Flammable, beautiful and ecologically important, Rock roses (Cistus) are a striking feature of the Mediterranean hillside in spring

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: Europe’s only semi desert

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.