Petrulaitis L., Gudžinskas Z.

A case study of Mentha longifolia and allied species from Lithuania

Abstract Assessment of the conservation status of a species, first, should be based on its clearly defined taxonomic identity. Insufficient knowledge of certain taxonomic groups may lead to misidentifications, misinterpretations and become an obstacle for conservation. Mentha longifolia, listed as a protected plant species of Lithuania since 1981, belongs to a taxonomically complex group of species. The aim of this research was to examine available herbarium specimens of M. longifolia and verify their identification, specify distribution of this species in Lithuania and evaluate its conservation status in the country. The study was based on the analysis of herbarium specimens and information provided in references and databases. We studied a total of 93 specimens initially identified as M. longifolia. Morphological features of 30 leaves (leaf length, leaf width, petiole length, distance from leaf base to the widest place, length of leaf tooth) of both M. longifolia and M. ×villosa were measured on herbarium specimens. After the revision of herbarium specimens, we revealed that 37.6% of specimens initially identified as M. longifolia belong to other species (mostly to M. ×villosa) and 29.0% of specimens cannot be identified precisely because of the early stage of development. Only 33.4% of M. longifolia specimens were identified precisely. Thus, M. longifolia, previously supposed as quite widespread in Lithuania, after the revision appeared to be restricted mainly to the southern and south-eastern parts of the country. Applying the IUCN criteria, M. longifolia was evaluated as data deficient (DD) species. Analysis of leaf morphological traits revealed that M. longifolia and M. ×villosa can be differentiated by the length and the width of leaf blade, the distance from leaf base to the widest part of leaf and by the ratio between the length and the width of middle cauline leaves. This study revealed that taxonomic revision of the genus Mentha in Lithuania is required. Distribution of species, ecology and state of populations, impact of alien species on native congeners should be estimated in the future.


Keywords distribution, herbarium, hybrids, identification, Lamiaceae, leaf morphology, taxonomy

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