Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Iberia VIII

My last post from the Iberian Peninsula, with a bit of Portugal and Spain, plus the Basque Country of France as an honorary part of Iberia. Just one more blogging-lite (from a botanic gardens meeting in Geneva, Switzerland) before normal transmission resumes in July...

Starting with the north of Portugal, there were some pretty gardens around the Bom Jesus do Monte, not far from Braga, but it's the ornate stairs that everyone goes there to see (and descend and ascend).

Nearby is Braga (the third largest town in Portugal, after Lisbon and Porto), a town of buildings rather than parks, but some gorgeous constructions such as this.

Then on to a smaller university town, Guimarães. Again more about the buildings than plants but there are some trees around them (including a few giant blue gums - a species that dominates the west of the Iberian Peninsula).

Miño, in northern Spain, has a good looking sandy beach and a few of the common natives and weeds growing on it, including this Sand Stock (Malcolmia littorea) a local to the Mediterranean.

This Wild Carrot (Daucus carota or thereabouts) could be anywhere, and along many of the Iberian roadsides. I can't resist it.

A big surprise was the botanic garden just out of Gijón, in northern Spain. Jardín Botánico Atlántico de Gijón is a 25 hectare mix of local flora displays, formal 19th century gardens and some more natural areas (including a collection of old oak trees - Quercus robur - that have been managed for wood and charcoal for up to four centuries). First up though, a nice display of edible plants, and then some closely planted plane trees.

And in town, some very attractive buildings, yet again...

Near to Gijón (30 km away) is the town of Oviedo with the stunningly coloured (honey yellow) cathedral and other colourful buildings (some even with flowers...). Oh, and someone made a film there recently and he said how much he liked the place so much the locals put up a statue of him.

Then in the foot hills of the Picos de Europa, mist... So not so many views but plenty of eucalypts (the first picture shows seedling Blue Gums - Eucalyptus globulus), the second, a heath (Erica) in the limestone. 

Oh, and some wildlife. This cow is resting in the early morning not far from Hasparren, in the Pays Basque region of Spain.

And to finish, the Limes or Lindens (Tilia) have been stunning on our trip. This is probably Tilia cordata, but it also reminds me of a display at the Gijon botanic garden, which reminded me that the Swedish inventor of our botanical name system, Carl Linnaeas, got his family name (later Latinised) came from this tree!

Time now to return the hire car, and pack away the 'Iberian Peninsular Tour, June 2017' number plate accessory...

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Iberia VII

We left Portugal a week or so ago, well before the terrible fires in central Portugal. Some of these pictures are from Coimbra, a university town about 50 km north-west from the worst hit areas. Others are around Lisbon, and then further north, to the beautiful city of Porto and its Douro valley, all well away from the fires. I feel a little uncomfortable showing essentially holiday snaps when so many have suffered, but it feels right to be reminded of the beauty of life, and of Portugal.

Starting with the coastline and some of the coastal vegetation near Cabo da Roca (near Azoia), the westernmost tip of continental Europe.

And these are two funky homes near Sintra: Quinta da Regaleira and the Park and Palace of Pena. The gardens were both very good, but I can't fit everything into this 'lite' post... 

Now heading northward in Portugal. Despite the botanic garden at Coimbra now being the country's major botanic garden, much of it is neglected and fenced off. The formal garden is still pretty, and they have a pretty big (and old) Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) from Australia.

There are also some interesting new plantings, such as this Acer pseudoplantanus 'Atropurpurea', a Sycamore with beautifully tinted leaves.

Coimbra is home to Portugal's oldest and most prestigious university, and its sumptuous library, Biblioteca Joanina. Where famously, the books are protected by resident insect-eating bats (meaning the tables need to be covered each night and the floors cleaned each morning). No pictures allowed inside but here is the grandiose exterior.

Then, for us, it was on to Mata do Cucaco, near Luso, to see an over the top house and garden built in the early 1900s. Here you can see a fine old Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii), again from Australia.

And more fancy hedge work..

Plus a folly or two in the huge woods (Mata Nacional do Bucaco) that surround the house (with all the trees - native and planted - protected by Papal Bull).

To Porto, a stunning city, for it's new (roof top olive trees), facades and a waterfront to rival Sydney Harbour. (Yes I know this is straying from plants and gardens, but look at the views!)

Then out of town, along the Rio Duoro and nearby valleys, vines and olives. Gorgeous human-designed landscapes...

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Iberia VI

Ancient dragon trees, yet more volcanic ombu and some wild carob on the coast. Blogging-lite from the Iberian Peninsula continues. 

But first Cork Oaks, and there are plenty of them. This one is emerging from the woodland around Redondo, near to where we stayed for a few days in an old converted convent (the next picture). Most of the Iberian Peninsula is human maintained woodlands of Cork (Quercus suber) and Holm/Holly Oaks (Quercus ilex).

And the Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) on the cliffs of Parque Natural da Arrabida, just south of Lisbon. A native species around the Mediterranean.

Now in Lisbon, on the streets up to the castle, an Ombu (Phytoloacca dioica), native to South America. You may remember I posted arguably the largest in Spain, from near Malaga. This one isn't the most impressive in size but at the base it does have some what might be called chi chis if this was a ginkgo.

And in the Jardim Botanico Tropical in Lisbon, a Dragon Tree (Dracena draco), native to the Canary Islands, Morocco and thereabouts. It's peeping through the bushes, from the right...

But then that's not a Dragon Tree, this is a Dragon Tree! A reputedly 400 year-old specimen in the Jardim Botanica d'Ajuda (a garden established in 1768, before the reputed birth of this specimen). The specimen certainly looks old and the oldest reported from the wild (via Wikipedia), on the island of Tenerife, is apparently about the same age (although reported as a thousand or so years old at times). 

And at the same botanic garden an impressive pair of Ombu. The 'volcanic' base here covered in moss and lichens.

And finally, two more Dragon Trees. The first is another form this charming botanic garden - perhaps a hundred or so years old I'd suggest. A around it, a parterre, with a view to the sea. The second is a transplant, maybe fifty or so years old and apparently destined to be part of a swanky new apartment building patio in Lisbon.