polar diameter; spines 110–116 total, equatorial spines 18, 2.3–3.2 μm long, slightly curved.
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Distribution

 (Fig. 4). Endemic to Venezuela. This species has been found in a few marshy areas of the Páramo de Santo Domingo (e.g. around the Laguna de los Patos) and the Sierra de la Culata, always in small areas of less than 0.5 km2.
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© Mauricio Diazgranados, Gilberto Morillo

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Ecology

Habitat

Small population of about 200–400 individuals growing in marshes, on very swampy and wet soil. Other Espeletiinae found on the proximate drier slopes are: Coespeletia timotensis, Espeletia schultzii Wedd., Espeletia weddellii Sch. Bip. ex Wedd., and Libanothamnus neriifolius (Bonpl. ex Humb.) Ernst.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

This species may be at a certain risk of extinction, since it is found in a very particular habitat, sensitive to climate change.

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