Astragalus physocalyx

Astragalus physocalyx

This astragalus is one of the most remarkable plants in the Bulgarian flora. It was described by F. B. Fisher on materials gathered in the vicinity of Plovdiv town by the collectors of the Hungarian botanist Imre Frivaldszky . It was then considered that A. physocalyx is local endemic as it has not been seen anywhere else. The intensive collecting for herbaria that followed, combined with the destruction of its habitats by quarrying, led to the extinction of the plant and for decades it was known as one of the best examples for extinction in Europe. It is notable that the Bulgarian king Boris III, a knowledgeable botanist himself, took part in one of the expeditions attempting with no success to rediscover the astragalus in wild. Surprisingly, many years later, in 1950, it was found in a new locality in the Southern Valley of River Strouma. The only two plants found there were transferred in the Botanical Garden in Sofia, where they were kept for a long time at the cost of enormous efforts. Later, in 1970, the surviving individuals from the garden were brought to their former locality in Plovdiv. Unfortunately, they survived for a short time and this species become extinct for second time as it was assumed that its population in Strouma Valley was destroyed. However, another surprise came shortly after as the plant was discovered in isolated localities in the neighboring Macedonia and Greece and fairly recently also in Anatolia in Turkey. But the surprises do not end here. In 2006 botanists from the Institute of Botany in Sofia undertook an expedition to search for this plant and it was eventually found again in Strouma Valley.

Astragalus physocalyx is protected by the Bulgarian law and any damage to the plant is punished. It is considered to be Critically Endangered species and is included in the Red Data Book of Republic in Bulgaria.

Astragalus physocalyx

© Boris Assyov