A new plant species from the genus Linaria has been discovered in Markotkh Nature Park in Krasnodar Krai. The authors of the discovery, the head of the Commission for the Protection and Study of Natural Ecosystems of the Western Caucasus of the Novorossiysk Local Branch of the Russian Geographical Society, Candidate of Biological Sciences Anton Popovich and professor at the Department of Higher Plants of Lomonosov Moscow State University, Doctor of Biological Sciences Alexander Zernov, named it after the place where it grows – markotchensis, or Linaria markotchensis (Plantaginaceae). The publication about the new representative of the Caucasian flora came out in the authoritative scientific journal Phytotaxa. The discovery has been internationally recognized.
The history of the discovery began in the fall of 2017, when Anton Popovich, together with the activist of the Youth Club of the Russian Geographical Society Alina Nikishina, was conducting research on the ecology and biology of an endemic species Thymus helendzhicus. The new plant was found on the southern macroslope of the Markotkh.
“I immediately realized that this was an extremely unusual plant, even though it belongs to the widespread genus Linaria. On the territory of our region there are several Linaria species, even the red-book Linaria sabulosa. But the new plants were very different from those that are common in the Caucasus, Southeastern Europe, and the Eastern Mediterranean. So we started studying them," says Anton Popovich.
The scientists collected samples, which have now become type specimens, and for several years studied the biology and ecology of a then-undescribed new species in natural conditions.
“The species is not isolated from any previously known ones. It does not look like any of the species close to it and stands apart, being at the same time a highly localized endemic. Samples were also collected for molecular genetic analysis. A geneticist from Yekaterinburg, Evgeny Filippov, began sequencing the DNA of the sample, and there are already certain results that allow us to talk about the uniqueness of the species, most likely it is a relict," the biologist added.
It was not so easy to find this toadflax. The research took place in extreme conditions: the rocky talus slopes in those places are very steep. And the plant itself is miniature – only a few centimeters, with tiny yellow flowers.
“It is found in unique plant communities that are characteristic of the Markotkh Range. They are abundant in other endemic species, which is very valuable from the perspective of the environmental significance of the territory of Markotkh Nature Park, its southern macroslope, a strip of juniper woodlands. Our region has been studied quite closely by various scientists for several centuries: botanists and zoologists. And yet, every year they find new species for the region, Russia or, like us, for the whole world. This is far from the last discovery,” Anton Popovich is sure.
Members of the Commission for the Protection and Study of Natural Ecosystems of the Western Caucasus of the Novorossiysk Local Branch of the Russian Geographical Society take part in the creation of specially protected natural territories and continue to identify the most unique natural ecosystems of the region, abundant in various vulnerable species that may disappear from the territory of the region, Russia or even from the face of the earth.
“Krasnodar Krai is unique in terms of biological diversity, rich in natural attractions and ecosystems. We must preserve all this for future generations, which is what we are doing," Anton Popovich summed up.
The Expert Council on Specially Protected Natural Territories was established in Kuban in October 2021. From the Krasnodar Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society, it includes the head of the Environmental Commission, Professor Svetlana Litvinskaya, the head of the Cartography and Geoinformatics Commission, Professor Anatoly Pogorelov, the head of the Commission for the Study and Protection of Ecosystems of the Western Caucasus of the Novorossiysk Local Branch of the Russian Geographical Society Anton Popovich, and the specialist of the Environmental Commission of the regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society, entomologist Valery Shchurov.
The study of this species was carried as a part of Anton Popovich's research "Rare Plant Species of the Novorossiysk Floristic District and Issues of Their Protection" under the guidance of Russian botanist, Doctor of Biological Sciences, professor at Moscow State University Alexander Zernov. The PhD thesis was defended in 2019 at the Nikolai Tsitsin Main Botanical Garden of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Among the discoveries was a new species of orchid that grows near Gelendzhik – Epipactis euxina; and an interspecies hybrid of Crambe maritima and Crambe koktebelica found on the Abrau Peninsula, named by the scientist Crambe tchalenkoae in honor of his teacher, Distinguished Teacher of Kuban.