Juan Fernández Islands

The Juan Fernández Islands are a sparsely inhabited island group in the South Pacific Ocean reliant on tourism and fishing. Situated 670 km off the coast of Chile, they are composed of three main volcanic islands: Robinson Crusoe, Alejandro Selkirk and Santa Clara; the group is considered part of Insular Chile. The islands are known for having been the home to the marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk for more than four years from 1704, which may have inspired Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Most of the archipelago's present-day inhabitants reside on Robinson Crusoe Island, in the capital, San Juan Bautista, located at Cumberland Bay on the island's north coast; the group of islands is part of Chile's Valparaíso Region and, along with the Desventuradas Islands, forms one of the nine communes of Valparaíso Province. The islands are named after the explorer who discovered them in the 1570s. Robinson Crusoe Island known as Isla Más a Tierra, is located closest to the mainland of continental South America, is surrounded by a number of islets, including Juanango, Viñilla, Los Chamelos, Los Claveles and El Verdugo.

Santa Clara, lying 1 km southwest of Robinson Crusoe. Alejandro Selkirk Island known as Isla Más Afuera, is located 180 km further west. Alejandro Selkirk is the largest of the Juan Fernández Islands at 49.5 km2, its highest peak, Cerro de Los Inocentes, is the highest point of the archipelago at 1,268 m. The island's population was 57 in 2012. Robinson Crusoe is the second largest island in the archipelago at 47.9 km2. The population of Robinson Crusoe was 843 in 2012. Santa Clara is 2.2 km2 in area and reaches a height of 375 m. Santa Clara is uninhabited; the maximum elevations of Juan Fernández, 915 m for Robinson Crusoe and 1,329 m for Alejandro Selkirk are high enough to cause the phenomenon known as Kármán vortex street, which can be seen from space. The islands are volcanic in origin, produced by the movement of the Nazca Plate over the Juan Fernández hotspot; as the plate moved eastward over the hot spot, volcanic eruptions formed the Juan Fernández Ridge before being subducted under the South American continent at the Peru–Chile Trench.

The islands occur. Radiometric dating indicates that Santa Clara is the oldest of the islands, at 5.8 million years old, followed by Robinson Crusoe, 3.8 – 4.2 million years old, Alexander Selkirk, 1.0 – 2.4 million years old. The seafloor around Juan Fernández Islands is rich in Manganese–Iron nodules, which may be potential economic interest; the islands have a subtropical Mediterranean climate, moderated by the cold Humboldt Current, which flows northward to the east of the islands, the southeast trade winds. Temperatures range from 3 °C to 29 °C, with an annual mean of 15.4 °C. Higher elevations are cooler, with occasional frosts on Robinson Crusoe. Average annual precipitation is varying from 318 mm to 1,698 mm year to year. Much of the variability in rainfall depends on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Rainfall is higher in the winter months, varies with elevation and exposure; the Juan Fernández islands are home to a high percentage of rare and endemic plants and animals, are recognized as a distinct ecoregion.

The volcanic origin and remote location of the islands meant that the islands' flora and fauna had to reach the archipelago from far across the sea. The closest relatives of the archipelago's plants and animals are found in the Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests ecoregions of southern South America, including the Valdivian temperate rain forests, Magellanic subpolar forests, Desventuradas Islands. There are 209 native species of vascular plants in the Juan Fernandez Islands 150 of which are flowering plants, 50 are ferns. There are 126 species that are endemic, with 12 endemic genera and one endemic family, Lactoridaceae. Many plants are characteristic of the Antarctic flora, are related to plants found in southern South America, New Zealand and Australia. Vegetation zones correspond to elevation, with grasslands and shrublands at lower elevations and montane forests at middle elevations, shrublands at the highest elevations; the two main islands have somewhat distinct plant communities. Alejandro Selkirk is covered with grassland from 0 to 400 m, interspersed with wooded ravines, home to dry forests of Myrceugenia and Zanthoxylum fagara.

From 400 m to 600 m are lower montane forests, with upper montane forest from 600 m to 950 m. The treeline is at 950 m, above, alpine shrubland and grassland, dominated by temperate Magellanic vegetation such as Acaena, Drimys, Gunnera, Myrteola and Ugni. On Robinson Crusoe, grasslands predominate from 0 to 100 m.

Eremophila platycalyx

Eremophila platycalyx is a flowering plant in the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae and is endemic to Western Australia. It is a shrub or small tree with its branches and leaves covered with a layer of matted hairs, although the hairs are sometimes obscured by resin; the shape of the leaves is variable, depending on subspecies, the sepals are brightly coloured and the petals are cream-coloured, sometimes spotted on the outside. Two subspecies have been described but others have been discovered although not as yet formally described. Eremophila platycalyx is a small tree growing to a height of up to 4 m; the branches and leaves are covered with simple hairs flattened against the surface but these are obscured by sticky resin. The leaves are arranged alternately and are scattered along the branches, linear to lance-shaped or egg-shaped 17–70 mm long, 2–14.5 mm wide and covered with grey hairs pressed against the surface. The flowers are borne singly in leaf axils on a hairy stalk 4–27 mm long. There are 5 overlapping, pink or yellow, lance-shaped to circular sepals which are 12–20 mm long.

The petals are joined at their lower end to form a tube. The petal tube is cream-coloured, sometimes with a bluish-green tinge, sometimes with spots on the inside or outside; the petal tube is glabrous on the outside, the petal lobes are glabrous inside and out, but the tube is filled with long, soft hairs. The 4 stamens are about the same length as the petal tube. Flowering occurs between June and September and is followed by fruits which are dry, oval-shaped tapering to a point and are 5.5–8.5 mm long. The species was first formally described by Ferdinand von Mueller in 1866 and the description was published in Fragmenta phytographiae Australiae; the specific epithet is derived from the Ancient Greek πλατύς meaning “flat”, "broad" or "wide" and κάλυξ meaning "cup", "cover" or "outer envelope of a flower”, referring to the broad sepals. There are as many as 10 subspecies of E. platycalyx but only two have been formally described to date: Eremophila platycalyx F. Muell. Subsp. Platycalyx, distinguished from subspecies pardalota by having sepals that are egg-shaped to round and flower stalks longer than 8.5 mm.

Pardalota Chinnock, distinguished from subspecies platycalyx by having lance-shaped sepals and a flower stalk less than 6.5 mm. This species is sometimes known as granite eremophila, but that name is used for E. granitica. Subspecies platycalyx occurs in rocky places between Leonora and Shark Bay in the Carnarvon, Gibson Desert, Little Sandy Desert, Murchison and Yalgoo biogeographic regions. All the subspecies of E.platycalyx described to date are classified as "not threatened" by the Western Australian Government Department of Parks and Wildlife. This eremophila bears masses of white to cream flowers; some forms have colourful sepals which remain on the plant for much longer than the petals. Although slow-growing, it is long-lived and if lightly pruned from an early age, will keep its compact shape for many years, it can be propagated from cuttings or by grafting onto Myoporum rootstock and grown in a wide range of soils. It grows best in full sun, only needs an occasional watering during long droughts but can be sensitive to frost


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