๐ŸŒฟ Endangered Scrub Mints: Unveiling Florida's Hidden Treasures ๐ŸŒฟ

Photo of Blushing Scrub Balm / Dicerandra modesta by Valerie Anderson.

Meet the scrub mints, some of Florida's most endangered plants. With over half of the 24 known species facing threats of endangerment at state or federal levels, these botanical wonders are struggling to survive amidst climate change, rapid human development, and agricultural expansion.

In a groundbreaking study with funding assistance from FNPS, researcher Andre Naranjo and colleagues analysis of a distinct DNA marker suggests that some species, like the Titusville balm, may have been overlooked for federal protection due to taxonomic technicalities.

Scrutinizing the evolutionary history of scrub mints, Naranjo and his team unveil a story of resilience amidst tumultuous environmental changes. Originating during the Pliocene era, these plants moved into the southern Florida peninsula as the land emerged from the sea. Yet, their existence is now imperiled by modern threats including development, climate change, and invasive species.

During the Pleistocene ice ages, scrub mints flourished in Florida's expansive landscape. However, recurrent cold periods led to habitat fragmentation, isolating mint populations and prompting hybridization events that shaped the diversity of scrub mints we see today.

Andre’s new study, published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, highlights the genetic diversity among calamints, indicating the need for new species designations. Despite conservation efforts, the future of scrub mints remains uncertain, with species like Lakela’s mint teetering on the brink of extinction.

Without conservation action, the loss of scrub mints could irreversibly alter Florida's scrub landscape, leading to the disappearance of one of its most unique habitats.

Read the full article by Andre Naranjo and the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Photo of Andre Naranjo with Longspurred Balm / Dicerandra cornutissima.

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