Monday, 26 January 2015


The spring-like weather in the Algarve, meant that a few plants were beginning to grow and flower, allowing those of us who like such things, to identify a few new 'ticks'.
First was a member of the pea family which caught the eye with its gorgeous white flowers and soft foliage. It turned out to be called Garbancillo or Astragalus lusitanicus.
Another common name for this plant is Devil's Beans which refers to the toxic nature of the seeds it produces.  The goats and sheep mentioned  a couple of days ago, will avoid this plant for just that reason.  Another strange-looking flower was found scrambling through the shrubs growing on the cliff tops. This turned out to be another poisonous plant going by the common name of Dutchman's Pipe or Aristolochia baetica.
A member of the Birthwort family, it has been used in the past to hasten childbirth. It isn't used for that purpose any longer as the plant is carcinogenic to mammals (including humans.)  The flowers are rather interesting, particularly when viewed closely, revealing a hairy tube shape I think, rather reminiscent of pitcher plants.
An iconic plant of southern Europe is the Gum Cistus.  In the Mediterranean area, these large, papery flowers often have chocolate-coloured spots inside the flower cup, but in these parts of Portugal, they form a sub-species and are usually spot-free, but no less beautiful. So here it is, the Gum Cistus, Cistus ladanifer subsp. sulcatus.
The leaves exude a sticky, fragrant, resinous substance called labdanum which is used in the perfume industry and the scent of this, fills the air around them, particularly when the sun shines on them.
Lastly for today, a flower so intensely blue, that it seemed to glow from within the shade of other shrubs. Shrubby Gromwell or Lithodora fruticosa grows all over the western Mediterranean area, but what a little beauty it is and a great new tick for the list.
There will be more new 'ticks' tomorrow...
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