PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – New Botanical Garden Project

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

We were very fortunate to be involved with the early stages of the planning of a new botanical garden at Quinta da Figueirinha. We spent a day working with Marilyn, on one of the main areas Gerhard wanted us to begin with.

Views of Quinta da Figueirinha

View of Quinta da Figueirinha

Another view of Quinta da Figueirinha

We started out with a tour of the proposed area which was roughly 2 – 3 acres in size. Gerhard had given us a rough map, however we found a much better aerial view on Google Earth which Marilyn split into 6 different zones on a computer and then printed out for us to use.

We went for a walk around the area, to know exactly where the perimeter was and also to get a rough idea of where the various zones started and finished. Animals had made pathways through the vegetation which we used as markers – trenches and the outer fence were also used as boundary markers/dividers.

Aerial photo of the area, taken from Google Earth

Aerial photo of the area, taken from Google Earth

Map with area divided into zones

Map with area divided into zones

It was interesting to see which types of plants were growing there and the great variation in species within the different zones. This area isn’t going to be planted up with new plants for the botanical garden, instead the plants which are already there will be enhanced and maintained to display the natural flora of the Algarve itself. Gerhard really wants to get across how the natural surroundings influence a country’s culture.

The rest of the new garden is going to be split into geographical zones to represent areas from the different Mediterranean regions, similar to botanical gardens in the UK like the Eden Project and the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

Some of the zones

One of the zones

Another zone

Marilyn wanted us to make a record of which plants were in each zone and how many of each species there were before any real physical work was done. We spent most of the day identifying plants in Zone 4. It was intense but really fun, a real test of our plant knowledge. It was great of Marilyn to give us the opportunity to get involved, even though we were horticultural students and not proper field botanists I still think we did a pretty good job at accurately identifying the plants.

It was intriguing to see the difference in the variety of plants just within the area we were working on. Certain species only grew in one zone and were nowhere to be seen in another. For example Cistus were thriving in one zone but not in any others.

Cistus albidus

Cistus albidus

Zone with orchids marked out

Zone with orchids marked out

It was interesting being able to realise how well we knew the flora and which species weren’t as obvious to identify as others. It’s easy looking at a garden and saying “that’s a thistle” but until you’re faced with a project like this and need to know the exact genus, species and family you don’t realise quite how tricky it is to correctly identify a plant.

We managed to identify 17 different plants in total, they were as follows:

Plants identified (Zone 4)

  • Anagallis arvensis (Ericaceae)
  • Anthyllis tetraphylla (Fabaceae)
  • Arisarum vulgare (Araceae)
  • Cachrys sicula (Apiaceae)
  • Carlina corymbosa (Asteraceae)
  • Cynara tournefortii (Asteraceae)
  • Echium vulgare (Boraginaceae)
  • Foeniculum vulgare (Apiaceae)
  • Jasminum fruticans (Oleaceae)
  • Lavandula stoechas (Lamiaceae)
  • Muscari comosum (Asparagaceae)
  • Ophrys lutea (Orchidaceae)
  • Ophrys speculum (Orchidaceae)
  • Phagnalon rupestre (Asteraceae)
  • Plantago lanceolata (Plantaginaceae)
  • Psoralea bituminosa (Fabaceae)
  • Thapsia villosa (Apiaceae)

Close-up of the orchids

Close-up of the orchids

Anacamptis pyramidalis

Anacamptis pyramidalis

We also plotted the location of various trees and shrubs in the different zones on paper, a vital reference to have when planning future work for this project. We then had a little time left to start marking out where the largest patches of orchids were in the various zones with hazard tape. We will have to come back in a few years time to see how the area has transformed!


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