Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring Break Travels - Part 1: Portuguese Wild Flowers

Spring in Portugal is generally beautiful since the winter rains feed a lush vegetation that covers the countryside with a thick carpet of emerald green dotted with brightly colored flowers, the air fragrant with the scent of rockroses, rosemary, and orange blossom. This year the land was particularly verdant since over the past couple of months Portugal has experienced its wettest winter in recorded history. During my week there I took a few walks over fields, pastures, and through marshland. Here are some of the wonderful things I saw:

Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus)

Desert hyacinth (Cistanche tubulosa)

Spanish nut (Gynandriris sisyrinchium)

Small stream filled with pond water crowfoot (Ranunculus peltatus)

Crown daisy (Chrysanthemum coronarium)

A meadow full of weedy dog fennel (Chamaemelum mixtum) and Bermuda buttercups (Oxalis pes-caprae)

Century plant (Agave americana)

Iberian milk-vetch (Erophaca baetica)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Wild gladiolus (Gladiolus illyricus)

Bermuda buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae)

Double form of the Bermuda buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae)

Yellow winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

Pipe vine (Aristolochia baetica)

Asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus)

Dwarf periwinkle (Vinca minor)

 Crimson spot rockrose (Cistus ladanifer)

Tree mallow (Lavatera arborea)

Interestingly and perhaps a bit disturbingly by far the most common plant out of this set, the Bermuda buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae), which despite its name is not a buttercup but a type of sorrel, is not actually native to Portugal but originates in South Africa. Apparently it has become a highly invasive weed not only in Portugal but in most areas with a similar climate, such as California and Israel. Nevertheless, its silky sulphur-yellow flowers are very pretty and have certainly become a very distinctive feature of the Portuguese spring landscape. The century plant (Agave americana), too, is a foreign important, originating as it does in Mexico, though it does not appear to spread quite as aggressively.

Source Used for Some Plant Identifications: Flickr Group Flora do Algarve

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