December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema

A fine way to close the year is to enjoy the fresh air and the views from a mountainside enjoying December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema. Surrounded by a fabulous natural park with distant views towards the Mediterranean sea and Atlantic coastline. Above there will be soaring Griffon vultures and chattering Red-billed choughs. Plants laden with berries supply ideal food for wintering birds such as ring ouzel, blackbirds and thrush.

Mistletoe is a favourite decoration in the UK during the Christmas festive season but here the berries are not white, but a lovely red! Decorative blooms of winter flowering Clematis are laced amidst the red hawthorn berries and the first Broad-leaved irises show their bright colours.

February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
The male Spanish ibex are unmistakeable with their large horns.

The dominant male Ibex will be surveying his herd, having battled for the privilege he can stand proudly on a rocky outcrop above them. The herd will perhaps be grazing on the shrubs and grasses, sunbathing in a comfy spot, or nimbly crossing through and over the rocks.

In streams and water troughs look out for amphibians like the Iberian Spiny toad, fire salamanders and Iberian water frogs.

Although December may bring rain and frost to the mountains it is a time of growth, spurred on after the prolonged rest enforced by the heat of summer. This rainfall nourishes the ground and triggers the flowering and fruit production of many species. This is a process which now picks up speed with more and more flowers appearing each month through sprintime and until the summer heat strikes again.

A few of the plants to look out for during December in the Sierra de Grazalema

Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia baetica)
This is an evergreen twinning climber that weaves its way through trees, fences and shrubs. The flowers are distinctive being a u shaped tube with a flared opening in shades of chocolate brown to purplish black and occasionaly with a creamy yellow throat. These 2 to 5cm long flowers can be seen between autumn and early spring and are then replaced by a pendant green seed capsule which splits when ripe. The heart shaped, blue green leaves are openly spaced along the stems which can reach several metres in length. Found at stream sides, road sides, semi shaded woodland edges and thickets in eastern Spain, southern Spain / Portugal and north Africa.

Virgin’s Bower (Clematis cirrhosa)
The pale nodding bells of this evergreen climber decorate trees and cliff faces through the winter, gaining height by twining their leaf-stalks around twigs and branches. The creamy white bells that are around 30mm long (sometimes with red speckles in the interior), are replaced in early spring by decorative feathery tufts connected to the seeds. The leaves are a shiny green with the overall height reaching to 5m or more, depending on the support tree. It is frequently found around the Mediterranean area favouring woods, maquis, scrub and flowering between December and March.

December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Aristolochia baetica and Right: Clematis cirrhosa

Bidens (Bidens aurea)
This is a fairly tall and slender perennial that can flower in the autumn with a late flush of flowers into December. The scientific name suggests that the flower colour is yellow but this is not always the case, as it can vary from white, cream to bi-coloured. It is an introduced plant that often naturalises on damp patches, to the point of becoming invasive.
Originally from Southern N. America and Central America, it was introduced to Spain, possibly for decoration but also as it has been popular as an infusion.

Red-berried Mistletoe (Viscum cruciatum)
Mistletoe is a partially parasitic plant that is well known due to its popularity at Christmastime. In Southern Spain / Portugal and north Africa the only form to be found has red berries which ripen from December to April, providing they have not been eaten by birds which is how they are transferred between host trees. Its growth style is the same as the more common white berried form, creating a dense clump on the branch of a host tree or shrub. It can be found growing on Almond, Olive or Hawthorn trees and on the shrubby Retama (Lygos sphaerocarpa). A small clump won’t damage the tree but large quantities which smother the tree will.

December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Bidens aurea and Right: Viscum cruciatum

Field Marigold (Calendula arvensis)
When left to its own devices on fallow land or beneath orchards this annual marigold can form a low carpet of colour during the late winter months. The flowers are fairly small, 10 to 27mm and can be orange to yellow in shade. This small plant can branch out appearing to spread across open ground or become more upright amongst taller grasses. The leaves are a soft green colour and are finely toothed. They can begin flowering as early as December continuing through to the spring. It has a widespread distribution.

Southern Daisy (Bellis sylvestris)
The flowering stems on this daisy can reach over 30cm tall when in semi shade, the blooms are white with a yellow centre and are often pink on the reverse. The long oval and finely hairy leaves form a ground hugging rosette. They can begin flowering in December and continue into the spring, found at roadsides, woodland edges and seasonally damp fields and meadows. It has a wide distribution across southern Europe.

December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Calendula arvensis and Right: Bellis sylvestris

Why not discover December wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema with Sue Eatock from Nature Plus – Grazalema? https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/nature-plus-grazalema/


Ronda Today

Everything you need to know before you visit Ronda “The city of dreams” in Andalucia. https://www.rondatoday.com/


Wildside Holidays – Spain

Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies.

The White village of Grazalema

Grazalema is a traditional white village (pueblo blanco) located in the north-eastern area of Cadiz province. It nestles amongst the beautiful mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema and has a local population of around 2000 people inhabiting the village and surrounding countryside.

Set in a protected area popular for nature and outdoor enthusiasts the village itself is on the list of “obligatory visits” on the route of the white villages of Andalucia.

Continue reading The White village of Grazalema

The white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema

Absorb the tranquillity as you meander through the narrow, charismatic streets and open squares, noting the blend of Arabic layout and design with eighteenth century grandeur and ornamentation. The White villages of the Sierra de Grazalema natural park are waiting to be explored.

This guide offers you a choice of 3 short tours passing through The white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema and stunning surroundings of lush Mediterranean woodlands and high mountain passes, with each white-washed population cluster separated by stunning Andalusian scenery.

Tours in Andalucia from Viator

Andalucia has a vast array of sites to visit and enjoy. Below are some of the options listed on the Viator website. (We recieve a small commission if you book a tour which doesn’t cost you more and helps us to keep The Grazalema Guide up to date with the best information.)

The mountains of Western Andalucia

Encompassing the north east of Cádiz and north west of Málaga provinces, this area is saturated in history with palaeolithic cave paintings, neolithic dolmens, bronze and copper age remains, Roman roads, Visigoth fountains and Moorish towers.

For the most part, this tour takes us through towns created during almost 800 years of Muslim settlement. Berber tribes arrived here in around 714, coming from similar mountainous terrain in Morocco. They chose easily defended sites and built watch towers as an early warning system against attack. All of which was needed as this area was a lasting frontier between the Muslim and Christian kingdoms. The Moors were killed, expelled or converted to Christianity in this area in around 1483-5 under the command of Don Rodrigo Ponce de León, Marquis of Cádiz.

This part of Andalucía has seen many fluctuations, with a steep population decline during a Black Death epidemic  ‘Epidemia de peste’ in the 12th C,  the French invasion ‘Guerra de la Independencia’ 1808-1814 and an economical boom and growth in the 18th and early 19th centuries. A time when Bandits ‘Bandeleros’ lived in hiding and stole from the wealthy, often attacking travellers in the mountains and forests.

The ‘Pueblos Blancos’ or White Villages of Andalusia preserve a cultural heritage. And whilst each village displays its individual history and continues to pass on artisan crafts through the generations, they also embrace modern living and offer the visitor many modern day conveniences. For example, wifi internet connection is available in almost all bars and restaurants and certainly all hotels.

Local Produce and basis of the cuisine:

Olive Oil, Iberian cured ham and cold meat cuts, cured – spicy sausages, trout, wild boar, rabbit, venison Cured and fresh cheeses from sheep, goat and cow’s milk. Soups, stews, wild asparagus, spanish oyster thistle, quince jelly, sweet pastries, liquors, wines

Crafts: Woollen textiles, ceramics, leather goods, woven esparto grass, carved wood, basketry, cork furniture, cosmetics,

The white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema

Route 1: Grazalema-Benamahoma-El Bosque-Zahara-Grazalema

This route begins and ends with spectacular mountain scenery, the mirador at Puerto de Boyar gives a panoramic view  of the plains and later takes you up to the highest road pass in the Sierra de Grazalema “Puerta de las Palomas” giving you an almost birds eye view of the sierras and beyond.

Route 2: Grazalema-Acinipo-Setenil-Ronda-Grazalema

Visit the Roman theatre of Acinipo, and from this vantage point  look back across the sierras, Setenil has a unique river setting and is well known for its excellent cuisine and cave restaurants. In Ronda, park the car and head for The tajo gorge which divides Ronda in two halves joined by the world renowned “Puente Nuevo” bridge. Check this walking tour of Ronda.

Route 3: Grazalema-Villaluenga-Ubrique-El Bosque-Benamahoma-Grazalema

Villaluenga is the smallest and highest of the villages, Ubrique the largest, with many historic monuments, El Bosque boasts a botanic garden of plants from the sierras.

White villages (Pueblos Blancos) in the Sierra de Grazalema
The white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema

Hotels in the Sierra de Grazalema

The white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema
Benaocaz: population 751 (2011), 793 m above sea level

This village lies in a fold of the Sierra del Caíllo, it was created by the Muslims, and traces back to 715. You can step back in time with a walk along the Roman road which crosses from Villaluenga to Ubrique

  • Ermita de San Blas 1716
  • Ermita del Calvario 18th C
  • San Pedro Apóstol 16th C.
  • The Eco-Museum takes you from prehistory to modern day in the area.

Benamahoma: population 429, 500m above sea level

Built in the foothills of the Sierra del Pinar, it lies within the municipality of Grazalema and comes under its jurisdiction.

It contains the ‘Fuente de Nacimiento’ a natural spring that gives rise to the river Majaceite that flows towards El Bosque. On its banks is the Water Museum ‘Eco-museum del Agua’ which demonstrates how important water power has been in the growth of this area. Creating olive oil and flour are the most obvious, but water powered mills were also used in making dough for bread, in carpentry and processing (fulling) wool for the textile industry.


El Bosque: population 2,117 (2011), 298 m above sea level

A more modern town, as the area was a gift from the Catholic Monarchs to Don Rodrigo Ponce de León, Marquis of Cádiz. After taking control of the Sierras de Cádiz from the Muslims  he went on to be commander in chief of the war at Granada. With the Marquis came a large entourage which required extra accommodation, and so the hamlet grew. In 1815 King Ferdinand VII granted them the title of a town, due to the heroic behaviour of the population during the French occupation.

The Rio Majaciete runs beside the village, making use of this fresh torrent of water is the most southern trout farm in Europe and the Molino de Abajo; a water powered flour mill and bakery museum.

  • Hermita del Calvario, 18th C
  • Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, 18th C
  • Jardin Botanico: a botanic garden which holds a large, well marked, selection of local plant-life  amidst natural surroundings.

Grazalema: population 2,206 (2011), 812m above sea level.

Situated in a mountain cleft below the impressive peak named Peñon Grande. The original part of the village was built during the Muslim era, with the upper parts extending during the economical growth of the 18th and 19th centuries. This village gives its name to the surrounding natural park, Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema, the heart of which was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1977 to protect the wealth of fauna and flora, especially the endemic Spanish Fir tree (Abies pinsapo) and a larger area was designated as Natural Park in 1984 by the Junta de Andalucía.

  • Ermita del Calvario 18th C (Ruins on the hillside)
  • Nuestra Señora de la Aurora 17th C
  • Iglesia de San Juan 18th C
  • Parroquial de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación 17th C
  • Iglesia de San José on the site of a former 17th C Carmelite Convent.

Prado del Rey: population 5,941 (2011), 440 m above sea level

Located on the outer edge of the mountain range this village was created in the 18th c as a way to increase the population of this area in Andalucía. Land was given to families in the locality and later to those from the north to consolidate the re-population. There were Neolithic and bronze age artefacts showing signs of earlier settlements, although the most famous is the nearby Roman town of Iptuci, which is not open to visitors.

The design of the town layout reflects its more recent creation with a grid of streets laid around a central square. It grew economically through wine production in the 19th c and more recently by making leather wear and furniture.


Ronda: population 36,793 (2011), 723 m above sea level.

Ronda is a modern city, compared with the small white villages. It contains important cultural heritage, as well as a natural beauty being perched on vertical cliffs over a narrow river gorge.

An easily defended high point, positioned on an important trade route, this plateaux saw many changes in control before the arrival of the Muslims in 713. As with many other towns in the area it was taken by the Catholic Monarchs in 1485. In the early 19th century, the Napoleonic invasion and the subsequent Peninsular War caused much suffering in Ronda, whose inhabitants were greatly reduced.

  • Puente Nuevo 18th C
  • Baños árabes 13th and 14th centuries
  • Murallas y Puertas Islámicas
  • Iglesia del Espíritu Santo: construction began in 1485
  • Palacio de Mondragón: historical and archaeological museum

Full tourist information for Ronda at www.rondatoday.com


Setenil de las Bodegas: population 2,951 (2011), 640 m above sea level

The original castle was built in the 12th c by the Muslims. It is situated on a bluff above this unusual village. Whereas most villages here are built on the mountainside, much of Setenil is built literally into the curves of a river gorge. Many of the houses take advantage of an overhanging rock ledge, simply building a front wall which encloses the natural caverns behind.

This site was considered strategic in the war to over-throw the Muslim power. The first attempt in 1407 failed and it is said that the origin of the town’s name reflects seven failed attacks ‘septem nihil’. Finally being taken by the Catholic Monarchs in 1484, practically destroying the castle to gain control. ‘Bodegas’ refers to wineries but the infamous phylloxera virus devastated vines in the Cádiz and Málaga area around the 1870’s.

  • Castillo Fortaleza 12th-13th C.
  • Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación 16th C.
  • Antigua Casa Consistorial 16th C.

Ubrique: population 16, 873 (2011), 330 m above sea level

Settlement in the Ubrique area has been traced back to the Palaeolithic times and there is also evidence of Ibero or pre-Roman settlement. The Roman road still visible today would have connected Ubrique with Acinipo. Along with many other mountain villages, Ubrique was conquered by the soldiers of the Catholic Monarchs  in 1485.

In the early 19th century, the villagers fought valiantly against the French occupation lead by Napoleon and many of their names are still remembered by local historians. During this time much of the area’s finest architecture was burned along with archives dating back to the 15th century.

It was in the 17th century that the first leather factories were set up, a craft for which the village has gained world fame.

  • Convento de Capuchinos 17th C
  • El Castillo de Fátima o Cardela 12th – 13th C
  • Ocurris 4th c BC Iberian-Roman

Villaluenga del Rosario: population 485 (2011), 858 m above sea level, making it the highest  in the province of Cádiz .

Founded by the Muslims in 716 and taken by the Christian Monarchs in 1485. It is built on the rugged slopes of an enclosed valley and dominated by the vertical cliffs of Sierra del Caillo. The bullring was built in the 18th C and is the oldest in the province. It is an unusual design, being polygonal rather than circular in shape and the seating is made from the local stone.

The ‘Sima de Villaluenga’ is a sink hole just below the village. There is a sign-posted walk to this rocky, vertical cavern. The initial drop is 60m, and water travelling through the cave system surfaces at Ubrique. This valley is popular with cavers.

  • Iglesia de San Miguel, 16th C.
  • Iglesia del Salvador, was burnt down during the Peninsular War against France and is now used as a cemetery.
  • Calzada Medieval, Roman road towards Benaocaz

Zahara de la Sierra: population 1,522 (2011), 500 m above sea level

The castle was built in the 13th Century by the Muslims and rebuilt in the 14th Century. It played a vital role in the conquests and reconquests which took place between 1407 and 1483. It is perched on a hill in a strategic position between Seville and Ronda, on what was the western border of the last Muslim Kingdom in the Peninsula. The views out from the tower are a worthwhile and spectacular reward after a fairly steep ascent.

On the rock above the village, inside the interpretation centre, are the remains from an Iberian cistern, a Roman cistern, a Christian church from the first conquest in 1407, which was replaced by a Mosque and on top of all of those a Christian church which fell into disrepair.

  • Capilla de San Juan de Letrán (1958)
  • Torre del Reloj (clock tower) 16th c.
  • Iglesia de Santa María de la Mesa 17th c.
  • El Vinculo, an antique olive oil press on the road to Grazalema.

Acinipo: (This is not one of the white villages)

Ronda La Vieja or Acinipo was originally an Iberian settlement which came under Roman rule at the end of the Second Punic War around 202 BC with the defeat of General Hannibal and Carthage. Acinipo, as it was known to the Romans, is thought to mean “Amongst the vineyards”.  Whilst most of the architectural sights to be seen are from the Roman age, there are also important prehistoric habitation remains with the oldest dating from the Neolithic period of around 4000 years ago through the Copper and Bronze ages.

It is located on a high, easily defensible hill of 999 metres in the Serranía de Ronda. It contains the remarkable remains of the Roman theatre built in the 1st century that include the lower seating levels carved from the very bedrock and much of the original main wall is intact apart from some rather ugly concrete reparation work carried out during the 1980’s.
The tiered seating was sufficient for 2000 people and separate entrances kept the classes apart whilst the main wall would have been adorned with the statues of gods and emperors, the all powerful benefactors that controlled the lives of the citizens.

Acinipo was abandoned in the sixth century after many years of decline starting from the third century. A once powerful city that minted its own coinage and had its own magistrates was left to ruin with the centre of power switching to what is now the town of Ronda. The coins were stamped with a triple bunch of grapes on one side and the word “Acinipo” between ears of wheat on the other side and it is believed the coinage was produced from 56 to 53 BC.

Monday: Closed.
Entry times Tuesday to Saturday: 10.00 to 16.00 (Gates locked at 17.00):
Sunday: 09.00 to 13.00 (Gates locked at 14.00).

Read more about Acinipo or “Ronda la Vieja” over at our Ronda Today website

Please feel free to leave a comment about this brief guide to the white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies.

November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema

It’s early winter so with few wild plants in flower we are left with stunning November views, resident birds like griffon vultures, Bonnellis eagle, red billed chough and mammals represented, of course, by the ever present Spanish ibex. In November, wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema are quite stunning.

November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema
White villages in the Sierra de Grazalema
November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema
Rugged peaks are home to Spanish ibex in the Sierra de Grazalema

On a clear, crisp day the rewards are higher up in the mountains. Walk a path surrounded by mature trees, you will be steadily gaining in height, take a moment to look back over the valleys and white villages, now scattered beneath.

Check out Nature Plus – Grazalema for walking and wildlife holidays in the Sierra de Grazalema: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/nature-plus-grazalema/

November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema
Hiking and walking during November in the Sierra de Grazalema

Remember that some walks here in the Sierra de Grazalema natural park require a permit. Find out about how to get a permit here: https://grazalemaguide.com/blog/how-to-get-a-permission-for-restricted-footpaths-in-the-sierra-de-grazalema/

The views will have you stopping at every turn to breathe them in. Above you is an array of rugged peaks and grazing on the slopes, camouflaged amongst the rocks and shrubs are Spanish Ibex. The males are standing proud as the test begins to see which one will become head of the herd.

Spanish ibex are easy to spot all year round in the Sierra de Grazalema

Some of the trees which edge the pastures; Pomegranate, Quince, Almond and Walnut, plus those which grow on the mountain slopes; Strawberry tree and Sloe have ripening fruit which are often used in local cuisine.

Strawberry trees in the Sierra de Grazalema
Straberry trees (Arbutus unedo) bear fruit in November in the Sierra de Grazalema
Pomegranites in the Sierra de Grazalema
Pomegranites split and provide a welcome food supply for wild birds
Almonds in the Sierra de Grazalema
Almond are ripe and ready to pick during November in the Sierra de Grazalema
November wildlife and landscapes in the Sierra de Grazalema

November is a great month to explore the white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema by car and you’ll find a map and descriptions of three routes here: https://grazalemaguide.com/blog/the-white-villages-of-the-sierra-de-grazalema/


Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

October flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema

As autumn arrives lets have a look at October flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema.

Berries and acorns are ripening, decorating the countryside and providing food for wildlife. Many plants will only just be emerging as the first autumn rain will usually have encouraged the germination of many seeds by now, giving a lushness to the pastures and roadsides that had been dry during the summer.

The flowering plant seasons starts afresh as temperatures drop and humidity rises. Yellow Autumn crocus grows between the rocks close to the village of Grazalema. Narcissus cavanillesii can be difficult to locate as it is such a tiny plant, the same goes for the delicate Autumn squill. Both Autumn colchicum and Autumn crocus are more visible and although very similar in colour and form, you can tell them apart by counting the stamens (3 for the crocus).

The attractive Autumn mandrake with its large, pale blue flowers amongst a leafy rosette tends to grow in verges and fields in the valleys. Carob trees normally have male flowers on one tree and females on another, you can tell the difference by scent and colour (females smell nice and are yellow. Males are strong smelling to attract insects and are reddish) The carob beans only grow on the female tree. Smilax has a pleasant scent, but watch out for the thorns which it uses to scramble up through trees and hedgerows.

There is one orchid flowering at this time of year, Autumn ladies tresses, which has white flowers on a characteristic spiralled stem, although it only flowers if the rainfall is sufficient.

Guided wildlife watching in Grazalema

For guided wildflower and nature trips in the Sierra de Grazalema take a look at Nature Plus – Grazalema: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/nature-plus-grazalema/


Yellow

Common Sternbergia (Sternbergia lutea)
The bright yellow flowers of this bulbous plant may form a group or be in singles. Initially it looks like a crocus but it has six stamens whereas a crocus has three. The upright flowers are around 40 to 50cm long and the leaves which are just emerging develop as the flowers fade. The leaves will be dark green and strap like with a pale central stripe. They can be found in dry scrubland, grassy and rocky slopes in hills and low mountains around September and October. Spain, eastwards to Turkey (not France) N. West Africa.

October flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
LEFT: Common Sternbergia RIGHT: Autumn Buttercup

Autumn Buttercup (Ranunculus bullatus)
This perennial can cover hillsides with its shiny yellow flowers. The bright green, glossy leaves form flat rosettes and the 20cm tall flowering stems hold solitary blooms. They can be seen in rocky and stony habitats, including olive groves, from October to March. Found in the Southern Mediterranean regions and Portugal. It is poisonous to livestock and therefore can spread over large areas unchecked.

White and pink

Common Smilax (Smilax aspera)
This scrambling evergreen climber can reach 15metres in height by using its tough, hook like, thorns to hang onto surrounding vegetation as well as tendrils. The deep green, heart shaped leaves can be edged with further spines. In its favour are the small, delicate flowers that hang in clusters emitting a strong fragrance.(They can also be pale pink in colour). The fruit is a berry which is black when ripe and these hang in bunches. Found in scrub areas and hedgerows, flowering from August to November. Widespread distribution.

October flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
LEFT: Common Smilax RIGHT: Lesser Calamint

Lesser Calamint (Calamintha nepeta)
This is a medium to tall perennial plant with erect, branched stems. The flowers are small tubes set in whorls, they are pale pink or white with a few darker spots. The small oval, greyish leaves are strongly aromatic. They occur in dry habitats such as hedgerows, fallow fields and rough grassland, primarily in the mountains. This widespread plant can flower from June to November.

Southern Colchicum (Colchicum lusitanicum)
This cormous perennial has no leaves at flowering time, they appear later. The flowers which stand just above soil level (often on a weak white stem) are pale to mid pink and crocus like, with a faint chequered pattern on the outside. Their favoured habitat is in dry open fields and limestone rocky areas. They can be seen in flower from September to early November. Found in Iberia, Balearic Islands, Central Italy.

October flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
LEFT:Southern Colchicum RIGHT: Vervain

Vervain (Verbena officinalis)
Tiny pale pink flowers are clustered at the tips of tall branched stems which although slender, are strong and upright. This very wispy looking plant has many stems that emerge from the same base which is covered in small dark green, deeply lobed, diamond shaped leaves. It can reach a height of over a meter. It is found on rough grassland, stream sides and rocky ground, flowering from May to October and of widespread distribution.

Purple and blue

Autumn Mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis)
Initially a dark green rosette of large lush leaves may catch your eye as sometimes the flowers are tucked low into the plant. On other occasions the attractive, pale, bell like flowers stand above the leaves in a showy display. This perennial plant often occurs on cultivated clay soils and fallow land as well as stony waste places and olive groves. The fruit is a bright orange or yellow egg shaped berry ripening in the following year. This plant has been noted to have a root of a similar shape to a man, giving rise to tales of witchcraft and folklore. Their flowering period is from September to December. Widespread distribution.

October flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
LEFT: Autumn Mandrake RIGHT: Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
An evergreen shrub of culinary use. It may reach 2m in height with erect woody stems bearing slim, pointed, aromatic leaves with a white underside. The flowers, which appear in clusters near the branch tips, are small and blue, although can occasionally be white or pink. They can occur in dry scrubland, open woodland and fixed dunes. Iberian Peninsular eastwards, widely cultivated for its essential oil, culinary use and ornament, including various colours and lax forms.

Green and brown

Common Ivy (Hedera helix)
This versatile evergreen climber is capable of clinging to cliffs and covering large areas, creating a refuge for wildlife, as well as smothering trees in a lush riverside environment. It clings on with aerial roots and can climb to around 30metres. The tiny greenish yellow flowers are scented and attract many insects. They are followed by clusters of black berries which are eaten by birds. It is widely distributed through most of Europe.

October flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
LEFT: Common Ivy RIGHT: Friar’s Cowl

Friar’s Cowl (Arisarum simorrhinum)
This is a short perennial whose flowers are easily hidden amongst its leaves and grasses. The unusual flowers are chocolate brown and white with a curved or hooded top covering a spadix that ends in a thickened, rounded end just at the lip. The leaves are oval to heart shaped, lying close to the ground. They can be found in rocky habitats, scrub and grassland, flowering from October to May.

Other October flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema to look out for

Autumn Crocus (Crocus serotinus)
The scented pale lilac to pink flowers have a typical crocus shape and may occasionally have a yellow throat and / or darker veining on the outside of the petals. Note that it will only have 3 stamens, a similar flower also open now is the Southern Colchicum which has 6 stamens. The 4 to 7 fine leaves are often just emerging at the time of flowering. Found in rocky and sandy areas, grassland and open pine woods. Distribution: Iberia and Morocco.

There are three subspecies:
Crocus serotinus subsp. clusii
Crocus serotinus subsp. salzmannii
Crocus serotinus subsp. serotinus

Narcissus cavanillesii – Narcissus humilis
This yellow flowered narcissus can easily be overlooked if there are just a few individual flowers as they are low growing with narrow petals and a short corona (cup), actually they hardly resemble a narcissus with their upright blooms. They can form small groups protected between rocks, or large swathes in rough grasses. There may only be a single narrow rush-like leaf per bulb. Occurring in grassy habitats and open woods. Distribution: South west Spain, NW Africa

Autumn Scilla (Scilla autumnalis)
The lilac or rose coloured starry flowers of this delicate perennial are tiny jewels which hide in the grasses. They carry no leaves at flowering time and may only stand around 20cm tall with up to twenty flowers per stem. They can be seen in dry grassy and rocky places, open scrub, fields and roadsides. Distribution: Mediterranean region.

Yellow
Narcissus cavanillesii – Narcissus humilis
Common Sternbergia (Sternbergia lutea)
Slender Sternbergia (Sternbergia colchiciflora)
Sticky Inula (Dittrichia viscosa)
Round-leaved Fluellin (Kickxia spuria)
Autumn Buttercup (Ranunculus bullatus)
Carob Tree (Ceratonia siliqua)

White
Autumn snowflake (Leucojum autumnale)
Autumn Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes spirales)
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)
Flax-leaved Daphne (Daphne gnidium)

Pink, purple and blue
Common Smilax (Smilax aspera)
Autumn Scilla (Scilla autumnalis)
Lesser Calamint (Calamintha nepeta)
Vervain (Verbena officinalis)
Autumn Mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Autumn Crocus (Crocus serotinus)
Southern Colchicum (Colchicum lusitanicum)
Merendera montana

Green and brown
Common Ivy (Hedera helix)
Biarum (Biarum carratracense)
Friar’s Cowl (Arisarum simorrhinum)


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