Walking the dog leads to a love of flowers

By EMMA BERTENSHAW [email protected]

Algarve resident Silvester J. Pistoor has written, illustrated and published his first book in English about the unique and vast flora of the region.

Originally from the Netherlands, Silvester was a student of Biology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen and worked briefly as a researcher before embarking on a career in teaching biology at secondary school level.

After years of visiting friends who had moved to Madeira, he and his wife dreamed of following them but decided they didn’t want an island life.

They chose the Algarve instead, where they bought a house for their retirement.

Enjoying long walks with his dog near their home in Armação de Pêra gave Silvester the time to study the local plants, which were so different to what he was used to in the Netherlands.

He also joined a walking group organised by the Dutch Club Algarve and enjoyed the companionship of his fellow walkers,

“But I was always the last in the group because I had to stop every time and look at something unusual I had seen. While other people would notice more obvious plants and flowers, I could take a long time when I saw something and hold the group up.

“On the other hand, people were always asking for me to come over because they had seen something and wanted to know what it was.”

Silvester has made his own drawings of Algarve flora.
Silvester has made his own drawings of Algarve flora.

Collection drawings

Honing his knowledge of local flora, he began to make drawings and slowly built up a collection in order to record as many as he could.

Friends noticed his work and asked him what he was planning to do with them and so the idea came about to make a book.

However, this book is actually only the first of a series of four volumes. “I had so many drawings I realised I would have to categorise them to represent the different types of flora,” he said.

Volume one covers shrubs and trees; volume two will be about herbaceous plants, volume three about grasses and volume four another section on herbaceous flora.

“I was interested in the grasses I saw in my local area and dedicated a volume to them because there are so many types and not much notice is taken of them. It really became my specialist subject.”

Silvester found that he needed more time to record his drawings: “In the Algarve spring, everything blooms at the same time. The rules of northern european gardening don’t really apply here.”

Each drawing took him up to two days to complete and the first book has taken two and a half years.

The finished product is an A4-sized coffee table book with colourful illustrations on every page.

Accompanying each illustration is a full description of the plant, its flowering season, habitat and Latin name as well as familiar names.

He decided to publish the book himself because, he says, “my subject is quite specialist and so these are a limited edition. Most publishers were unwilling to work in smaller numbers than a thousand and then it becomes very expensive.”

The book is now available to buy at three book shops in the region – Algarve Book Cellar in Carvoeiro, Griffin Bookshop in Almancil and A Lura dos Livros in Tavira.

Silvester J. Pistoor will be at the Griffin Bookshop in Almancil on Tuesday, December 13 to talk about his book and sign copies between 11am and 1pm. For more information, please call 289 393 904