Flora to protect in the Pontine Islands - Jupiter's beard

Flora to protect in the Pontine Islands - Jupiter's beard

26 June 2020

Jupiter’s beard Anthyllis barba-jovis L. is a shrub in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae). It grows in the coastal areas of the western and central Mediterranean, between 0 e 300 m a.s.l., and is typical of sea rocks and coastal garrigues. In Italy the species is rare and present in Liguria, Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia.

It is a shrub that generally grows up to 1.5 m tall. Leaves are compound and made by 9-19 leaflets. Their lower page is covered by dense silvery hairs, which probably inspired the specific name. Flowers develop between March and June and are pale yellow (brown orange while drying). They are gathered in terminal inflorescences. The fruit is a small pod with a single seed.

Anthyllis barba-jovis is very rare in Lazio and occurs in the southern area (Circeo, coastline between Terracina and Gaeta) and in the Pontine islands. The work by Anzalone & Caputo (1974-75) on the flora of the Pontine archipelago records the species in several localities in Ponza, as abundant on Monte Guarniere in Palmarola, and very rare in Ventotene. There are no recent published data to update the distribution of Anthyllis barba-jovis in the archipelago. During our field visits, we never observed the species in Palmarola and Ventotene, yet it might be present on cliffs and rocks that are hardly accessible or visible. We do hope to continue our search in the next future and maybe found it.

Jupiter’s beard is very palatable for herbivores. Feral goats can impact on the species and this might also explain its possible decrease in Palmarola.