Flora and Fauna

Trip Start Dec 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 23, 2012

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Encost Cabo Girao

Flag of Portugal  , Madeira,
Friday, January 6, 2012

Flora and Fauna

You can't visit Madeira without special mention of the flowers and vegetation as it really is spectacular. It is still winter here but even so the colour in the bougainvillea, brilliant hues of pinks, reds and purples and the crimson poinsetia trees and the red hot pokers or as they call them over here the.torch Lily or Firecracker.as they are always in bloom at New Year for firwork night are vibrant. We have seen beautiful creamy Easter lillies which they call Ceriman growing out of the hillsides and a bright orange lilly called the 'ginger lily' that apparently is a rogue interloper that Madeirans are trying to eradicate as it takes over and destroys natural plant species; it is suposed to be very difficult to get rid of.
Passion flowers intertwine the fruit trees in shades of cream and purple. There are still many roses in bloom in the gardens adding the scent already in the air.
There are of course many foreign imported plants here especiallly in the cultivated gardens such as the South African Protea and the agapanthus which is planted and grows alongside the roads to help strengthen the soil, cycads,fuchsias, azaleas,acacias from Australia, the Scottish heather which has become an important crop to farmers so the mature bushes can be cut to make brush fencing. Olive trees from Portugals mainland. but the simple daisy has grown naturally here and is one the most common plants. Bamboos abound and Palm trees and cacti all add to the exotic feel of the vegetation here. There is a strange plant that looms over 6 feet into the air called Agavaceae a sort of false aloe plant often nicknamed swan neck or elephant trunk, I have seen it before in places like Kew Gardens but never in the wild. I even saw one decorated with climbing Santas...how novel!!!!!!
Fruit trees are abundant, we expected to see lots of orange trees as in the Algarve but there are not so many and mostly of the smaller orange, but here there are passion fruit trees galore and mango trees, lemon trees, papaya and guava trees, avocado trees not to mention the banana trees which being the main crop here not only grow on small plantations but every available space and right down to the edge of the sea in many places on cliffsides that look too steep to farm. Even golden brooms growing on the comparatively barren plateau have their own beauty here.
The forest of Laurissilva are now classified by UNESCO as a world heritage site and the plants within the forest include ferns, bay trees, lily of the valley and juniper. They are beautiful and a unique feature of the island. About 50% of the forest are 4 species of Laurel but there is also some holly and all the plants are indigenous to Madeira. Our North Island trip gave us an excellent opportunity to travel through the forest area and it was here we saw more birds than we have seen anywhere else. We have not been able to see any unusual birds here and indeed there may not be any only our familiar blackbirds, robins and wagtails with slight differences in size and colour to make them a more local species.
Fir trees have long been an essential managed part of the foresty here as the pine needles are used for bedding for cattle, fir cones for winter fires and the wood for essential furntiture building. On a twenty year cycle the regrowth is carefully managed to keep sufficient for the islands needs
Poplars giving areas a Tuscan feel to the hilly landscape. The hillsides are well farmed on the terraces and every available space is used although cultivated the array of produce adds to lushness of the vegetation with enormous cabbages and colourful gourds and squashes.Travellers could fill their shopping bags with the overripe fruits that fall out of the sky from terraces above the road, watch out for falling bananas, artichokes and tomatoes!!!!
The scent in the air is intoxicating, Euclyptus another native tree of the blue gum variety and Mimosa, the smell of fennel fills the air I'm surprised there isn't a perfume called Madeira maybe I'll make my fortune by concocting one.
I do believe I forgot to mention the Birds of Paradise surely the most distinctive plant here in Madeira growing in great abundance planted by roadsides and in every garden they are majestic and make very impressive displays.
I'm sure whatever season you come to Madeira there will be wonderful floral displays, We will have to come again to experience the delights of the blossom in Spring, the gardens full of flowers in summer and the agapanthus in bloom in the Autumn, whatever the season there is something to see here.

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