ZHUMERIA MAJDAE, AN ENDEMIC ENDANGERED AROMATIC PLANT FROM SOUTH IRAN

by Ziba Jamzad

zhumeria majdae
Zhumeria majdae

Zhumeria majdae is a small aromatic shrub with grey foliage from the mint family. It is an endemic plant distributed in a small area in a subtropical climate in the mountainous area in south Iran. Botanically, it was collected for the fi rst time in 1966 and subsequently described in 1967 as a new genus by Rechinger and Per Wendelbo and named in honor of its collector, Majda Zhumer (Rechinger & Wendelbo, 1967). Actually, the plant was known to local people before being botanically described. It was wildcrafted severely and exported to neighboring Persian Gulf countries as well as used as a traditional medicinal plant by local people. There are 12 known locations for the plant on mountain slopes where small populations exist. The conservation status of the plant was evaluated based on IUCN categories and criteria (a running national project on conservation status of Iranian Plants). The status of Zhumeria majdae was defined as “Endangered.”

Efforts of scientists and conservationists to highlight the importance of this species and the threat it is facing caused an act by government authorities to implement plans for the species’ protection. At present the wildcrafting for commerce and export is prohibited by law, but still indigenous people collect it for personal use, and it can be found in local medicinal plants markets in small quantities.

The pleasantly lemon-scented dried leaves of this plant have been used for many years as herbal tea, as a curative for stomach-ache, as an antiseptic and analgesic agent, and for the treatment of painful menstruation. It is also used to treat colds, headache, wounds, and to relieve body heat. Its antioxidant activity was also proven scientifically. The essential oil of the plant contains two main constituents, including linalool and camphor, the chemicals responsible for its aroma (Rustaiyan et al. 1992).

In a site study for defining the conservation status of Zhumeria majdae, it was noticed that natural reproduction of the plant does not happen in its habitats. Only a few seedlings or young plants could be identifi ed in its distribution area. We observed that the individual plant of Z. majdae has a relatively high fruit set (ca. 70%) and a moderate seed set (51%). However, there were only a few young plants and seedlings in the area (Ajani & Jamzad, in Print). Surprisingly, the seeds collected from the plants germinate easily, making it possible to farm them for medicinal and aromatic purposes.

It seems that the extreme habitat conditions are the main factors affecting population size by inhibiting seedling establishment. Drought and grazing are the risk factors for unsuccessful regeneration in natural habitats.

Zhumeria majdae is called “Mohr-e-Khosh” by local people, meaning good plant.

Ziba Jamzad is in the Botany Research Division at the Research Institute of Forests and Rangelands, P.O. Box 13185-116, Tehran, Iran. Jamzadz@gmail.com

REFERENCES

  • Rechinger, K.H. & Wendelbo, P. (1967): Zhumeria, eine neue Labiaten- Gattung aus Sud-Iran. Nytt Mag. Bot. 14: 39-43.
  • Rustaiyan, A., Sigari, H., Barnoniri, A. and P. Weyerstahl, 1992. Constituents of the Essential Oil of Zhumeria mujdae. Flavor & Fragrance Journal, vol.7: 273-274.