Mediterranean Plants

 

Photos from my plant watching excursion to the Spanish Island of Mallorca in March 2008. I describe the landscape, types of vegetation, some typical plants, and a few garden scenes.

(all photos available in a larger scale by clicking on them)

  

 
Mediterranean landscapes are often covered with pine forest and forests of broadleaf evergreens. This rugged landscape is typical for limestone areas. Soils are thin and extremely vulnerable to erosion.   Unsustainable wood cutting especially in roman times, and overgrazing through goats have degraded the vegetation and eroded the soils in many areas along the coast. These treeless degraded areas are called Macchie.
 
Pine forests can be found where soils are still intact. This one also has a rich understory vegetation that will support wildlife and provide a refuge for many plant species.   Oak forests are also typical for the Mediterranean. These are very slow growing trees! The lack of vegetation at the base is probably due to overgrazing by goats
 
common pines are P. halepensis, nigra, pinaster and pinea   Pinus halepensis (Aleppo-Pine)
 
The 'cultural landscape' consists of fields and orchards in the valleys and on the lower slopes of the mountains. Winter and Spring are the greenest seasons here, while summers are hot and dry and part of the landscape turns brown.   This slope has been terraced with stone walls and planted with olive trees and a few other fruit trees such as almonds and apricots.
 
an old olive tree (Olea europaea)    almond tree (Prunus dulcis) in bloom
 
Agriculture depends largely on irrigation. This channel carried clean, cold water from a cave-like source in the mountain to the gardens near the monastery Lluc   In the low-lying agricultural land of Mallorca, old wind mills are a very common site. They were used to pump groundwater into the fields and orchards.
 
The oranges were by far the juiciest, sweetest, most flavorful I have ever tasted   Opuntias are introduced from Central America. Although the fruits can be eaten, they are rather considered a weed.
   Mallorca's economy is largely based on tourism, and hotels are being build all along the coast lines. Urban sprawl is destroying agricultural land on a large scale. This land is lost forever - but what can I say - I stayed in one of these hotels myself.
     
 
Euphorbia and numerous shrubs cover this mountainside.   Euphorbia dendroides, foliage and flowers
 
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a typical subshrub of the macchie   Ephedra stems resemble equisetum (horsetail)
 
Asparagus albus is well armed with long thorns   Genista horrida forms a dense cushion with needle-like thorns as a weapon against grazing animals.
 
Asphodelus aestivus has thick, almost succulent leaves   Heather species (Erica) are common in the Mediterranean landscape
 
Arbutus unedo, the Strawberry Tree, is a large evergreen shrub   Cneorum tricoccon, an evergreen shrub
 
Cistus albidus is a very common sub-shrub found on road sides, in badlands and light forests   Anchusa azurea
 
The fragrant Reseda alba was a popular plant in the gardens of European courts   Asteriscus maritimus is a tiny cushion-forming plant with a woody base - so technically it is a sub-shrub.
 
Arum italicum grows in part shade in locations that are fairly moist   Another member of the Aracea that I saw frequently is Arisarum vulgare - the resemblance to our native Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema) is easy to see.
 
Chamaerops humilis is one of the two palm species that are native to the Mediterranean. The other species is Phoenix canarensis.   Over 40 species of orchids can be found on Mallorca. The flower of this orchid imitates an insect (Orchis speculum).
 
Agave americana is an introduced species grown in gardens, from where it often escapes into the wilderness   This small church has a beautiful garden with palms, fruit and ornamental trees, perennials and herbs
 
Carpobrotus acinaciformis is originally from South Africa and was introduced as a garden plant   Aloe vera is a common garden and container plant
 
The fountain in the court of Monastery Lluc - the lime-rich water has caused a mountain of sinter to grow on the top.   The top of the fountain looks like a Japanese Suiseki and is overgrown with moss
 
A beautiful garden gate made of some nicely arranged hardwood limbs.   A ficus tree with an enormous trunk is the centerpiece of a small park in Palma.

I hope you enjoyed the botanical journey.

 

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