Included here is the Anatolian Plateau east of the ‘Anatolian Diagonal’, the Armenian Highlands, most of Iran and part of Afghanistan.

Armeno-Iranian Thorn Cushion Formations

Open thorn cushion vegetation covers large areas in the sub alpine zones of the Kopetdagh and Elburz mountains and the ranges of the Kurdistan and Zagros mountains. They include scores of spiny species of Acantholimon (Plumbaginaceae), Acanthophyllum (Caryophyllaceae), Astragalus (Fabaceae) and Onobrychis (Fabaceae). These formations are often generally described as tragacanthic vegetation. They represent an adaptation to the hostile conditions of highland deserts and often display extremely low rates of annual growth, but certain species can live for over 100 years. They also often display high levels of local endemism. Of the 38 species found in the Kopetdagh Mountains 28 are local endemics confined to this mountain range. There appears to have been a migration of cushion plant species from the arid Iranian Plateau, which is considered to be a centre of speciation of highland xerophytes. In Kopetdagh the most common species are from the genera Acantholimon (Plumbaginaceae), Acanthophyllum (Apiaceae) and Tragacantha (Fabaceae). All are extremely spiny. The few non-spiny species are Asperula balchanorum and the two endemic species Gypsophila aretioides (Caryophyllaceae) and Dionysia kossinskyi (Primulaceae). Dionysia is considered to be a relict genus represented by just four extant species. Gypsophila aretioides represents the ultimate evolution of a cushion plant. Its callous-like structure is so hard that it cannot even be destroyed by gunshot. Characteristic species of the Elburz Mountains include many endemic or near endemic taxa such as Acantholimon bodeanum, A. cephalotoides, A. demawendicum, A. dianthifolium, A erinaceum, A. festucaceum, A. gadukense, A. hohenackeri, A. ophiocladum, A. rudbaricum (Plumbaginaceae), Acanthophyllum microcephalum (Apiaceae), Aethionema stenopterum (Brassicaceae), Arenaria gypsophiloides (Caryophyllaceae), Astragalus curviflorus, A distans, A. fasciculifolius, A. glaucacanthus, A. gossypinus, A. kurdicus, A. microcystis, A. mucronifolius, A. naftolskyi, A. semipellitus (Fabaceae), Fibigia multicaulis (Brassicaceae), Minuartia juniperina (Caryophyllaceae), Onobrychis cornuta, Phlomis armeniaca (Lamiaceae), Prangos uloptera (Apiaceae), Sameraria aarmena (Brassicaceae), Scutellaria pinnatifida (Lamiaceae), Vicia persica (Fabaceae).


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