Thursday, 16 April 2015

Tavira, Portugal. Part 2

The holiday may have started wet but we were now enjoying lovely weather.

Friday (Day 5).

Off into the hills above Tavira for a 15 km walk.

We soon found ourselves in a strange landscape. It had obviously been forested along ago but over the centuries the land had been cleared. The soil was too poor for agriculture and the landscape was a riot of flowers.

On the outward journey I was fortunate enough to see a pair of Iberian Magpies, Cyanopica cooki. It is about the same size as our British magpie, Pica pica, but with blue wings against a paler body it is very distinct. For a long time it was thought to be identical with the Azure-winged Magpie, Cyanopica cyanus, of eastern Asia, but recent genetic tests have shown it to be a distinct species.

Cistus ladanifer covered hundreds of acres of hillside.
Above Tavira, Portugal. 11 April, 2015

Rock roses, mostly Cistus species, were everywhere, with the commonest being Gum Cistus, Cistus ladanifer. This has leaves covered in sticky glands and these yield a compound called labdanum, used in the perfume industry.

Cistus monspeliensis. Hills above Tavira, Portugal.
11 April, 2015

Almost as common was the Narrow-leaved Cistus, Cistus monspeliensis. There are several rather similar species and need to be distinguished with care - but I think I've got this one right.

Tuberaria guttata, a pretty annual in the Cistus family.
Hills above Tavira, 11 April, 2015

This very pretty annual is also a member of the Cistus Family, Cistaceae, but is sufficiently distinct to be placed in a different genus. It is Tuberaria guttata, known as the Spotted Rock-rose, and was frequent at the edges of arable fields. 

Gladiolus illyricus was much admired.
Near Tavira, 11 April, 2015

Among the most striking of the wayside flowers was Gladiolus illyricus. Interestingly this plant is native to Britain, being found in Dorset, Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. It should surely be used more widely in gardens.

Heliotaurus ruficollis tucks into a meal of pollen.
Near Tavira, Portugal, 11 April, 2015

Heliotaurus ruficollis was one of the commoner beetles. A member of the Tenebrionidae, it was seen feeding on pollen, here on Crown Chrysanthemum,
Chrysanthemum coronarium.
Trichodes leucopsideus near Tavira, Portugal.
11 April, 2015

I only once saw Trichodes leucopsideus but this member of the Cleridae was unmistakable in its scarlet and black coloration. It can be distinguished from its close relatives by the pair of small black spots at the front of the elytra (wing cases).

Woodcock Orchid, Ophrys scolopax,
in the hills above, Tavira, Portugal.
10 April, 2015

Usually orchids are a source of discussion on ramblers holidays but here no one seemed much interested - except me. Probably the commonest species was the Woodcock Orchid, Ophrys scolopax. I struggled to obtain a decent picture as they were often on steep banks and no-one broke their stride, putting me in danger of being left behind.

Ophrys lutea, a common member of the Bee
 Orchid genus. Near Tavira, 11 April, 2015

The Yellow Bee-orchid, Ophrys lutea may have been slightly less common but its bright colours allowed it to be more easily spotted. 

Green-winged Orchid, Orchis morio.
Hills above Tavira. 11 April, 2015

Quite common too was the Green-winged Orchid, Orchis morio. This plant is native to the south of Britain but is quite uncommon. It even occurs in Northamptonshire, but here it is extremely rare

Lavandula viridis in the hills above Tavira.
11 April, 2015

I have tried your patience quite enough, but before leaving the hillsides I will mention one more plant. French Lavender, Lavandula stoechas, was common in the hills, often creating a sea of - er - lavender. But far more interesting was Lavandula viridis. In truth its green spikes of flowers were hardly dramatic but this very curious colour made a photograph essential.

On the last day (Day 6), we covered much the same ground in terms of landscape so predictably had no startling new finds.

Cork oak, with bark having been removed.
12 April, 2015

Cork Oaks, Quercus suber, grew in scattered groups beside the road and, as the photograph shows, were clearly being exploited. They may have been put to their traditional use as bottle corks but, with many wine producers now using metal caps, alternative uses are being made of this versatile material.

Chris bought an attractive cork purse in Tavira but bags and belts are also now being made from cork - and very attractive they are too. The material is soft, flexible and hard-wearing.

Speaking of Tavira, it is a lively, interesting town with plenty of good cafes (coffee was invariably excellent) and restaurants. But I was able to fight off the temptation to have an 'Octopus Burguer'.

The trunk of Zanthoxylem peperitum.
Roadside, Tavira, Portugal. 12 April, 2015

In the town we regularly passed interesting features which, for me, included some fine trees such as this Japanese Pepper Tree, Zanthoxylem piperitum, with its savagely thorny trunk and branches.

Not far away was a fine 'tree' (it is really a giant herb) of Strelitzia nicolai. Although clearly related to bananas it is placed in a different family with bananas being in the Musaceae and the Strelitzia being in the - you've guessed it - Strelitziaceae.

Strelitzia nicolai near our hotel in Tavira.
12 April, 2015

Its flowers must be deemed a disappointment, being curious rather than beautiful, but having the same structure as the lovely Bird-of-paradise Plant, Strelitzia regina.

Both species hail from South Africa.

Sunday (Day 7), home...

So, as the cartoons used to say, That's all folks!

And be warned, I'm off to the Isle of Wight later in the year.

E-mail Tony at:

No comments:

Post a Comment