All the photographs are original and were taken ‘in situ’ by the author.
I wish to thank the staff of the Clot de Galvany Nature Reserve for their help in compiling this publication.
The coast of the Alicante region, on the Costa Blanca, is generally warmer than other parts of Spain in the winter. This results in a variety of plants flowering in the winter and early Spring, though some species are vulnerable to drought. Santa Pola, Gran Alacant and close neighbour Carabassi, are only a few kms.from the city of Alicante. Yet these areas contain extensive protected coastal landscapes and habitats, despite the building boom.
The Santa Pola Sierras: These are the rocky hills and limestone pavement which stretch from Santa Pola to Gran Alacant. Stone pines have been planted but there are many natural open areas. The habitat of these hills is known as ‘garrigue’. Coastal garrigue adds to the diversity, but where it is not protected it is under threat of development.
The Cape of Santa Pola (The Cabo): The limestone cliffs, foreshore, rocky beaches and dunes are a vestige of the once natural Costa Blanca. A ‘Micro Reserve de Flora’ has been designated below the cliffs in the vicinity of the lighthouse, accessible from the beach road (Camino del Cabo).
The Clot de Galvany is a nature reserve next to Gran Alacant, at Carabassi, consisting of various wetland habitats as well as dunes and hillside garrigue. It is therefore rich in wildlife and an example of the biodiversity of the area.
The Salt Lakes: The Santa Pola Salt Lakes are an attraction for many types of birds, surrounded by salt-loving plants.
Enjoy your visit!
1 - WHITE BALL MUSTARD
This medium/tall annual or biennial often carpets open areas and waysides in early Spring. Its white flowers are sometimes tinged with pink and the oval leaves are fleshy and mostly toothed. Common on rocky and disturbed ground, Feb-March.
2 - SEA ROCKET
A native annual of coastal areas, with mauve, scented flowers, usually growing in large patches. The fleshy, greyish green leaves are divided, hairless and succulent-like. Seen on undisturbed beaches, Feb-March.
3 - YELLOW ALYSSUM
Medium rather variable perennial with yellow flowers borne in branched clusters. The greyish leaves are linear, the lower ones often divided. Seen in rocky habitats, March-June.
4 - VIOLET STOCK
A colourful medium tall perennial, dis- tinctive due to its violet flowers. The blue-green, oblong leaves are untoothed and fleshy, the upper ones clasping the stem. It is short-lived. Seen on waysides, disturbed ground, Feb-April.
5 - ROCKET
A short to medium bristly annual with stalked, deeply divided leaves. The flowers are white or pale yellow, the petals with purple veins. It is cultivated as a salad crop. Seen on disturbed ground Feb-June.
6 - SWEET ALISON
A low, evergreen clump-forming plant. The small, spatula-shaped leaves are lime-green, untoothed and hairless. The white flowers are borne in round clusters at the top of the stems. Often grown in gardens. Seen in rocky coastal habitats, March -April.
7 - WATER ASTER
Astericus aqua cus (Odontospernum aqauticus)
A low plant with hardly any stem. The leaves are hairy and form a rosette around the single yellow flowerhead and point upwards. Seen in damp places March-April.
8 - YELLOW SEA ASTER
Astericus mari mus (Ondontospernum maritimus)
Short and mat-forming, this bright yellow daisy-like plant hugs the ground to avoid the sea winds. Its slightly hairy leaves are spatula-shaped and un- toothed. Seen on the coast, March-April.
9 - CROWN DAISY
Usually standing above surrounding vegetation, this large daisy is always striking. The rays can be yellow and white or totally yellow. Its leaves are pale green and deeply divided. It is often grown in gardens. Seen on waysides and disturbed ground, Feb -June.
10 - FIELD MARIGOLD
A small, spreading annual - variable, with yellow or orange flowerheads, sometimes with a brown central disk. The oblong pointed leaves are very finely toothed. Seen on dry and rocky waysides, Jan-June.
11 - SHINING MARIGOLD
A short to medium marigold, with dark yellow flowers. The pointed oval leaves are fleshy and somewhat hairy, grasping the stems at the axil. Seen in rocky, dry places, March-June.
12 - SPINY STARWORT
A distinctive medium/tall annual, with long, spine-tipped, spreading bracts surrounding the flowerheads. These are dark yellow and daisy-like with a large central disk. The upper leaves half-clasp the stems, which are hairy and reddish in colour. Seen on waysides and disturbed ground, Feb-May.
13 - BRIGHT EYES
A low perennial, the yellow florets having a brown ringed central disk. The pale greyish leaves are oblong and lobed, with tiny white spots. Seen on waysides Feb-Mar.
14 - SHRUBBY EVERLASING
A low, aromatic plant, with narrow, grey leaves.. The dense yellow ‘everlasting’ clustered flowerheads are borne on a single stem. Seen in coastal areas Feb-Mar.
15 - LAVENDER COTTON
A greyish-green, low annual with erect thin stems, each bearing one deep yellow button-like flower. The leaves are sparse, coarse to the touch and aromatic. Often grown in gardens, seen in dry places, Mar-May.
16 - RAYLESS CHAMOMILE
A slightly hairy annual with spreading stems which become gradually thickened towards the top, often curved. The yellow button-like flowers are borne at the end of each stem, the pale leaves deeply divided. Seen near the coast March-May.
17 - GOLDEN SAMPHIRE
A marsh daisy with branched stems, of medium height, the flowerheads with a central disk larger than the rays. The leaves are crowded along the stem, linear and fleshy, which are said to be edible. Seen in coastal areas, salt marshes and around salt lakes, June-Sept.
18 - AROMATIC ASTER
A medium/tall, erect annual of the fleabane family, usually growing in large clumps and smelling of camphor. The leaves are lanceolate and the small, golden, daisy-like flowers are borne along the length of the stem and taper towards the top. Seen on waysides, Aug-Oct.
19 - CUT-LEAVED VIPERS-GRASS
A variable small to medium annual whose leaves are deeply lobed. The flowerheads occur at the top of long, stout stems; the flower-bracts and buds are long and pointed. Seen on waysides, Jan-March.
20 - DIFFUSE KNAPWEED
Short annual or biennial with erect and much branched stems. The leaves are slightly hairy and divided. The purple/ lilac flowers are numerous and the flower-bracts covered by spines. Seen in sandy or stony places, April – July.
21 - CENTAUREA SONCHIFOLIA
An atttactive, medium perennial, with branched, winged stems and spike-toothed leaves. The purple flowerheads are preceded by bracts with reflexed spines. Seen in coastal areas, Feb-June.
22 - ST. BARNABY’S THISTLE
This medium/tall perennial is branched; the scarce upper leaves are unstalked and untoothed. The flower-heads are pale yellow, the flower-bracts all terminating in a long straw-coloured spine. Seen in dry habitats May-August
23 - SCOTCH THISTLE
A tall, stout biennial with spiny, winged stems and oblong divided leaves sometimes covered in cobwebby hairs. The large flower -heads are usually purple, and the flower- bracts are linear and pointed. Often grown in gardens and widely naturalised. Seen in stony habitats and roadsides, May-July.
24 - MILK THISTLE
A robust, striking, usually tall, thistle with large purple, spiny flowerheads. Distinctive due to the white veins on the leaves and long, thick, pointed flower-bracts. It is used medicinally for ailments such as liver disease. Seen on waysides, March-June.
25 - SAFFRON THISTLE
A relative of Safflower, this annual has a covering of downy hairs when young. The stems are straw-coloured, which the narrow, pointed leaves clasp on the upper part. The flower-bracts bear a spine-toothed appendage. Seen on stony slopes Feb-March.
26 - GREATER SEA-SPURREY
A low, spreading perennial with fleshy leaves and small pink or white flowers. Seen near salt marshes or on coastal sands, Mar-April.
27 - FRINGED PINK
A medium high, attractive perennial, with slender grey-green leaves. The flowers are sweet-scented with five deeply cut, fringed, pale pink petals. Seen on hill tops, May-June.
28 - BLUE PIMPERNEL
A low plant with bright blue flowers, which is the same species as Scarlet Pimpernel. The stems are four-angled and the oval leaves are opposite and unstalked. Seen on open ground and coastal sands, April-Oct.
29 - BARBARY NUT
A small iris, growing from a nut-like corm, hence its name. The flowers only last for a day and the colour varies from light blue to almost purple; the leaves are grooved and sheath-like. Seen on stony fields and slopes, March-April.
30 - EASTERN GLADIOLUS
A medium tall striking plant, the slender stems bearing 6-10 dark pink flowers on a two-sided spike. The narrow leaves are basal and end in a sharp point. It is very vulnerable to drought. Seen on rocky hillslopes, March-April.
31 - SOFT CRANESBILL
A low, spreading, rather hairy plant with erect stems and heart-shaped, toothed leaves. The flowers are purplish and the petals are often irregular in size. Seen in dry, open habitats and waysides, Jan-May.
32 - PAPERWHITE NARCISUS
A small to medium bulbous narcissi, distinctive due to the whole flower being white, apart from the stamens. The bluish-green leaves are strap-shaped and each stalk bears several flowers which are intensely fragrant; it is often grown in gardens, indoors or sold as cut flowers. Vulnerable to drought, seen on rocky hill slopes, Dec-Mar.
33 - SEA DAFFODIL
The flowers of this plant are totally white, large and fragrant. The stamens are borne on the rim of a cone-shaped trumpet. Seen on beaches, dunes, July-Sept
34 - SANTA POLA SEA LAVENDER
A local form of sea lavender; hairless, erect, with fleshy, spatula-shaped leaves at the base. The mauve flowerheads are large, sparse and spreading. Seen on coastal rocks, May-Aug.
35 - BERMUDA BUTTERCUP
Alo known as Cape Sorrel, this plant is not a buttercup, but a sorrel from South Africa. With bright lemon flowers and shamrock-like leaves it appears after rain. A double form occurs on the beach of Santa Pola Cape. Widespread on waysides, Jan-April.
36 - FRIAR’S COWL
This little plant occurs in patches of fleshy, heart-shaped leaves before the spring vegetation takes hold. The flower bracts or ’hoods’ are green, becoming maroon and cream, mainly striped, enclosing a long, clublike protrudence, bent backwards. At the base of this are small, violet flowers. Seen on coastal garrigue, Dec-Feb.
37 - GRAPE HYACINTH
A short bulbous perennial, the upper flowers pale blue, the lower ones darker. The leaves are channelled, linear and spikey. Seen in stony habitats, Mar/May
38 - HOLLOW-STEMMED ASPHODEL
A medium tall, delicate looking plant, though it is unscathed by winter winds or hot sun. The petals of the star-like white flowers have a distinctive brown stripe through the middle. It is multi-stemmed and the narrow, cylindrical leaves and the stalks are both hollow. Seen in rocky places, Jan-March
39 - WHITE ASPHODEL
A more robust-looking plant, growing to 1m. but it can be susceptible to drought. It is a striking and visible feature of the hillsides in the Spring, its white star-like flowers borne on branches half-way up the stem and the tall spire. Its grey- green, tapered leaves are all at the base. Seen on the hillslopes, March-April.
40 - STAR OF BETHLEHEM
A short perennial with white, glistening, star-like flowers with yellow anthers; the narrow leaves are dark green, channelled, with a white central strip. The leaves tend to die off late in the flower- ing season. The buds bear a broad green stripe. Seen in garrigue, March-May.
41 - GROUND-PINE GERMANDER
A small plant, whose flowers have a long lower lip and all face the same direction. It is rather woody at the base and has small linear, rather stiff leaves along the stem. Seen on rocky slopes, March-May.
42 - TOOTHED LAVENDER
An aromatic, small shrub, softly hairy and distinctive due to its deeply toothed leaves. The blue/purple flowers are 7-8mm in a long-stalked spike. Seen in garrigue and stony places, flowering March-June.
43 - ROSEMARY
strongly aromatic shrub with narrow, stiff leaves which are green on the upper side, white-felted underneath. The two-lipped flowers grow in the axis of the leaves and are pale blue. It is much cultivated, the leaves used in cooking and for the essential oils. Seen on rocky hills, flowering Dec-March.
44 - CANDELABRA
Also known as the ‘Lamplit plant’ due to the leaves having been used for wicks in lamps. A medium/tall plant with narrow, white- felted leaves and yellow flowers borne in whorls one above the other. The leaves have also been used as an infusion for herbal tea. Seen on rocky slopes, March-April.
45 - WHORLED CLARY
A tall herb, rather foetid, with erect usually unbranched stems, which are often purple or red. The leaves are oval, toothed, the upper unstalked. The flowers are purple, in dense whorls along the stems. Seen on banks and dry places, May-June.
46 - THYME
A low, woody, much branched herb with small, narrow, stiff leaves and small pale pink flowers. It is aromatic, and grown commercially for use in food and medicines. Seen dry, rocky habitats, April-July.
47 - SPREADING GROMWELL
A low, rather sprawling, bristly perennial. The funnel-shaped flowers are bright blue and the narrow green-blue leaves scarcely stalked. Seen in dry, sandy places Feb-April.
48 - VIPER’S BUGLOSS
A medium/tall plant, bristly to the touch; its brilliant blue flowers are rose-coloured on first opening, with red stamens. Its name is derived from the fact that the plant was once used, distilled, as a remedy for viper, or snake, bite! The name Bugloss is of Greek origin and, meaning ‘ox’s tongue’, due to the shape and roughness of the leaves. Widespread in dry habitats, Mar-June.
49 - NARROW-LEAVED BUGLOSS
A short to medium, sometimes sprawling, bristly perennial, with grey -green oblong leaves crowded along the stem. The flowers are usually purple with reddish tinges. Seen in rocky habitats, Feb-June
50 - WHITE ROCKROSE
A low spreading, delicate-looking plant, but able to withstand winter winds. The small greyish leave are pointed and somewhat woolly; the pointed buds curve down from the stem. Widespread in rocky places, Jan-May.
51 - LAVENDER-LEAVED ROCKROSE
This attractive rockrose occurs in clumps, discernible by a mass of soft yellow flowers; these are all one side of the stem, which is felted. The small, narrow leaves are white/ woolly beneath and lavender-like. The pointed buds hang down in clusters from the stem. (The Cat’s Paw rockrose is similar, Helianthemum caput-felis, but rare). Seen in coastal habitats, Feb-Mar.
52 - MEDITERRANEAN ROCKROSE
A small and much branched plant growing only up to 20 cm. It’s small oblong, fleshy, dark green leaves are alternately and evenly spaced along the stem. The yellow petals often have a pale orange blotch at the base. Seen in dry areas Feb-March.
53 - UPRIGHT YELLOW FLAX
A small plant with erect stems covered by dark green, narrow, hairy, leaves. The flowers are crowded at the top . Seen in dry, stony fields, Mar- May.
54 - SHRUBBY GLOBULARIA
A medium high perennial, the blue, daisy- like flowerheads borne on much branched stems. The bluish leathery, oblong leaves are pointed and often toothed at the end. Seen in coastal habitats March-May.
55 - FRINGED RUE
A medium/tall, branched plant with divided grey-green leaves. The flowers are yellow with a pointed green centre and the petals fringed with long ‘hairs’ It is used medicinally in some countries. Seen on dry hill slopes, Mar-May.
56 - RED HOTTENTOT FIG
This low, daisy-like, colourful, spreading native of South Africa has naturalised here. It has been planted on dunes to stabilise them, but nowadays discour- aged due to the harm to native plants. The fig-like fruit is said to be edible. Seen in dry habitats, banks, Mar-June
57 - ICE PLANT
The native ice plant is low and spreading, its spatula-shaped leaves are pink-fringed and covered in glistening, crystalline hairs. The pale cream flowerheads are small and delicate-looking. Seen in sandy places, April-June.
58 - VIRGIN’S MANTLE
A low, sometimes scrambling, attractive plant but beware, its small, leathery leaves are spine- tipped (probably to discourage being eaten!) The pink flowers are stalked with prominent stamens. Common on waysides March-June.
59 - FIELD SCABIOUS
A medium, erect perennial with pale blue to lilac dense, rather domed flower-heads borne on long stems. The narrow pointed leaves are main- ly at the base, hairy and rather thick. Seen in grassy places, March-May
60 - SMALL TREE MALLOW
A tall annual with striped lilac flowers in clusters of 2-8 on each stem. The hairy leaves are rounded, heart-shaped and partly lobed. Common on waysides, banks and disturbed ground, March-May.
61 - MALLOW-LEAVED BINDWEED
A low, spreading plant with light or dark pink, funnel-shaped flowers. The dark green leaves are stalked and deeply lobed. Common on waysides and disturbed ground, March-June.
62 - SPANISH BROOM
A switch-like shrub, with grey-green, hairless, erect stems which are virtually leafless. The yellow pea-like flowers are fragrant, appearing in clusters towards the ends of the stems. Probably used in the past to make brooms. Seen in dry, sandy places, March-July.
63 - MIMOSA, SILVER WHATTLE
A small tree with a smooth grey bark. The long, pointed leaves are a silvery green, the pale, yellow flowers fragrant and ‘fluffy’. Originating from Australia, widely planted and naturalised. Seen by roadsides and in gardens, flowering Feb-March.
64 - SPUR FLAX
A small shrub which is scaly to the touch, the small, shiny leaves dense- ly overlapping along the stem. The flowers are yellowish, borne in small, partially concealed clusters. The stems were used for making rough string in the past. Seen near salt marshes, Oct-May.
65 - SEA MEDICK
A creeping plant growing in sandy places and easily recognised by the dense silvery white hairs which cover it and pea-like yellow flowers. The leaves are stalked consisting of several leaflets. Seen on dunes and beaches April-June.
66 - RUSH-LIKE SCORPIAN VETCH
A medium/high subshrub with furrowed, rush-like stems, with only 3 or more small narrow leaves at the stem joints. (which are deciduous). The yellow pea-like flowers are in groups of 5-10 in crown-shaped heads. The thin seed pods are up to 5cm long and curve slightly. Seen in coastal areas and on cliffs, Feb- April.
67 - PITCH TREFOIL
A variable species with slightly hairy stems, smelling of tar. The lilac-blue flowerheads are clover-like, each one borne on a tall stem. The three leaflets are long-stalked and curving inwards. Widespread on waysides, Feb-April.
68 - EGYPTIAN ST. JOHN’S WORT
A medium/low multi-stemmed plant with one bright yellow flower topping each. The small narrow leaves are leathery and very crowded the length of the stem. Seen on rocky slopes, garrigue, Feb-April.
69 - MEDITERRANEAN STONECROP / CATS CLAW
A short to medium perennial with dense pale yellow flowerheads born on one erect fairly thick stem. The small, thick, pointed leaves are greyish-green, spiralling the stem. Common in rocky places April-June.
70 - MIRROR OF VENUS
A little orchid, 25cm or less and easily missed. The shiny blue of the speculum, or mirror, is fringed by brown and yellow hairs; there are 2-10 flowers per stalk. The base leaves are oblong and blunt, the stem leaves more pointed. Seen on rocky slopes, Feb-March.
71 - GIANT FENNEL
A giant perennial herb, aromatic with mustard yellow umbels of flowers. The leaves are composed of 3-4 leaflets from sheath-like bases. The pith, when dry burns slowly inside the stem and, can be carried alight - it is possible they may have been used for the original Olympic torch ! Seen on rocky hills, clifftops, Feb-March.
72 - ROCK SAMPHIRE
An easily recognisable species, even when its yellow-green flowers are over; the oblong leaves are hairless and fleshy. The flowers are borne in umbels with small petals, curled up at the tips. Seen on coastal rocks, March-May.
73 - FIELD ERYNGO
A spiny, thistly plant for an umbellifer, with diverging branches; it has clasping stem leaves and long-stalked basal leaves. The yellow-green flowers grow in broad dome- shaped clusters with narrow, pointed pale green bracts. Seen on dry or sandy ground, April-May.
74 - SERRATED SPURGE
A medium perennial with a woody stock and fleshy, finely toothed or serrated leaves at the top. The bright yellow flow- ers are encased by yellow bracts which are rounded, with a point. Seen on dry, sandy ground near the coast,
75 - TREE SPURGE
A variable, large, rounded euphorbia with forked branches and a thick trunk. The thick, oblong eaves are greyish and fleshy. The lime-yellow flowers end each stem in an umbel. Seen on garrigue, flowering April -June.
76 - FALSE CAPER
A medium, hairless perennial with a reddish stem. The narrow leaves are unstalked, pointed and surround the top in a star. The umbels have four to five rays, surrounded by green, dia- mond shaped bracts. The seeds could be said to resemble capers. Seen in rocky habitats, Feb-June.
77 - OLEANDER
A small, native tree which grows along river banks and streams. With its clusters of pink or white flowers, evergreen narrow leaves and drought resistance, it is favoured by councils to plant along roads or paths, for which a shrub form has been developed. All parts of the plant are poisonous, emanating from the white sap which exudes from the leaves or stem when cut. The shrub form is widespread flowering May/Aug
78 - Opposite-leaved SALTWORT
A tall shrub with attractive pink flowers and leaves, papery to the touch. The leaves are oppo- site each along the stem, as the name implies! Seen mainly next to salt marshes, flowers Oct- Nov.
79 - MASTIC TREE
A small evergreen tree with leathery leaves which are aromatic. The male plant has bright red flowers and the female pale green; the berries turn red and then black in winter. The mastic is harvested in some countries, for uses such as chewing gum or spice. Seen in rocky or sandy coastal areas.
80 - ESPARTO GRASS,
A clump-forming important grass for preventing erosion and shelter- ing smaller species. The spear-like, cream-coloured flowerheads are borne on long stems of up to 1.5m. Widespread on hillslopes, garrigue, flowering Mar-June.
81 - HAIRY MELICK
An attractive medium tall grass, with hairy, silky, straw-coloured flowerheads and a habit of growing in isolated clumps. Its leaves are rather rigid, with rolled blades, often grown in gardens as ornamental grass. Seen on waysides, Feb-June.
82 - JOHNSON GRASS
Usually called reeds, these are tall grasses up to 2.5m, whose stems have silky hairs at the joints with the leaves. The latter are hairless with a very rough margin. The flowerheads are long and feathery varying in colour from cream to grey. Seen around salt lakes and in moist places, April-November.
83 - SEA RUSH
A medium size rush, forming clumps along- side roads. The flowerhead is loose with bristly projections, elongated and darker than the stalks and leaves, which have a golden hue. Seen close to the sea or saltmarshes, Mar-Aug.
Whether you are visiting the area of Alicante or live here, I hope you have found this website useful. It is a non-profit making endeavour, in the hope that awareness can be raised concerning the wealth of natural plant life which exists here. Much of it can be seen by just wandering around the hills or the beach. Although some of the area is protected, there is still too much development occurring in parts of this lovely coast.
It is also hoped that in the future It could be translated into Spanish (perhaps by a student of English?). If you would like further information please email me at:email@example.com
Feedback is very welcome.