Some helleborines (Epipactis spp.) produce a narcotic nectar that makes pollinating wasps sluggish. This may prolong the time they spend on the flowers, bringing about greater levels of pollination.
This one is Silene littorea, a common little annual on coastal sands in the Mediterranean in March and April.
Long-used in the perfume industry, these shrubs which are so emblematic of the Mediterranean, have aromatic volatile oils and have even been reported to self-ignite in hot conditions! Interestingly, fire may actually stimulate their seeds to germinate.
They form associations with truffles, and with a curious little parasite, Cytinus hypocistis (see photo below of plant emerging from a rock rose root), which actually lives within the rock rose’s tissues until flowering.
So much more than just attractive garden shrubs!
Tabernas is the only true semi-desert in Europe. Situated in southeast Spain (Almeria, Andalucia), this seemingly baron landscape is in fact home to a plethora of rare succulents and sea lavenders, among other things. Well worth a visit in March when parts of the landscape are ablaze with little annuals which burst into bloom after seasonal rains.
Carnivorous Drosophyllum lusitanicum attracts and ensnares unsuspecting insect prey. Now very rare, in just a handful of places in Iberia & Morocco.
Wild flowers in the Algarve: a true botanical bonanza!
The Algarve is one of the best places to see wildflowers in the spring in Europe. Botanist Professor Simon Hiscock and I started documenting the flora a decade ago whilst teaching field botany there every spring. We compiled our work in a field guide, available from Kew’s online bookstore and other retailers:
The Algarve has one of the richest floras in western Europe. Here where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean, exposed cliff tops are drenched in sun in the summer months, and blasted by violent storms in the winter; the more sheltered southern coast is famous for its glittering blue seas, whilst the western seabelt is notable for its rolling white sand dunes. And as well as being an attractive holiday destination, it is a haven for botanists and nature lovers. Hillsides shimmer with white rock rose flowers in April, and clifftops are a riot of pinks, yellows and blues when the spring flowers jostle for space. Shale cliffs along the Costa Vicentina’s coast are home to rarities found no where else such as the poorly known Silene rothmaleri, believed to be extinct but rediscovered on excursions I was lucky enough to have co-led a few years ago.
Almeria’s southeastern Cabo de Gata has a beauty all of it’s own. Seemingly a baron desert in the summer months when rolling hills baked are to a yellow-brown crisp, contrasting glittering turquoise waters, the landscape comes to life after the winter rains. Sea quills (Drimia maritima) send up their towering spires of white flowers in the autumn; annuals burst into bloom in the spring; whilst century plants (Agave) mark the landscape throughout the year. A paradise for wild flower enthusiasts.
Mallorca’s northeastern-most Cap de Formentor is a botanist’s paradise. Windswept and bleak it may be, this jagged peninsula is home to a spectacular array of rarities, some are even found nowhere else. One of the more curious species is the autumn-flowering Arum pictum which grows beneath pine trees, and which lures small flies to pollinate its flowers which produce the smell of cow dung.