Conservation and public awareness of Argentina’s remarkable native medicinal flora.
Klorane Botanical Foundation and Pierre Fabre Argentina of the French pharmaceutical and dermo-cosmetics giant Pierre Fabre join forces with the world’s largest network dedicated to plant conservation Botanic Gardens Conservation International, United Kingdom, and Carlos Thays Botanic Garden, Buenos Aires to boost conservation and public awareness of Argentina’s remarkable native medicinal flora.
Concerted action to conserve Argentina’s medicinal plant heritage
A new international partnership has formed, bringing together Klorane Botanical Foundation, France, Pierre Fabre Dermo-Cosmétique, Argentina, Carlos Thays Botanic Garden, Buenos Aires, Argentina (JBCT) and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) in order to enhance and promote greater knowledge of Argentina’s medicinal flora and implement ex and in situ conservation measures.
Argentina Yungas vegetation, northern Argentina
Yungas San Franciso, Jujuy. Proyungas Image Bank. Photo: Jose Luis Rodrigues
Dry Chaco – a characteristic habitat in Argentina with an abounding medicinal plant diversity; habitat of Maytenus viscifolia. Departamento La Viña, Provincia de Salta.
Photo: Daniel Taranto
A threatened diversity
As one of the world’s mega-biodiverse nations, Argentina is home to a wealth of medicinal plants. There are at least as many as 1,500 native species – yet, beyond the country’s borders, little is known of this national botanical treasure and its utilisation, says Graciela Barreiro, Director of Carlos Thays Botanic Garden in Buenos Aires. Likewise, concerted national and international efforts remain limited to promote integrated conservation action for some of Argentina’s most endangered and rare medicinal plant species and the habitats in which they occur.
Loss of natural habitat resulting from expansion of agriculture, urbanisation, mining as well as overexploitation of wild resources and environmental pollution are major factors driving the steady decline of Argentina’s medicinal plants. Traditional herbal medicines relying on native plants are a significant element of the health care in the country, explains Serge Bouteleau, Director of Pierre Fabre Argentina.
For instance, in the mountains of the Sierra de Comechingones (Cordoba, northern Argentina) alone, some 150 plant genera are known to be collected for the preparation of herbal medicines. However, medicinal plants are not only used by and for people traditional veterinary practices apply concoctions of various species for skin complaints and in the treatment of parasites, etc.
Pilocarpus pennatifolius (Rutaceae), a native medicinal plant from humid north eastern Argentina, used by indigenous cultures to cure gastric problems, and has more recently been applied in eye care.
Maytenus ilicifolia (Celastraceae), a native medicinal plant from northeastern Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil, used in the preparation of herbal medicinal for various ailments as well as a contraceptive.
Scaling up action for conservation
Despite the importance of medicinal plants as a source of income and rural livelihood, comparatively few are cultivated while plant material is predominantly sourced from the wild, comments Joachim Gratzfeld, Director of Regional Programmes, BGCI. He further adds that this trend is likely to continue in the future, as most medicinal plants are traded locally or regionally, and the costs of cultivation are high while the agricultural land is generally
used for the production of food crops.
Scaling up of cultivation for heavily exploited species such as Minthostachys verticillata, Hedeoma multiflorum, Achyrocline satureoides, Passiflora caerulea, Acantholippia
seriphioides, Lippia turbinata, Baccharis crispa, Zuccagnia punctata, Caesalpinia paraguariensis could help to reduce pressure on the remaining natural habitats where these species occur, and secure genetic diversity in wild populations. However, commercial cultivation, management of natural habitats and sustainable harvesting approaches to wild populations need to be complemented by further measures. Ex situ conservation, through live-plant and seed bank collections that are representative of the genetic diversity found in wild populations need to be established or further enhanced as an insurance policy in a future world, comments Graciela Barreiro. She adds: Botanic gardens and affiliated agricultural research institutions in Argentina have been very active in this field for many years, but still, action needs to be scaled up.
Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays, Buenos Aires
This new joint venture will address the urgent conservation needs pertaining to Argentina’s medicinal plants through various strands of action, including the strengthening of ex situ conservation collections at botanic gardens, enhancing public outreach and awareness, and supporting the consolidation of the national network of botanic gardens. We are delighted about this new international partnership with the botanic garden community in Argentina, says Florence Guillaume, Director of the Klorane Botanical Foundation. Our corporate foundation reflects the mission of the Pierre Fabre Laboratories to care for the human being as a whole by drawing on continued inspiration from nature and plants. We are committed to the conservation and promotion of the Earth’s botanical heritage, and work closely with a large number of partners. The objectives of this initiative are fully in line with the values of our foundation.