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Encosta Cabo Girão

Cabo Girão, Madeira

Floral Heritage of Madeira

Posted by Luci Ackers on Mar 09, 2015
Floral Heritage of Madeira

Madeira is an island of the Portuguese archipelago, lying off the coast of western Europe and North Africa. It is often popular for its flora and landscape.

Madeira is the result of a 'hotspot' deep in the earth's mantle, meaning it has volcanic origins where the region, which was fed by underlying hot mantle, was formed into a string of volcanic piles. Though volcanic activity has stopped, evidence of it can still be seen in the area in the surprisingly mountainous scenery. The island is only the top section of an entire volcanic system which stretches deep beneath the sea and the resulting fertility of the soil meant it was once home to ancient subtropical rainforest. Thanks to the environment, the volcanic islands of the archipelago (also collectively known as Macaronesia) still harbour important floral diversity, and fossil evidence suggests that the laurel forest, or laurisilva, for which they are renowned has a composition and maturity similar to the forests that were found covering Southern Europe and Northern Africa in the Tertiary Period millions of years ago.

As much as two thirds of the island is a natural reserve and a large amount of Madeira's laurisilva lies within the Parque Natural de Madeira. This Natural Park boasts conservation of the largest surviving area of primary laurel forest. The habitats display a wealth of ecological niches and intact ecosystems. UNESCO declared the habitat a World Heritage Site in 1999 and it holds a great importance for biodiversity, with over 76 vascular plant species endemic to Madeira.

One of the protected areas is the Ecological Park just north of the capital Funchal; it is an area of high importance with outstanding views and is rich in flora and fauna. The rare trees, native to Madeira that it houses include Mountain Ash, Lily of the Valley and Canary Laurel. Ribeiro Frio Forest Park, also near Funchal is famous for its beautiful gardens and walks, great for seeing the variety of native plants and trees.

Upon discovery in the 15th century, much of Madeira was forest. Most was burned in order to provide arable land for agriculture, but that was how the island came to be called Madeira, which translates to Wood from Portuguese. Luckily the remaining laurisilva is being protected and the beauty of the landscape is there for visitors and locals to see and enjoy. The annual spring Flower Festival is a vibrant way to celebrate the floral heritage of this island that is sometimes referred to as the 'floating flowerpot'.

Click on the link below to find out how you can stay in our fantastic property in Madeira.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.


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