Phylogeography of representative plant species of the Mediterranean flora


Myrtus communis L.








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Leaves and flowers of Myrtus communis . Valencia (Spain) 10.2007 and 06.2008  © E. Laguna


Description: An evergreen, scented tall shrub, densely branched, up to 4-5 m. Stalkless leaves, 2-3 cm, glossy, elliptic to obovate with pointed tips. Hermaphrodite fragant flowers growing in short clusters or solitary on the leaf axils, opened by April-August; 5 withe petals -rarely pink-spotted at the base or edges-,  and numerous stamens. Blue-black berry -withe or pink-spotted in some populations- up to 12-15 mm long, holding numerous small seeds. Diploid, 2n=22.


Fruiting plant in Chaouen (Marocco). 11.2007, © F. Boisset


Distribution: Almost the Mediterranean-climate area, but lacking in the aride and continental grounds. Towards the East it reaches the central areas of Minor Asia.


Distribution map of Myrtus communis*

*From BOLŇS, O. & J. VIGO (1984-2001), reproduced with the editor's permission.


Habitat: Maquis shrublands, riverine vegetation and underlayer of Mediterranean forests on warm grounds with high levels of air moisture: ravines, coastal dunes, etc. It do not use to grow over 500-600 m


Flowering myrtle at the coastal dunes of El Saler , Valencia (Spain) 06.2006, © E. Laguna


Variability: Very variable in size and aspect. Although a plethora of local varieties have been described, most authors only recognize a single taxon (subsp. communis, var. communis), or separate the short-leaved  myrtle -subsp. tarentina (L.) Arcang. (=M. communis var. tarentina L.)-, also named var. 'tarrentina', 'tarantina' or 'tarrantina' by horticulturists.  Myrtus nivellei is a long-leaved, small shrub living in Northern Africa.


FILMED's selected populations: Argelia (3), Cyprus (3), France (3), Greece (4), Italy (4), Lybia (2), Marocco (2),  Portugal (2), Spain (15), Tunisia (2), Turkey (4).

Additionally 2 populations of Myrtus nivellei from Argelia have been sampled.


.Specimens with black (left) and white (right) fruits.  Valencia (Spain) 11.2008 and 11.2007, © E. Laguna



-BOLŇS, O. & J. VIGO (1984-2001). Flora dels Paďsos Catalans. 4 vols. Ed. Barcino. Barcelona.

-BURNIE, D. 1995. Wild flowers of the Mediterranean. 320 pp. Dorling Kindersley. London.

-CASTROVIEJO, S., coord. gral. (1986-2008): Flora Iberica. 14 vols. Real Jardín Botánico-CSIC. Madrid.

-DAVIES, P. & B. GIBBONS. 1993. Field guide to the Wild Flowers of Southern Europe. 320 pp. Crowood Press. Marlborough.

-POLUNIN, O. & A. HUXLEY. 1990. Flowers of the Mediterranean. 2nd ed. 272 pp. Chatto & Windus. London.

POLUNIN, O. & B.E. SMITHIES. 1997. Flowers of South-West Europe. 480 pp. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

-SCHÖNFELDER, I. & 9. SCHÖNFELDER. 1984. Collins photoguide to the wildflowers of the Mediterranean. Collins. London.

-TUTIN, T.G., V.H. HEYWOOD, N.A. BURGES, D.H. VALENTINE, S.M. WALTERS & D.A. WEBB. 1964-1980. Flora Europaea. 5 vols. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

-VEDEL, H. 1978. Trees and shrubs of the Mediterranean. Penguin. London.


Recommended webpages:

-Virtual Herbarium of the Western Mediterranean:

-Flora Iberica:


-Mediterranean Wildflowers (pictures):

-Spanish Wildflowers (pictures):




A cultivated specimen of var. tarentina. Valencia (Spain) 05.2008, © E. Laguna



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