Block or Rock?

The stone sculptor works with stone, of course. This may be a block cut in a quarry, or a rock that nature left in a random place and in a random shape.

From the beginning, the block is a material shaped by man's hand, cut, standardized, rectangular, and to some degree dispossessed of its original context and personality.

The random rock however is a product of the erosive forces of nature, burst from its ledge by frost and sun, shaped by glaciers and wind, smoothed by water and patinated by thousands of years of storage in the soil or at the bottom of a lake, settled by algae, lichen and mosses, and then again etched on the surface by the sun, rain, and the acids of roots.

The stone block is a material, while the rock, on the other hand, is an individual being, emerged from the struggle between inner cohesion and external destructive power - as a person who forms his personality in the current of time, crystallized from inner strengths and weaknesses, and the friction and chance of his environment.

The sculptor can tailor his quarried block into any desired shape, limited only by the brittleness of the material and the capabilities of his tools. In the case of the natural stone, on the other hand, he is required to respect the given character - he wants to use it for his sculpture and not destroy it.

In that moment the art no longer lies in the achievement of the perfect shape of any random block of stone, but in the recognition of the character, the individuality of a stone, and the sensitively brought about synthesis of the sculpted image from nature and art. The artists work is enhanced by the work that nature has already performed on the rock, manifesting in arbitrary shapes, eroded surfaces and organic patina.

The result is not achieved in a few weeks or month but over millions of years, and only recently completed by the artist.

Buddha with Pet

Botanical Excursions in New England: Part 1

New England consists of the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Since moving here over twenty years ago, I have been able to explore the region, hiking the White Mountains of New Hampshire and exploring the beaches of coastal Maine. Over the years, I have collected many photos of the landscape and its plants. Below are some of my favorites, compiled as Part 1 of a series on New England plants. (For more of my photos, please visit my Flickr page.)

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New England vegetation consists of hardwood forests that also contain White Pine and Hemlock. Spruce and Fir forests are found in the north and in the mountains. The natural vegetation of some coastal areas consists of pine barrens, containing Pitch Pine. However, these habitats have become very rare in recent years.

New England vegetation consists of hardwood forests that also contain White Pine and Hemlock. Spruce and Fir forests are found in the north and in the mountains. The natural vegetation of some coastal areas consists of pine barrens, containing Pitch Pine. However, these habitats have become very rare in recent years.

From Mount Agamenticus, a small mountain in southern Maine, it is possible to get a wide panoramic sight of the landscape. On one side the view opens to the Atlantic Ocean, with coastal towns and secondary forests dominated by White Pine. In the other direction, on a clear day, one can see the caps of the White Mountains, where snow remains well into late spring.

From Mount Agamenticus, a small mountain in southern Maine, it is possible to get a wide panoramic sight of the landscape. On one side the view opens to the Atlantic Ocean, with coastal towns and secondary forests dominated by White Pine. In the other direction, on a clear day, one can see the caps of the White Mountains, where snow remains well into late spring.

Tidal wetlands reach far inland along river arms and provide an interesting habitat where salt marshes and coastal hardwood forests meet. Such wetlands contain a rich variety of species including oaks, maples, beech, ash, hickory and other deciduous trees as well as white pine, hemlock, spruce and red cedar (Juniper).

Tidal wetlands reach far inland along river arms and provide an interesting habitat where salt marshes and coastal hardwood forests meet. Such wetlands contain a rich variety of species including oaks, maples, beech, ash, hickory and other deciduous trees as well as white pine, hemlock, spruce and red cedar (Juniper).

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Old stone walls bear witness to a time when much of New England was farmed land. In the 1800s, many farm families left New England, tired of the shallow and rocky soils, to settle the more fertile Midwest.

Old stone walls bear witness to a time when much of New England was farmed land. In the 1800s, many farm families left New England, tired of the shallow and rocky soils, to settle the more fertile Midwest.

As the land was abandoned, new forests took over, consisting initially of Birch and White Pine, but later of hardwoods as well, especially Red Oak.

As the land was abandoned, new forests took over, consisting initially of Birch and White Pine, but later of hardwoods as well, especially Red Oak.

The landscape is rich in lakes and streams, which provide unique habitats to the many creatures that call them home.

The landscape is rich in lakes and streams, which provide unique habitats to the many creatures that call them home.

Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) and Red Maple (Acer rubrum) are common species in moist or wet locations. Highbush blueberry is one of the most common shrubs along New England lake shores. All turn a beautiful scarlet red in fall.

Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) and Red Maple (Acer rubrum) are common species in moist or wet locations. Highbush blueberry is one of the most common shrubs along New England lake shores. All turn a beautiful scarlet red in fall.

All over the landscape one can find small ponds which in many cases dry out during the summer. These vernal pools are important breeding grounds for amphibians and host a rich variety of plants.

All over the landscape one can find small ponds which in many cases dry out during the summer. These vernal pools are important breeding grounds for amphibians and host a rich variety of plants.

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Beech forests turn a pleasing yellow in the fall.

Beech forests turn a pleasing yellow in the fall.

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Paper mills were typical features in the vast forested areas of New England for many years. Yet many have closed down recently. This one in Berlin, NH was dismantled a few years ago.

Paper mills were typical features in the vast forested areas of New England for many years. Yet many have closed down recently. This one in Berlin, NH was dismantled a few years ago.

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The mountains can be tough on plants, but they provide fresh clean water and allow for a cooling dive into creeks and whirlpools.

The mountains can be tough on plants, but they provide fresh clean water and allow for a cooling dive into creeks and whirlpools.

Large stretches of land in New Hampshire and western Maine are protected. They make up the White Mountains National Forest.

Large stretches of land in New Hampshire and western Maine are protected. They make up the White Mountains National Forest.

Spruce and fir dominate the mountain regions up to the tree line, where plants are stunted from the harsh conditions and form the Krummholz.

Spruce and fir dominate the mountain regions up to the tree line, where plants are stunted from the harsh conditions and form the Krummholz.

Botanical Excursion to Mallorca

For a particularly memorable trip, I traveled to the Spanish island of Mallorca with my son and daughter. It was a perfect break from the cold weather of New England and northern Europe. We traveled around the island, stopping at roadside markets for fresh fruit, picking oranges right off the tree in local orchards, swimming, hiking, and enjoying the sun. Below are some photos I took of plants we encountered along the way, many of which are native to the island. (For more of my photos, please visit my Flickr page.)

Mediterranean landscapes are often covered with forests of pine and broadleaf evergreens. The rugged landscape pictured above is typical for areas rich in limestone, where soils are thin and extremely vulnerable to erosion.

Mediterranean landscapes are often covered with forests of pine and broadleaf evergreens. The rugged landscape pictured above is typical for areas rich in limestone, where soils are thin and extremely vulnerable to erosion.

Unsustainable wood harvesting, especially in Roman times, and overgrazing (particularly from goats) have degraded the vegetation and eroded the soils in many areas along the coast. These treeless areas are called Macchie.

Unsustainable wood harvesting, especially in Roman times, and overgrazing (particularly from goats) have degraded the vegetation and eroded the soils in many areas along the coast. These treeless areas are called Macchie.

Pine forests can be found where the soil is still intact. This one also has a rich understory vegetation that will support wildlife and provide refuge for many plant species.

Pine forests can be found where the soil is still intact. This one also has a rich understory vegetation that will support wildlife and provide refuge for many plant species.

Oak forests are also typical of the Mediterranean. These are very slow growing trees! The lack of vegetation on the forest floor is likely due to overgrazing.

Oak forests are also typical of the Mediterranean. These are very slow growing trees! The lack of vegetation on the forest floor is likely due to overgrazing.

Common pines in Mallorca are P. halepensis, nigra, pinaster and pinea.

Common pines in Mallorca are P. halepensis, nigra, pinaster and pinea.

Pictured above is the Pinus halepensis (Aleppo Pine).

Pictured above is the Pinus halepensis (Aleppo Pine).

The 'cultural landscape' of Mallorca consists of fields and orchards in the valleys and on the lower slopes of the mountains. Winter and spring are the greenest seasons here, while summers are hot and dry and a bit more brown.

The 'cultural landscape' of Mallorca consists of fields and orchards in the valleys and on the lower slopes of the mountains. Winter and spring are the greenest seasons here, while summers are hot and dry and a bit more brown.

This slope has been terraced with stone walls and planted with olive trees and other fruit trees, such as almonds and apricots.

This slope has been terraced with stone walls and planted with olive trees and other fruit trees, such as almonds and apricots.

Pictured above is an old olive tree (Olea europaea).

Pictured above is an old olive tree (Olea europaea).

And here is an almond tree (Prunus dulcis) in bloom!

And here is an almond tree (Prunus dulcis) in bloom!

Agriculture in Mallorca depends largely on irrigation. This channel carried clean, cold water from a cave-like source in the mountain to the gardens near the monastery Lluc.

Agriculture in Mallorca depends largely on irrigation. This channel carried clean, cold water from a cave-like source in the mountain to the gardens near the monastery Lluc.

In the low-lying agricultural areas of Mallorca, old wind mills are a very common site, where they are used to pump groundwater into the fields and orchards.

In the low-lying agricultural areas of Mallorca, old wind mills are a very common site, where they are used to pump groundwater into the fields and orchards.

The oranges were by far the juiciest, sweetest, most flavorful I have ever tasted.

The oranges were by far the juiciest, sweetest, most flavorful I have ever tasted.

Opuntias were introduced from Central America. Although the fruits can be eaten, they are generally considered a weed.

Opuntias were introduced from Central America. Although the fruits can be eaten, they are generally considered a weed.

Mallorca's economy is largely based on tourism, and hotels are being build all along the coast. Urban sprawl is destroying agricultural land on a large scale - this land is lost forever. But what can I say? I stayed in one of these hotels myself.

Mallorca's economy is largely based on tourism, and hotels are being build all along the coast. Urban sprawl is destroying agricultural land on a large scale - this land is lost forever. But what can I say? I stayed in one of these hotels myself.

Euphorbia and various other shrubs cover this mountainside.

Euphorbia and various other shrubs cover this mountainside.

Pictured above is Euphorbia dendroides.

Pictured above is Euphorbia dendroides.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a typical subshrub of the macchie.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a typical subshrub of the macchie.

Ephedra stems resemble equisetum (horsetail).

Ephedra stems resemble equisetum (horsetail).

Asparagus albus is well-armed with long thorns.

Asparagus albus is well-armed with long thorns.

Genista horrida forms a dense cushion with needle-like thorns for protection against grazing animals.

Genista horrida forms a dense cushion with needle-like thorns for protection against grazing animals.

Asphodelus aestivus has thick, almost succulent leaves.

Asphodelus aestivus has thick, almost succulent leaves.

Heather species (Erica) are common in the Mediterranean landscape.

Heather species (Erica) are common in the Mediterranean landscape.

Arbutus unedo, the Strawberry Tree, is a large evergreen shrub.

Arbutus unedo, the Strawberry Tree, is a large evergreen shrub.

Cneorum tricoccon, an evergreen shrub.

Cneorum tricoccon, an evergreen shrub.

Cistus albidus is a very common sub-shrub found on road sides, in badlands, and light forests.

Cistus albidus is a very common sub-shrub found on road sides, in badlands, and light forests.

Pictured above is Anchusa azurea.

Pictured above is Anchusa azurea.

The fragrant Reseda alba was once a popular plant in the gardens of European courts.

The fragrant Reseda alba was once a popular plant in the gardens of European courts.

Asteriscus maritimus is a tiny cushion-forming plant with a woody base. Technically speaking, it is a sub-shrub.

Asteriscus maritimus is a tiny cushion-forming plant with a woody base. Technically speaking, it is a sub-shrub.

Arum italicum prefers part-shade, fairly moist conditions.

Arum italicum prefers part-shade, fairly moist conditions.

Another common member of the Aracea is Arisarum vulgare - the resemblance to our native Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema) is easy to see.

Another common member of the Aracea is Arisarum vulgare - the resemblance to our native Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema) is easy to see.

Chamaerops humilis is one of two palm species that are native to the Mediterranean. The other species is Phoenix canarensis.

Chamaerops humilis is one of two palm species that are native to the Mediterranean. The other species is Phoenix canarensis.

Over 40 species of orchids can be found on Mallorca. The flower of this orchid (Orchis speculum) imitates an insect.

Over 40 species of orchids can be found on Mallorca. The flower of this orchid (Orchis speculum) imitates an insect.

Agave americana is an introduced species grown in gardens, wherefrom it often escapes into the wilderness.

Agave americana is an introduced species grown in gardens, wherefrom it often escapes into the wilderness.

This small church has a beautiful garden with palms, fruit, ornamental trees, perennials, and herbs.

This small church has a beautiful garden with palms, fruit, ornamental trees, perennials, and herbs.

Carpobrotus acinaciformis is originally from South Africa and was introduced to Mallorca as a garden plant.

Carpobrotus acinaciformis is originally from South Africa and was introduced to Mallorca as a garden plant.

Aloe vera is a common garden and container plant.

Aloe vera is a common garden and container plant.

The fountain in the court of Monastery Lluc, where the lime-rich water has caused a mountain of sinter to grow on the top.

The fountain in the court of Monastery Lluc, where the lime-rich water has caused a mountain of sinter to grow on the top.

The top of the fountain looks like a Japanese Suiseki and is overgrown with moss.

The top of the fountain looks like a Japanese Suiseki and is overgrown with moss.

A beautiful garden gate made of some nicely arranged hardwood limbs.

A beautiful garden gate made of some nicely arranged hardwood limbs.

A ficus tree with an enormous trunk is the centerpiece of a small park in Palma.

A ficus tree with an enormous trunk is the centerpiece of a small park in Palma.

Botanical Excursion in the Dolomites

A little while ago, I traveled with my children to the Dolomites in South Tirol, which is a region in the very northern part of Italy, on the border to Austria. We did a lot of hiking and exploring, taking in the beautiful landscape and the vast biodiversity of the area. Below are some photos of and information on typical plants of the Dolomites, as well as more general shots of the landscape and region. (For more of my photos, please visit my Flickr page.)

The Dolomites are a part of the Alps that consists mainly of limestone (dolomite). While the central Alps consist of granite and are very massive, the southern and northern edges of the alps consist of limestone, which weathers differently, and which results in mountains with more rugged shapes. We hiked a medium-sized mountain near Sankt Lorenzen (St.Lorenzo), the Piz da Peres, with a height of approximately 8,200 feet.

The Dolomites are a part of the Alps that consists mainly of limestone (dolomite). While the central Alps consist of granite and are very massive, the southern and northern edges of the alps consist of limestone, which weathers differently, and which results in mountains with more rugged shapes. We hiked a medium-sized mountain near Sankt Lorenzen (St.Lorenzo), the Piz da Peres, with a height of approximately 8,200 feet.

Lower down on the slopes are tiny villages surrounded by meadows and forests.

Lower down on the slopes are tiny villages surrounded by meadows and forests.

The valleys contain some larger towns and villages, roads and railways, as well as countless farms that benefit from fertile soil and a mild climate.

The valleys contain some larger towns and villages, roads and railways, as well as countless farms that benefit from fertile soil and a mild climate.

In the cities, like here in Bozen (Bozano), bikes are a popular means of transportation.

In the cities, like here in Bozen (Bozano), bikes are a popular means of transportation.

Life seems very romantic in these tiny villages, with their old churches, farm houses, and gardens full of fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers.

Life seems very romantic in these tiny villages, with their old churches, farm houses, and gardens full of fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers.

Some gardens are surrounded by beautiful old walls and fences.

Some gardens are surrounded by beautiful old walls and fences.

Even newer houses are often built in the traditional style that connected the living quarters with the barn and the stables all under one roof. Many houses have solar installations on their roofs and firewood stored on the side of the building - makes for lower energy bills!

Even newer houses are often built in the traditional style that connected the living quarters with the barn and the stables all under one roof. Many houses have solar installations on their roofs and firewood stored on the side of the building - makes for lower energy bills!

What a different world it is up in the mountains, where the clouds pass slowly by and the villages down below look like part of a lovely and peaceful fairy tale landscape.

What a different world it is up in the mountains, where the clouds pass slowly by and the villages down below look like part of a lovely and peaceful fairy tale landscape.

Starting on the lower slopes, we find some stately perennials that are typical for rich alpine meadows. Other than grasses and red and white clover we find Meadow Sage (Salvia pratense).

Starting on the lower slopes, we find some stately perennials that are typical for rich alpine meadows. Other than grasses and red and white clover we find Meadow Sage (Salvia pratense).

Other common plants are Pincushion flower (Knautia arvensis) and Succisa pratensis, both members of the Dipsacaceae.

Other common plants are Pincushion flower (Knautia arvensis) and Succisa pratensis, both members of the Dipsacaceae.

Silene vulgaris is common in rich, moist meadows.


Silene vulgaris is common in rich, moist meadows.

Verbascum densiflorum, an old medical plant, is found in dryer locations.

Verbascum densiflorum, an old medical plant, is found in dryer locations.

This delightful plant is Arnica montana. Rare in many parts of Europe and usually limited to 'extensively used' mountain meadows, it is a very popular medical plant. The German name says it all: "Berg-Wohlverleih", which translates to "Mountain-Wellness-Giver.”

This delightful plant is Arnica montana. Rare in many parts of Europe and usually limited to 'extensively used' mountain meadows, it is a very popular medical plant. The German name says it all: "Berg-Wohlverleih", which translates to "Mountain-Wellness-Giver.”

Right next to it I found Europe's most poisonous plant - Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) - which is also a common garden plant.

Right next to it I found Europe's most poisonous plant - Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) - which is also a common garden plant.

As we climbed higher we entered the forests, which had a dense undergrowth containing Rhododendron hirsutum, a Rhododendron species adapted to lime-rich soils.

As we climbed higher we entered the forests, which had a dense undergrowth containing Rhododendron hirsutum, a Rhododendron species adapted to lime-rich soils.

Another common flowering plant is Scabiosa lucida.

Another common flowering plant is Scabiosa lucida.

Above is one of the many Gentiana species.

Above is one of the many Gentiana species.

A low-growing flower named Prunella vulgaris.

A low-growing flower named Prunella vulgaris.

A species of Achillea similar to the common Achillea millefolium, but shorter in habit.

A species of Achillea similar to the common Achillea millefolium, but shorter in habit.

At the tree line, plants typical of the high Alps are starting to appear.

At the tree line, plants typical of the high Alps are starting to appear.

Phyteuma orbiculare - the devils claw!

Phyteuma orbiculare - the devils claw!

Aster alpinus - often found in retail nurseries - is a low-growing, summer-flowering aster.

Aster alpinus - often found in retail nurseries - is a low-growing, summer-flowering aster.

Thymus serphyllum, also common elsewhere in Europe.

Thymus serphyllum, also common elsewhere in Europe.

A creeping willow species (Salix).

A creeping willow species (Salix).

This alpine potentilla (P. nitida) - typical of the Dolomites - has beautiful silvery foliage and pink flowers.

This alpine potentilla (P. nitida) - typical of the Dolomites - has beautiful silvery foliage and pink flowers.

Potentilla nitida often inhabits barren limestone slopes.

Potentilla nitida often inhabits barren limestone slopes.

Papaver alpinum rhaeticum - the Alpine Poppy.

Papaver alpinum rhaeticum - the Alpine Poppy.

Leontopodium - Edelweiss - was used extensively as a hat ornament, but is now protected. It is also the star of the song “Edelweiss” in The Sound of Music.

Leontopodium - Edelweiss - was used extensively as a hat ornament, but is now protected. It is also the star of the song “Edelweiss” in The Sound of Music.

This tiny fern growing in a shady rock crevice at over 2,000 meters of elevation is probably an Asplenium species.

This tiny fern growing in a shady rock crevice at over 2,000 meters of elevation is probably an Asplenium species.

One of the countless Hieracium species.

One of the countless Hieracium species.

Saxifrages are very common in alpine rock walls. Many species form dense mounds of tiny foliage.

Saxifrages are very common in alpine rock walls. Many species form dense mounds of tiny foliage.

This plant is aptly named a Cushion Plant.

This plant is aptly named a Cushion Plant.

A tiny saxifrage anchored among some rocks.

A tiny saxifrage anchored among some rocks.

The alpine bellfowers were some of the most striking little plants that I saw. Pictured above is Campanula cochlearifolia.

The alpine bellfowers were some of the most striking little plants that I saw. Pictured above is Campanula cochlearifolia.

Lotus and Campanula in a high altitude meadow make for a nice color contrast of yellow and blue.

Lotus and Campanula in a high altitude meadow make for a nice color contrast of yellow and blue.

Pictured above is Lotus alpinus, another common alpine plant.

Pictured above is Lotus alpinus, another common alpine plant.

Dryas octopetala forms extensive drifts on high mountain meadows. In August, the flowers are gone but it is still beautiful with its fluffy seed heads. This plant was very widespread during the Ice Age, covering the plains of the barren glacial landscape where the Woolly Mammoth roamed.

Dryas octopetala forms extensive drifts on high mountain meadows. In August, the flowers are gone but it is still beautiful with its fluffy seed heads. This plant was very widespread during the Ice Age, covering the plains of the barren glacial landscape where the Woolly Mammoth roamed.

Close-up foliage of Dryas octopetala. In New England the same plant species is found on the slopes of Mt. Washington, and therefore sometimes called Mt. Washington Daisy.

Close-up foliage of Dryas octopetala. In New England the same plant species is found on the slopes of Mt. Washington, and therefore sometimes called Mt. Washington Daisy.

The top of Piz da Peres was covered in clouds, so we could not enjoy a wide view over the Alps. But the fog was beautiful in its own way.

The top of Piz da Peres was covered in clouds, so we could not enjoy a wide view over the Alps. But the fog was beautiful in its own way.

Starting the way back was like entering into a secretive and mysterious world totally concealed by fog.

Starting the way back was like entering into a secretive and mysterious world totally concealed by fog.

Botanical Excursion to Southern France: Part 3

As a follow-on to parts 1 and 2 of this series, this is a documentation of gardens, parks, and other plantings in public spaces that I encountered on the bike ride from Bordeaux, France to Hondarribia, Spain. Merci pour votre intérêt! J'aime partager mes expériences en botanique et jardinage. (For more of my photos, please visit my Flickr page.)

Bordeaux is a very beautiful city with an abundance of impressive architecture and art work. Although the streets are generally narrow and there is not a lot of green between the buildings, the many charming plazas and street cafes enrich the city in their own way.

Bordeaux is a very beautiful city with an abundance of impressive architecture and art work. Although the streets are generally narrow and there is not a lot of green between the buildings, the many charming plazas and street cafes enrich the city in their own way.

Houses in Bordeaux do not often have flower displays but occasionally one can find some creative plant displays, such as these 'Heavenly Blue' Morning Glories greening up a balcony (seen from below).

Houses in Bordeaux do not often have flower displays but occasionally one can find some creative plant displays, such as these 'Heavenly Blue' Morning Glories greening up a balcony (seen from below).

However, artistically designed railings, often containing botanical patterns, are very abundant and one of the many gems of the city.

However, artistically designed railings, often containing botanical patterns, are very abundant and one of the many gems of the city.

I found two parks in Bordeaux that I needed to investigate - the older 'Jardin Publique' (Public Garden) and the more recently created 'Jardin Botanique' (Botanical Garden).  The 'Jardin Publique' of Bordeaux was inspired by humanistic ideals and was supposed to serve the public of Bordeaux as "a place of recreation and to stay healthy". It was originally created in the French style by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel around 1750, but one hundred years later, this 25-acres park was redesigned, according to the taste of the time, as an English Garden.

I found two parks in Bordeaux that I needed to investigate - the older 'Jardin Publique' (Public Garden) and the more recently created 'Jardin Botanique' (Botanical Garden).

The 'Jardin Publique' of Bordeaux was inspired by humanistic ideals and was supposed to serve the public of Bordeaux as "a place of recreation and to stay healthy". It was originally created in the French style by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel around 1750, but one hundred years later, this 25-acres park was redesigned, according to the taste of the time, as an English Garden.

In the Jardin Publique, a number of greenhouses were once connected to a centrally located building. Today, this is the dominant architectural element of the park and reflects beautifully in a wide pond. The back side is overgrown with Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).

In the Jardin Publique, a number of greenhouses were once connected to a centrally located building. Today, this is the dominant architectural element of the park and reflects beautifully in a wide pond. The back side is overgrown with Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).

Located within the Jardin Publique are charming terraces with sculptures, flower beds and a cafe. The building in the background, created in 1781, is the Museum of Natural History.

Located within the Jardin Publique are charming terraces with sculptures, flower beds and a cafe. The building in the background, created in 1781, is the Museum of Natural History.

The great charm of the Jardin Publique lies in its age, and as a consequence, in the maturity of its plants.

The great charm of the Jardin Publique lies in its age, and as a consequence, in the maturity of its plants.

Many of the trees are hundreds of years old. This old Swamp Cypress (Taxodium) has developed 'knees' - woody knobs protruding from the ground on the edge of the water.

Many of the trees are hundreds of years old. This old Swamp Cypress (Taxodium) has developed 'knees' - woody knobs protruding from the ground on the edge of the water.

This is one of the largest Stone Pines (Pinus pinea) I have ever seen. Since older specimens often display a distinctive umbrella shape, it is also often called Umbrella Pine (not to be confused with Japanese Umbrella Pine). This tree provides edible pine nuts. Unfortunately, it is threatened in many parts of its native range (the Mediterranean) by a bug that was accidentally introduced from North America.

This is one of the largest Stone Pines (Pinus pinea) I have ever seen. Since older specimens often display a distinctive umbrella shape, it is also often called Umbrella Pine (not to be confused with Japanese Umbrella Pine). This tree provides edible pine nuts. Unfortunately, it is threatened in many parts of its native range (the Mediterranean) by a bug that was accidentally introduced from North America.

Magnolia grandiflora, the Southern Magnolia native to the south-eastern United States, is a spectacular evergreen tree. The thick, shiny foliage, fragrant white flowers, and unusual fruit caught the attention of European gardeners in the early 1700s, when it was first introduced to England and France. The specimen in the 'Jardin Publique' might be around 150 years old.

Magnolia grandiflora, the Southern Magnolia native to the south-eastern United States, is a spectacular evergreen tree. The thick, shiny foliage, fragrant white flowers, and unusual fruit caught the attention of European gardeners in the early 1700s, when it was first introduced to England and France. The specimen in the 'Jardin Publique' might be around 150 years old.

Beautiful bright blue border-bearing Petunias.

Beautiful bright blue border-bearing Petunias.

The 'green sculpture' is an annually changing creation near one of the entrances of the 'Jardin Publique'. This year it is a flower basket.

The 'green sculpture' is an annually changing creation near one of the entrances of the 'Jardin Publique'. This year it is a flower basket.

The other large park, the 'Jardin Botanique' of Bordeaux, is entirely a modern creation. Clearly, there was good intentions to educate visitors about native plants as well as garden and farm crops, which were displayed in small fields and plots. However, many beds were poorly maintained and in some cases the weeds had all but overgrown the crops.

The other large park, the 'Jardin Botanique' of Bordeaux, is entirely a modern creation. Clearly, there was good intentions to educate visitors about native plants as well as garden and farm crops, which were displayed in small fields and plots. However, many beds were poorly maintained and in some cases the weeds had all but overgrown the crops.

This leaf of a sunflower has severe symptoms of nutrient deficiency (chlorosis). Many of the vegetables and farm crops grown in the botanical garden had deficiency symptoms to some degree. Why not apply some broad-range organic fertilizer and check the pH-value?

This leaf of a sunflower has severe symptoms of nutrient deficiency (chlorosis). Many of the vegetables and farm crops grown in the botanical garden had deficiency symptoms to some degree. Why not apply some broad-range organic fertilizer and check the pH-value?

A large pond within the Jardin Botanique contains a nice collection of water lilies and many other water-garden plants. Seen here is waterlily 'Apache'.

A large pond within the Jardin Botanique contains a nice collection of water lilies and many other water-garden plants. Seen here is waterlily 'Apache'.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a small rice field in this park. Most people know rice fields only from pictures, so this one provides an excellent educational opportunity.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a small rice field in this park. Most people know rice fields only from pictures, so this one provides an excellent educational opportunity.

I was also delighted to find Sesame plants, which I grew in my garden during my time in Niger almost 30 years ago. This plant adapts to the hottest climates with ease.

I was also delighted to find Sesame plants, which I grew in my garden during my time in Niger almost 30 years ago. This plant adapts to the hottest climates with ease.

Umbrella Pines and Tamarisks are favorites in public spaces, such as here in Arcachon, a busy vacation resort on the ocean.

Umbrella Pines and Tamarisks are favorites in public spaces, such as here in Arcachon, a busy vacation resort on the ocean.

The charming, Acacia-like Albizia julibrissin is quite common in public spaces as well as in home gardens.

The charming, Acacia-like Albizia julibrissin is quite common in public spaces as well as in home gardens.

Oleander, a poisonous evergreen shrub with beautiful flowers, is found in many ornamental plantings. It easily survives the mild coastal winters of the region.

Oleander, a poisonous evergreen shrub with beautiful flowers, is found in many ornamental plantings. It easily survives the mild coastal winters of the region.

Sycamore is one of the most common street trees. The wide open crown casts a pleasant shade of olive-green tinted light, and the mottled bark adds to the whimsy.

Sycamore is one of the most common street trees. The wide open crown casts a pleasant shade of olive-green tinted light, and the mottled bark adds to the whimsy.

Agapanthus impresses with blue flowers and bold foliage.

Agapanthus impresses with blue flowers and bold foliage.

Landscaping enterprises frequently offer specimen trees such as these mature olive trees for sale.

Landscaping enterprises frequently offer specimen trees such as these mature olive trees for sale.

With their stately appearance and the exotic atmosphere they create, palm trees appear in every upscale planting, and rightly so.

With their stately appearance and the exotic atmosphere they create, palm trees appear in every upscale planting, and rightly so.

The city of Bayonne greets arriving visitors with a vibrant floral display containing various shades of yellow. We appreciated the entrance greatly - of course we were on bicycles, and those rushing by in a car will barely see it.

The city of Bayonne greets arriving visitors with a vibrant floral display containing various shades of yellow. We appreciated the entrance greatly - of course we were on bicycles, and those rushing by in a car will barely see it.

Quite often we passed by beautiful vegetable gardens that must have provided fresh ingredients for creations of excellent French cuisine.

Quite often we passed by beautiful vegetable gardens that must have provided fresh ingredients for creations of excellent French cuisine.

All vegetable gardens had a great variety of plants, including bush and climbing beans, kales and cabbages, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and zucchini, as well as tomatoes, lattices of various sorts, and an occasional fruit tree.

All vegetable gardens had a great variety of plants, including bush and climbing beans, kales and cabbages, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and zucchini, as well as tomatoes, lattices of various sorts, and an occasional fruit tree.

The sandy soils here are very suitable for asparagus cultivation, as seen here on the right. This field is quite large and irrigated with a sprinkler.

The sandy soils here are very suitable for asparagus cultivation, as seen here on the right. This field is quite large and irrigated with a sprinkler.

Passionflower (Passiflora) is frequently found growing on fences.

Passionflower (Passiflora) is frequently found growing on fences.

I am guessing they served the dual purpose of ornament and occasional snack.

I am guessing they served the dual purpose of ornament and occasional snack.

Fruit trees, especially peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots are quite common. Fig trees (above) are found in many gardens and sometimes even growing in the wild.

Fruit trees, especially peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots are quite common. Fig trees (above) are found in many gardens and sometimes even growing in the wild.

Olive trees can also grow in this region, but are more often used for ornamental purposes than for fruit production.

Olive trees can also grow in this region, but are more often used for ornamental purposes than for fruit production.

The growing conditions are perfect for Bamboo, as is evident from the size and abundance of bamboo groves. They were often along road sides where they were clearly escapees, if not invasives.

The growing conditions are perfect for Bamboo, as is evident from the size and abundance of bamboo groves. They were often along road sides where they were clearly escapees, if not invasives.

In Spain, the style of the houses was slightly more rustic and perhaps less elegant, but in turn more playful and at least as charming as in the French part of the Basque region. These romantic balconies were overlooking a narrow street in Hondarribia.

In Spain, the style of the houses was slightly more rustic and perhaps less elegant, but in turn more playful and at least as charming as in the French part of the Basque region. These romantic balconies were overlooking a narrow street in Hondarribia.

And here they are - Geraniums on the balcony!

And here they are - Geraniums on the balcony!

A modern pool constructed with elements of ancient classical architecture invites passers-by to enjoy a refreshing splash in the water. Benches under trees allow for a break in the shade. The whole city is sprinkled with small parks and public places. I was very impressed with this kind of urban planning, which seems to serve the common good very well.

A modern pool constructed with elements of ancient classical architecture invites passers-by to enjoy a refreshing splash in the water. Benches under trees allow for a break in the shade. The whole city is sprinkled with small parks and public places. I was very impressed with this kind of urban planning, which seems to serve the common good very well.

This beautiful shrub was quite common in ornamental plantings. It is Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia), which we New Englanders never get to see without traveling to milder climates.

This beautiful shrub was quite common in ornamental plantings. It is Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia), which we New Englanders never get to see without traveling to milder climates.

The Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is frequently planted in gardens and parks. It attracts butterflies with its blue flowers and fine fragrance. The shoots are traditionally used for weaving baskets, and the plant also has a number of medicinal uses.

The Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is frequently planted in gardens and parks. It attracts butterflies with its blue flowers and fine fragrance. The shoots are traditionally used for weaving baskets, and the plant also has a number of medicinal uses.

Botanical Excursion to Southern France: Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently had the opportunity to accompany my son on a small part of his bike ride from Amsterdam to Spain. Riding a bicycle is the best way to experience a landscape, see the plants and animals, feel the air, hear the insects, and smell the forests. We met in Bordeaux and the journey led us to the beach resort of Arcachon, past the largest sand dunes of Europe, through the endless pine forests of the Landes de Gascogne, and finally into the Basque country near the Spanish border, where the Pyrenees meet the Atlantic Ocean.

In this installment, I wanted to focus on the plants found in the dunes of southern France. Although it might not seem like it at first glance, the dunes are home to a wide array of plants and organisms. Together, they form an ecosystem that might seem foreign to many of us but is nonetheless vibrant. Below are some of my favorite photos from the dunes of southern France. (For more of my photos, please visit my Flickr page.)

The entire coastline up to Bayonne is sandy, with endless beaches and pine forests (visible in the background). South from Bayonne, where the Pyrenees drop down to the Ocean, it changes dramatically and consists of ledge and cliffs.

The entire coastline up to Bayonne is sandy, with endless beaches and pine forests (visible in the background). South from Bayonne, where the Pyrenees drop down to the Ocean, it changes dramatically and consists of ledge and cliffs.

European Sea Mustard or Searocket (Cakile maritima) can be found on beaches close to the water line. It tolerates high concentrations of salt. The foliage is somewhat succulent.

European Sea Mustard or Searocket (Cakile maritima) can be found on beaches close to the water line. It tolerates high concentrations of salt. The foliage is somewhat succulent.

Prickly Sea Wort (Salsola kali, or Kali turgida) grows right at the water line.

Prickly Sea Wort (Salsola kali, or Kali turgida) grows right at the water line.

Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum) has striking silvery-blue foliage and thistle-like flowers.

Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum) has striking silvery-blue foliage and thistle-like flowers.

Slightly up the beach, where the waves reach less frequently, a wider range of plants can be found.

Slightly up the beach, where the waves reach less frequently, a wider range of plants can be found.

Sea Spurge (Euphorbia parallias) is widespread on the upper beach.

Sea Spurge (Euphorbia parallias) is widespread on the upper beach.

Here we see a Sea Spurge with seeds developing.

Here we see a Sea Spurge with seeds developing.

European Marram Grass, also called European Beach Grass (Ammophila arenaria), is salt tolerant and well-adapted to the sand dune habitat of the Atlantic coast.

European Marram Grass, also called European Beach Grass (Ammophila arenaria), is salt tolerant and well-adapted to the sand dune habitat of the Atlantic coast.

Marram Grass spreads by stolons that anchor it in the sand, even in the shifting sand of moving dunes. It can form large numbers of new shoots in a short time, each of which will form into a new plant.

Marram Grass spreads by stolons that anchor it in the sand, even in the shifting sand of moving dunes. It can form large numbers of new shoots in a short time, each of which will form into a new plant.

Here we see the inflorescence of Marram Grass.

Here we see the inflorescence of Marram Grass.

At every node of the rhizom a new plant can form and send roots into the ground.

At every node of the rhizom a new plant can form and send roots into the ground.

Juncus arenarius also spreads by rhizoms.

Juncus arenarius also spreads by rhizoms.

Elymus farctus is another common grass adapted to coastal sand dunes. The leaf blades have a strong bluish cast.

Elymus farctus is another common grass adapted to coastal sand dunes. The leaf blades have a strong bluish cast.

Hare's Tail Grass (Lagurus ovatus) is an annual species typical of sand dunes and the edges of pine forests.

Hare's Tail Grass (Lagurus ovatus) is an annual species typical of sand dunes and the edges of pine forests.

Grey Hair Grass (Corynephorus canescens) is a small grass specialized to grow in locations with poor-quality sandy soils. It tolerates extreme drought and is competitive in sites with very low levels of organic matter and nutrients. Typically it is found on sand dunes and in parts of birch or pine forests that have sandy soil.

Grey Hair Grass (Corynephorus canescens) is a small grass specialized to grow in locations with poor-quality sandy soils. It tolerates extreme drought and is competitive in sites with very low levels of organic matter and nutrients. Typically it is found on sand dunes and in parts of birch or pine forests that have sandy soil.

Sea Bindweed (Calystegia soldanella) is a specialized plant that colonizes sand dunes. Like Marram Grass and other dune grasses, it forms horizontal rhizomes that root into the sand. The foliage is very thick and waxy, enabling the plant to store water and minimize moisture loss through the surface.

Sea Bindweed (Calystegia soldanella) is a specialized plant that colonizes sand dunes. Like Marram Grass and other dune grasses, it forms horizontal rhizomes that root into the sand. The foliage is very thick and waxy, enabling the plant to store water and minimize moisture loss through the surface.

Shrubby Everlasting (Helichrysum stoechas) has linear leaves that minimize water loss. It blooms with yellow flowers during the summer.

Shrubby Everlasting (Helichrysum stoechas) has linear leaves that minimize water loss. It blooms with yellow flowers during the summer.

This low growing Campion species (Silene thorei) is a perfect plant for a rock garden. It is low growing, blooms for a long time, and its foliage has a beautiful blue cast.

This low growing Campion species (Silene thorei) is a perfect plant for a rock garden. It is low growing, blooms for a long time, and its foliage has a beautiful blue cast.

This subspecies of Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus crassifolius) is well-adapted to the sand dune environment.

This subspecies of Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus crassifolius) is well-adapted to the sand dune environment.

Among the woody plants at the foot of sand dunes are the Common Broom (Cytisus scoparius).

Among the woody plants at the foot of sand dunes are the Common Broom (Cytisus scoparius).

This willow species (Salix) is also among the woody plants found at the foot of sand dunes.

This willow species (Salix) is also among the woody plants found at the foot of sand dunes.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a very thorny plant with the appearance of and in the same family (Fabacea) as Common Broom. Historically, it was hit with a big stone to break the thorns and fed to horses, goats and sheep.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a very thorny plant with the appearance of and in the same family (Fabacea) as Common Broom. Historically, it was hit with a big stone to break the thorns and fed to horses, goats and sheep.

Snails are generally inactive during the dry period of summer, becoming active only after a heavy rain.

Snails are generally inactive during the dry period of summer, becoming active only after a heavy rain.

Coastal cliffs south of Biarritz, close to the Spanish border.

Coastal cliffs south of Biarritz, close to the Spanish border.

Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) is an edible plant and was once sold in markets in Great Britain, where it is now a protected plant. It was historically eaten pickled or fresh in salads. It belongs to the parsley family (Umbelliferae), has succulent leaves, and is very common on the cliffs of the Basque region.

Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) is an edible plant and was once sold in markets in Great Britain, where it is now a protected plant. It was historically eaten pickled or fresh in salads. It belongs to the parsley family (Umbelliferae), has succulent leaves, and is very common on the cliffs of the Basque region.

The border between France and Spain is marked by a river and beautiful tidal wetlands.

The border between France and Spain is marked by a river and beautiful tidal wetlands.

With its west-facing views, the coast of Aquitaine is known for its spectacular sunsets.

With its west-facing views, the coast of Aquitaine is known for its spectacular sunsets.

Botanical Excursion to Southern France: Part 1

I recently had the opportunity to accompany my son on a small part of his bike ride from Amsterdam to Spain. Riding a bicycle is the best way to experience a landscape, see the plants and animals, feel the air, hear the insects, and smell the forests. We met in Bordeaux and the journey lead us to the beach resort of Arcachon, past the largest sand dunes of Europe, through the endless pine forests of the Landes de Gascogne, and finally into the Basque country near the Spanish border, where the Pyrenees meet the Atlantic Ocean.

Bordeaux is an amazingly beautiful city, but we were also impressed with the charming city of Bayonne and the famous tourist resort of Biarritz. After crossing the border to Spain we enjoyed the architecture and parks in the old town of Hondarribia. At the same time, the landscape was a bit monotonous for a long stretch of the ride. The beaches on the Atlantic coast, a few small rivers, and a number of lakes were the only changes from the dense pine forests. Once we reached Basque Country the mountains of the Pyrenees became visible in the distance, and the landscape, as well as the architecture, became more interesting. Below are some of my favorite photos from the journey. (For more of my photos, please visit my Flickr page.)

Bordeaux is located on the Gironde River which is formed by the merging of Dordogne and Garonne. It is the capital of the province Aquitaine, which reaches from the Dordogne in the north to the Pyrenees in the south. The climate is temperate, bordering on a Mediterranean climate.

Bordeaux is located on the Gironde River which is formed by the merging of Dordogne and Garonne. It is the capital of the province Aquitaine, which reaches from the Dordogne in the north to the Pyrenees in the south. The climate is temperate, bordering on a Mediterranean climate.

The landscape around Bordeaux is flat and dotted with small towns, fields, forests and some of the world’s most famous wineries.

The landscape around Bordeaux is flat and dotted with small towns, fields, forests and some of the world’s most famous wineries.

The mild climate and the calcium-rich soils in the region of Bordeaux are perfect for growing grape vines. Red Bordeaux wine is usually made from a blend of different grapes.

The mild climate and the calcium-rich soils in the region of Bordeaux are perfect for growing grape vines. Red Bordeaux wine is usually made from a blend of different grapes.

Most of the coast of Aquitaine is sandy, with endless beaches and the famous "Dune de Pilat". With a base of half a kilometer and a height of over 100m (300 ft.), it is the largest sand dune of Europe. To learn more about the vegetation of the sand dunes see Botanical Excursion to Southern France: Part 2.

Most of the coast of Aquitaine is sandy, with endless beaches and the famous "Dune de Pilat". With a base of half a kilometer and a height of over 100m (300 ft.), it is the largest sand dune of Europe. To learn more about the vegetation of the sand dunes see Botanical Excursion to Southern France: Part 2.

Most of the land that consisted of moving sand dunes only 200 years ago has since been stabilized and planted with forests.

Most of the land that consisted of moving sand dunes only 200 years ago has since been stabilized and planted with forests.

The most important tree is the Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster), and the forest of the Landes de Gascogne is the largest planted forest of Maritime Pine in Europe.

The most important tree is the Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster), and the forest of the Landes de Gascogne is the largest planted forest of Maritime Pine in Europe.

The large and very hard pine cones litter the ground in the forests, but selected plantings are used for the production of seed.

The large and very hard pine cones litter the ground in the forests, but selected plantings are used for the production of seed.

Female Maritime Pine cones

Female Maritime Pine cones

Male Maritime Pine cones

Male Maritime Pine cones

This young planting had to withstand a brush fire, but most of the pine trees have survived.

This young planting had to withstand a brush fire, but most of the pine trees have survived.

Large amounts of burnt timber washed up on the beach are a reminder of the numerous forest fires in the north of Spain during the summer. These were so severe that the thick bark was not enough protection and the trees were killed.

Large amounts of burnt timber washed up on the beach are a reminder of the numerous forest fires in the north of Spain during the summer. These were so severe that the thick bark was not enough protection and the trees were killed.

The paper factory in Mimizan makes good use of the abundant pine forests. The timber is also used for construction and an herbal medication rich in antioxidants is fabricated from the sap.

The paper factory in Mimizan makes good use of the abundant pine forests. The timber is also used for construction and an herbal medication rich in antioxidants is fabricated from the sap.

A wide variety of shrubs can easily establish itself on lightly shaded woodland floor as well as anywhere forests have been cleared.

A wide variety of shrubs can easily establish itself on lightly shaded woodland floor as well as anywhere forests have been cleared.

A very common low shrub is the Sun-Rose (Cistus salviifolius). Visible here are the sage-like foliage and dry fruits

A very common low shrub is the Sun-Rose (Cistus salviifolius). Visible here are the sage-like foliage and dry fruits

The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is a common evergreen shrub in underbrush and on the edges of the pine forests. It is found all along the Mediterranean and even much further north in Ireland.

The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is a common evergreen shrub in underbrush and on the edges of the pine forests. It is found all along the Mediterranean and even much further north in Ireland.

The fruit of Arbutus unedo is green at first, turning bright strawberry-red when mature. It is edible but does not have much flavor.

The fruit of Arbutus unedo is green at first, turning bright strawberry-red when mature. It is edible but does not have much flavor.

The sandy soils tend to be acidic, and heaths (such as the Erica cinerea pictured here) feel at home in these conditions.

The sandy soils tend to be acidic, and heaths (such as the Erica cinerea pictured here) feel at home in these conditions.

The Tree Heath (Erica arborea) can reach over 10 feet in height. Since the wood is extraordinarily hard and also fire resistant, it is used to make smoking pipes.

The Tree Heath (Erica arborea) can reach over 10 feet in height. Since the wood is extraordinarily hard and also fire resistant, it is used to make smoking pipes.

The Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) often covers the ground in pine forests. It has the tendency to be invasive.

The Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) often covers the ground in pine forests. It has the tendency to be invasive.

In the summer, visitors to the pine forests hear the ceaseless singing of cicadas, but despite their abundance, might never see any of them. Their excellent camouflage makes them hard to find.

In the summer, visitors to the pine forests hear the ceaseless singing of cicadas, but despite their abundance, might never see any of them. Their excellent camouflage makes them hard to find.

The Maritime Pine is rarely replaced by other species. Yet we did find a Eucalyptus plantation south of the Landes de Gascogne.

The Maritime Pine is rarely replaced by other species. Yet we did find a Eucalyptus plantation south of the Landes de Gascogne.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremulus) was planted here, a location with a high water threshold.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremulus) was planted here, a location with a high water threshold.

Rivers and creeks are overgrown with a rich vegetation that reminds me of gallery forests found along rivers in Africa.

Rivers and creeks are overgrown with a rich vegetation that reminds me of gallery forests found along rivers in Africa.

A particularity of the region is that many of the rivers have difficulties reaching the ocean because they are blocked off by the sand dunes. As a result, a number of lakes has formed behind the coast line.

A particularity of the region is that many of the rivers have difficulties reaching the ocean because they are blocked off by the sand dunes. As a result, a number of lakes has formed behind the coast line.

The vegetation around these lakes is rich and varied.

The vegetation around these lakes is rich and varied.

One of these lakes near the town of Biscarosse has proven to be quite useful to the oil industry.

One of these lakes near the town of Biscarosse has proven to be quite useful to the oil industry.

Several species of oaks are also very common in the Gascogne. The most conspicuous is the cork oak (Quercus suber). It is an evergreen species with small leaves.

Several species of oaks are also very common in the Gascogne. The most conspicuous is the cork oak (Quercus suber). It is an evergreen species with small leaves.

Thick bark protects this tree from brush fires. Since antiquity, it has been harvested to produce corks for bottles.

Thick bark protects this tree from brush fires. Since antiquity, it has been harvested to produce corks for bottles.

Oak forests are more common on rocky soils than on the sandy dunes.

Oak forests are more common on rocky soils than on the sandy dunes.

The foliage of oak trees is often bluish-grey from a heavy layer of wax. Some species, such as Quercus pubescens, have fine layers of felt on their foliage, especially on the undersides, to provide protection from desiccation.

The foliage of oak trees is often bluish-grey from a heavy layer of wax. Some species, such as Quercus pubescens, have fine layers of felt on their foliage, especially on the undersides, to provide protection from desiccation.

Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) make for a good snack, but blackthorn (also called sloe) (Prunus spinosa) can only be eaten after a frost, and even then is better left to the jelly jar.

Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) make for a good snack, but blackthorn (also called sloe) (Prunus spinosa) can only be eaten after a frost, and even then is better left to the jelly jar.

A pair of Jewel beetles (Fam. Buprestidae) visits the flower of a blackberry plant.

A pair of Jewel beetles (Fam. Buprestidae) visits the flower of a blackberry plant.

This perennial elderberry (Sambucus ebulus) was common on roadsides. It is a poisonous species and not eaten by cattle.

This perennial elderberry (Sambucus ebulus) was common on roadsides. It is a poisonous species and not eaten by cattle.