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.