Wild Flora of the Western Algarve

The Algarve is well known to be one of the most fascinating regions in Europe for all who are interested in plant life. Apart from the presence of a multitude of flowers that can be found throughout Iberia, the Algarve constitutes the natural northern limit for many species characteristic to North Africa. Furthermore, and significantly, the area is blessed with many endemic species unique to this part of the world.

The Sagres peninsula and the Monchique mountains are undoubtedly the most rewarding of the many outstanding botanical sites found throughout the Algarve. These two areas are within close reach of AlmaVerde.

AlmaVerde is itself at the narrow, western end of the Barrocal, a calcareous platform that extends from Cape St. Vincent to the west and tapers off far to the east, just north of Tavira. This narrow strip runs parallel to the coast and, throughout most of its length, is only a few kilometres in width, reaching a maximum of around 20 kilometres wide in central Algarve. Many of the plants to be found on the Sagres peninsula are present on the western Barrocal with the notable addition of numerous Mediterranean orchid species.

The most obvious components of the abundant Mediterranean maquis (Garigue), a heath-like habitat found in abundance across the Barrocal, are the Sun Roses (Cistus species), Rock Roses (Halimium species), Lavenders (Lavandula species), Thymes (Thymus species), the Asphodels (Asphodelus species) and the ubiquitous Mastic bush (Pistacia lentiscus). Hundreds of other flowering plants cover the Barrocal, and amongst the most beautiful are the vast array of bulbous species including: The Daffodils Narcissus gaditana, N.  willkommii, N. papyraceus, Spanish Bluebell Endymion hispanicus, Star of Bethlehem Ornithogalum nebonense, Autumn Snowflake Leucojum autumnale, Barbary Nut Gynandiris sisyrincium, Bellavallia hackelii, Spanish Lily Iris xiphium, Crocus clusii, and the stunning blue Peruvian Lily Scilla peruviana. Of the many orchid species, the most easily spotted are the Yellow-lipped Bee Orchid Ophrys lutea, Lusitanian Mirror Orchid Ophrys vernixia, Tounge Orchid Serapias strictiflora and the Naked Man Orchid Orchis militaris.

Although planted by man, the typical trees of the Barrocal are the Carob Ceratonia siliqua, the Olive Olea europaea, the Fig Ficus carica, and the famous Algarve Almond Prunus dulcis. The original natural tree of this area was in past times a rare subspecies of the Holm Oak Quercus ilex ssp. ballota. Some magnificent specimens of this very scarce and beautiful oak are conserved within the grounds of AlmaVerde.

The Sagres peninsula seems dominated by the Phoenician Juniper Juniperus phoenicea, but closer inspection will reveal a veritable natural garden consisting of a great variety of interesting plants including an extraordinary variety of endemics: Vincentin Germander Teucrium polium ssp. Vicentinum, Sagres Candytuft Iberis sampaiana, Biscutella vicentina, Shrubby Violet Viola arborescens (also found at Cape Trafalgar in Spain), Vincentin Wall Rocket Diplotaxis vicentina, the sun rose Cistus palhinhae and Goat’s-Thorn Milk-Vetch Astralagus massilensis.

The best botanical area in the Monchique mountain range is without doubt the area around Foia’s less-visited sister peak Picota at 720 metres. Apart from rare ferns, the most interesting species are Iberian Rose Bay Rhododendrum ponticum ssp. baeticum, Western Iberian Peony Paeonia broteroi and the Monchique endemic Monchique Spurge Euphorbia monchiquensis. A remarkable eight species of oaks occur. They are Cork Oak Quercus suber, Holm Oak Quercus ilex ssp.ballota, Red Oak Quercus rubra (?), Kermes Oak Quercus coccifera, Pyrenean Oak Quercus pyrenaica, Algerian Oak Quercus canariensis, Portuguese Oak Quercus faginea ssp.broteroi and the un-named Quercus lusitanica.


 Linaria Algarviana Almond Blossom
  Linaria Algarviana                                                    Almond Blossom

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