Naked man orchid (Orchis italica), Lagoa - 03-03-2021

The wonderful world of Algarve wildflowers

Watch your step and keep a look out for the region’s stunning wildflowers

Anyone who lives in, has visited, or knows about the Algarve is almost certainly familiar with its pristine beaches and year-round sunshine. But a lesser-known facet of the region is its stunning range of wildflowers, some so small you might just stomp on them if you’re not careful.

Bringing us some beautiful photos of these wildflowers is Carl Hawker, a nature lover who spends most of his free time taking photos of the Algarve’s vibrant wildlife.

When we last spoke to Carl in 2019, he told us about all the amazing photos he has captured over the years, from red fox cubs exploring the Monchique hills to a black pig roaming freely around the countryside in Sagres.

(Linaria algarviana) Sagres, 09-04-2022
Barbary Nut (Moraea sisyrinchium (syn. Gynandriris sisyrinchium), Lagos – 01-03-2021
Bumblebee orchid (Ophrys bombyliflora) Lagos – 06-03-2021

He is a prolific birdwatcher and photographer, setting off into nature very often to take photos of the region’s birdlife and catalogue all his findings.

It’s when spring arrives, and birds start pairing off to mate, that he turns his focus over to the region’s wildflowers.

His photos show the amazing details of each wildflower, almost as if they were especially crafted to look stunning. But capturing them in all their splendour is no easy feat.

Field madder (Sherardia arvensis), Lagos – 03-03-2021
Grape hyacinth_(Muscari neglectum), Lagos – 04-03-2021
Grey-leaved cistus (Cistus albidus), Lagos – 02-03-2021

When asked whether photographing these stationary flowers is easier than waiting for the perfect moment to capture photos of birds or wild animals, Carl said this isn’t quite the case.

“The flowers are half the size they look in the picture,” he said, explaining that he uses a macro lens – which is optically optimised to handle extremely close focusing distances – to photograph the flowers.

Indeed, many of the flowers are so small that most people just walk by without noticing them.

Hemp broomrape (Orobanche ramosa), Lagos – 16-03-2021 (1)
Mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum), Lagos – 06-03-2021-1.jpg
Papoila-das-searas (Papaver rhoeas), Sagres – 08-03-2020

 

“When I’m out on these walks, I notice that most people don’t even see them and they miss these beautiful flowers which are just growing wild all around,” Carl told us.

Among the most commonly found species in the Algarve are the yellow wood sorrel (despite being officially considered a weed) and daisies.

The Algarve is also home to several kinds of orchids, from the tiny bumblebee orchid to the naked man orchid (which gets its name for resembling, you guessed it, a naked man).

Petticoat daffodil_(Narcissus bulbocodium), Lagos – 01-03-2021
Pink catchfly (Silene colorata), Lagos – 25-02-2021
Pyramidal orchid_(Anacamptis pyramidalis), Lagos – 21-03-2021 (1)

Another species highlighted by Carl is the linaria algarviana, a miniature orchid which you can only find in the Western Algarve.  It is so rare that it was one of the factors taken into account when a project to build two hotels in the João d’Arens coastal area of Portimão – one of the few areas where this species grows – was given a ‘thumbs down’ in 2020.

The yellow lupin is another standout. Its yellow seeds, known as lupin beans, are edible and were once a common food source along the Mediterranean coast.

But the list goes on, from the field madder and the blue lupin to the white hedge nettle, the purple milk thistle and the barbary nut.

Starflower (Borago officinalis), Lagos – 02-03-2021
White hedge nettle (Prasium majus), Lagos – 08-03-2021
Wild clary (Salvia verbenaca), Lagos – 27-02-2021

 

Carl keeps a catalogue of all the photos he takes, writing down the name of each flower and the location and date that the photos were taken. With every new year of information, Carl is able to study how each species propagates and learn how it develops.

So, the next time you’re out walking in the Algarve wilderness, watch your step. You might just spot one of these amazing wildflowers.

By Michael Bruxo
michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com

Wild lavender (Lavandula stoechas), Sagres – 08-03-2020