Sideritis elica Aneva, Zhelev & Bonchev is the new species discovered and described by Assoc. Prof. Ina Aneva (Scientific Secretary of division “Biodiversity, Bioresources and Ecology” and Researcher at the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, BAS), Prof. Petar Zhelev (University of Forestry) and Sen. Asst. Prof. Georgi Bonchev, PhD (Institute of Plant Physiology and Genetics, BAS).

Sideritis elica (Rhodope elica) differs morphologically from the well-known Mursal tea (Sideritis scardica), and the differences have been confirmed at the molecular level by the application of genetic analyses. The most significant morphological characteristics that distinguish the new species are related to the way the stem branches, the width and length of the first three leaf pairs, the length of the bract tip and the high intensity of indumentation. The species is part of the Empedoclia section of the genus Sideritis, which is a taxonomically complex group comprising 47 species distributed in the Eastern Mediterranean. Phylogenetic analysis shows clear differences between the taxa studied and 6.8% genetic divergence between them.

Sideritis elica grows in the Chervenata Stena Biosphere Reserve, Western Rhodopes. The population has low numbers, which necessitates measures for the conservation of the species in nature. The habitat covers the upper part of a rocky slope, which in the the flattened part of the ridge transitions into a mixed forest of black pine and water hornbeam.

For floristically well-studied countries such as Bulgaria, the discovery of new plant species is a relatively rare event.

The species is named in honour of the mother of Assoc. Prof. Ina Aneva – Elka, in recognition of her botanical enthusiasm, support and inspiring help during all the studies.

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