Voices concern over local spring herbs

Environmental advocate in Pshdar replants uprooted gundelia  

PSHDAR– In the face of the bustling spring market for spring herbs, an environmental advocate from Pshdar, a district located in the east of Sulaymaniyah, is taking significant steps to counter the uprooting of these natural treasures for sale. The focus of the preservation effort is on gundelia, highly sought after during the spring season in Kurdistan’s mountainous regions.

Bakr Saed, an environmentalist and a member of the Kuris Mountaineering Group in Qaladze, has embarked on a mission to replant the bulbs of uprooted gundelia plants in the Kewaresh mountain, where these plants are known to flourish.

Saed has excavated small holes in specific mountain locations, to ensure their continued growth and proliferation after replanting.

With the advent of spring, the demand for plants like rhubarb, fungi and gundelia spikes, leading to their potential overharvesting and eventual scarcity in their natural habitats. Saed has documented his replanting efforts in a video, calling for regulations to limit the widespread commercial uprooting of these plants.

“Unfortunately, those who collect these plants for sale often uproot them entirely. I’ve come to replant them so they won’t disappear,” Saed stated, expressing concern over the unsustainable harvesting practices. He fears that if such practices continue, this plant may vanish from the region within two years.

Gundelia, particularly Gundelia tournefortii, is a thistle-like perennial herb native to the eastern Mediterranean and Middle-East, including the fertile soil of the Kurdistan Region’s mountainsides and valleys. It’s appreciated for its culinary uses, where the young stems are cooked and consumed for their unique flavor, likened to a combination of artichoke and asparagus. The plant also contains essential oils, particularly thymol and germacrene-D, which may hint at potential health benefits.

There are other factors contributing to their decline too, such as the use of herbicides by farmers, according to Sheikh Jamal Kirichne, a Kurdish local farmer, who in a agricultural initiative, cultivated 60 kilograms of gundelia for the first time in his village last year.

Maroof Majid, head of Aynda Organization for Environmental Protection, noted that gundelia production has been declining across the region. While these plants were once abundantly shipped to markets throughout Iraq, their numbers have dwindled, leading to concerns over their disappearance.