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Pringlea antiscorbutica

Pringlea antiscorbutica, commonly known as Kerguelen cabbage, is a flowering plant and the sole member of the monotypic genus Pringlea in the cabbage family, Brassicaceae. Its common name comes from the archipelago of its discovery, the Kerguelens, and its generic name derives from Sir John Pringle, President of the Royal Society at the time of its discovery by Captain James Cook's Surgeon, William Anderson in 1776.

Distribution[edit]

The species grows on the Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Crozet, Prince Edward and Kerguelen Islands. These remote islands are at roughly 50° South Latitude, constantly buffeted by strong winds. This climatic feature is unfavorable for wind pollination, excepting on infrequent mild days, and this plus the absence of potential insect pollinators explains why the Kerguelen cabbage is self-pollinating.[1] At the mature stage, this species exhibits several adaptations linked to cold tolerance such as high polyamine levels.

An old Kerguelen cabbage on the Péninsule Rallier du Baty, Kerguelen Island

Uses[edit]

The plant is edible, containing high levels of potassium. Its leaves contain a Vitamin C-rich oil, a fact which, in the days of sailing ships, made it very attractive to sailors suffering from scurvy, hence the species name, which means "against scurvy" in Latin. It was essential to the diets of the whalers on Kerguelen when pork, beef, or seal meat was used up. In May 1840, botanist J.D. Hooker was the first to make a technical analysis of the plant, and to assign the Latin name. Hooker also reported having eaten some soup that had been made with Kerguelen cabbage, and described the raw leaves as tasting like cress, the boiled leaves as tasting like "stale" (i.e., dried-out) cabbage, and the root as tasting like horseradish.[2][3]

Conservation[edit]

Kerguelen cabbages on Mayes island (Kerguelen Islands)

The micropezid fly species Calycopteryx mosleyi is associated with this plant. Both are endangered by invasive rabbits which feed on the cabbage.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schermann-Legionnet, Agnes; Hennion, Françoise; Vernon, Philippe; Atlan, Anne, Breeding system of the subantarctic plant species Pringlea antiscorbutica R. Br. and search for potential insect pollinators in the Kerguelen Islands Polar Biol. 30:1183–1193. (pdf)
  2. ^ J, Hooker, Flora Antarctica, 1843.
  3. ^ In Pursuit of Plants, pp. 297-299.

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