Designated as ‘Helosciadium milfontinum’, the plant was discovered thanks to a joint study between the University of Évora (UÉ) and botanists at the University of Oviedo, in Spain.

The researchers demonstrated “clearly that this new species differs” from any another “previously identified”.

The team was able to show that it is “a different species” from one that was already classified and stressed that this new plant “is restricted worldwide to small areas of the Costa Vicentina”.

According to Carla Pinto Cruz, researcher at MED - Mediterranean Institute for Agriculture, Environment and Development of the EU, the flowers “reminds me of a small umbrella, similar to the watercress flowers, which blooms between July and August and bears fruit in the beginning of September”.

The new plant has creeping stems, “which take root and the leaves are lobed and have toothed margins,” added the researcher.

Through a taxonomic study (the science that explores, describes, names and classifies all organisms and aims to organise the biological diversity of preserved specimens) and using samples from herbariums, but also collected in nature, “it was possible to clarify the identity of this plant”, she highlighted.

Since the beginning of the century, scientists have used molecular data to improve the classification of plants and the identification of species “through the identification of small DNA sequences, specific to each species”, which allowed “the discovery of ‘Helosciadium milfontinum’ to be possible”, explained Carla Pinto Cruz.

“Each species of plant is designated by an exclusive combination of two words in Latin”, the first referring to the “genus” and the other to the specific epithet, recalled UÉ. The same happens with this discovery, in which ‘milfontinum’ is alluding to the area of occurrence of the plant, that is, Vila Nova de Milfontes, in the municipality of Odemira, in the district of Beja.

The “precise identification of each species is essential, but also in order to better plan conservation efforts properly”, stressed the researcher and professor at the Department of Biology at UÉ.

“When we realised that this small plant is more genetically isolated than we initially thought, we became more aware of its true status, its importance and its high degree of threat”, said Carla Pinto Cruz.

This plant has already been the target of some conservation efforts, but “only with a good knowledge of the species, as we came to demonstrate in this study”, are we able to “properly anticipate and prioritise conservation efforts”.