Category Archives: Sierra de Grazalema

Early summer wildflowers in the Sierra de Grazalema

May is a fabulous time to walk, cycle or drive through the mountains to see the early summer wildflowers in the Sierra de Grazalema. Roadside verges, pastures and scrubland turn glorious colours with a varied selection of flowering plants. The springtime rains have ensured a vivid display and many plants compete for space in a hurry to flower and set their seeds before the ground dries out and bakes during the summer months. Hillsides can turn yellow with shrubby Retama, whereas the many meadows are a tapestry of pastel shades brimming with annuals. Many plants from the April wildflowers page still continue to bloom.

Early summer wildflowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
Crambe filiformis

Wild flowers adorn every corner with a riot of colour, there are far too many to mention and only being amongst them will you sense the variety. As for the impressive, then the giant fennel lives up to its name with a 2-3 metre stalk! Crambe filiformis has to be the opposite end of the scale with its minute wispy white flowers on delicate strands.

The unusual Blue aphyllanthes has starry flowers amongst a hedgehog dome of rush-like leaves, while the giant squill makes a pyramid of individual blooms which attract some lovely green beetles. The exotic looking Spanish nigella is lovely in bud, flower or seed, with each stage attractive on its own.

Two plants which are endemic to a small part of Andalusia are Perennial Buckler-mustard with its multitude of pale yellow blooms seen high in rock crevices, while on the ground the white-leaved bugloss has attractive soft pastel shades of pink and blue. Of the same family, candelabra bugloss is a taller, finer plant with pink-peach coloured blooms and is endemic to a larger part of Iberia. The yellow-flowered toadflax Linaria platycalyx, only grows around Grazalema and Ronda, therefore it demands a special mention.

Orchids that we may see as we cross the mountains and valleys are the Yellow bee, Woodcock, Sawfly, Bee, Lizard, Violet Limodor, Tongue, Small tongue, Sword-leaved helleborine, Dense-flowered, Lax, Lang’s, Champagne, Greater Butterfly, Man and Pyramidal.

Have a look at Nature Plus – Grazalema for visits to see early summer wildflowers in the Sierra de Grazalema


Yellow Retama (Retama (Lygos) sphaerocarpa)
Small yellow flowers cover this large (2 to 3metres) broom like shrub at this time of year. As it is non palatable and quite invasive it can turn a hillside yellow as it bursts into flower. The small, hairy leaves soon fall from the many fine branches giving this upright plant a dense but wispy appearance. It prefers a dry habitat and will take over rough pastures if left unchecked, where it forms good thickets for small bird and insect life. Flowering time is April to June and its distribution covers Portugal, Southern Spain and North Africa.

Left: Retama (Lygos) sphaerocarpa Right: Spartium junceum Early summer wildflowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Retama (Lygos) sphaerocarpa Right: Spartium junceum

Spanish broom (Spartium junceum)
Sweetly scented, bright yellow pea type flowers top this tall shrub. The many branches are rush like (cylindrical) and dark green forming a wide open top on a woody base. It carries a few, very small, leaves. It can be seen at roadsides where it may have been planted for decoration and naturally occurs on dry scrub slopes and in open woodland. Flowering sporadically at first from March continuing into July. Its distribution covers much of the Mediterranean area.


Crambe filiformis
Multiple minute flowers cluster on extremely fine branches to around 1metre. Each individual flower is made up of just four tiny white petals. All together it creates a frothy top to a spindly stem, where the leaves form a clump at the base. These can be seen at roadsides, rocky slopes and in open scrub, flowering from April to June. It can be found in Southern Spain and North Africa.

Left: Crambe filiformis Right: Omphalodes commutata Early summer wildflowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Crambe filiformis Right: Omphalodes commutata

Omphalodes commutata
This is a small plant with white flowers on finely branched stems. Broad, silvery blue leaves clasp the stem at the base. They can be found in groups in rocky crevices in the mountains of Southern Spain and North West Africa, flowering from April until June. A similar flower, Crambe linifolia, has finer leaves and can be found in lower areas.

White Flax (Linum suffruticosum)
Delicate white mounds can form when this plant is in full bloom. Its height depends on the surrounding vegetation and maybe 25 to 50cm with many flowerless stems bulking out the domed shape. Rather than pure white, the centre can give a purple tone, and nearby perhaps a completely cream coloured version. The furled buds are a yellow / cream colour and the many leaves are extremely fine. Found in dry rocky areas and on grassy banks. Flowering from April to July with a distribution across Central and Southern Spain towards NW Italy.

Left: Linum suffruticosum Right: Anthericum baeticum
Left: Linum suffruticosum Right: Anthericum baeticum

St Bernard’s Lilly (Anthericum baeticum)
Nodding starry white flowers on delicate stems can be easily overlooked if there are just one or two, but are very attractive when a thin carpet of them forms. The blooms are openly spaced on the scape and have drooping filaments from a green cone-like centre. The long narrow leaves lie across the ground. This particular species is endemic to the Betic mountain range and flowers April to June. Seen on dry rocky banks or grassy areas that are damp through the winter.


Western Iberian Peony (Paeonia broteroi)
These incredibly showy bright pink blooms look to me to be out of place on the mountainsides, perhaps being more at home in a garden planting scheme. Each spring the attractive shiny green, cut leaves form a small bush and the globular pink flowers open to around 12cm. The buds are often attacked by beetles causing a lot of damage to the unopened flowers. The seed heads of this plant are very showy in the autumn when they split to reveal pinky-red and black seeds. Seen on open or sparsely covered mountainsides and in light woodland, flowering from April to July depending on altitude. Found in Spain and Portugal.

Left: Paeonia broteroi Right: Gladiolus communis subsp byzantinus
Left: Paeonia broteroi Right: Gladiolus communis subsp byzantinus

Byzantine Gladiolus (Gladiolus communis subsp byzantinus)
Approximately 10 to 20 magenta pink flowers are spaced along a tall spike up to 1metre in height. The lower three tepals may have pale central markings edged with purple. The leaves are sword shaped and upright. Flowering from April to June in dry grassy habitats, scrubland and meadows, found in Southern Spain and North Africa.

Purple Phlomis (Phlomis purpurea)
This is a medium sized shrubby plant (maximum to 2m) with flowers that are more often pink in our area than purple which the name suggests. (Occasionally white forms are seen). The flowers are in a circular whorl clasping the stem, opening on different tiers. The individual flowers are hairy as are the stems and leaves. The underside of the leaves are covered in a white felt. They flower from April to June on rocky slopes, scrubland, roadsides and field boundaries. Distribution covers Southern Portugal, Central and Southern Spain.

Left: Phlomis purpurea Right: Antirrhinum majus
Left: Phlomis purpurea Right: Antirrhinum majus

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
This bright pink snapdragon is a robust and upright growing perennial which can reach 1.5 metres in height. It may vary slightly in leaf structure and the flowers can have either a white or yellow palate as its distribution covers much of the Mediterranean area, thought to be spreading to the east from cultivated plants. It grows just as happily from cracks in buildings as on field borders, cliffs and roadside edges, flowering from April through the summer.


Large Blue Alkanet (Anchusa azurea)
Striking bright blue flowers with a white centre and rounded petals adorn this multi-branched, spindly plant which can reach 1metre in height. Individual flowers may be 10 to 20mm in width. The basal leaves taper to a point, these and the stems are covered in bristles. It occurs at roadside verges, within cultivated fields on waste ground and in olive groves from March to June with a widespread distribution.

Left: Anchusa azurea Right: Borago officinalis
Left: Anchusa azurea Right: Borago officinalis

Borage (Borago officinalis)
These hanging starry blue flowers have a very prominent dark pointed centre made up of anthers, which makes them easy to recognise. (There is also a white form). The large, rounded basal leaves and the stems are covered in bristles. This herb is often grown for decoration as well as on a commercial scale for its oil rich seeds. It can be seen on verges, on wasteland and in dry fields. It flowers from March to June and enjoys a widespread distribution.


Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)
This orchid is usually tall and elegant (to 50cm) with up to 15 flowers per spike – though often less. The outer two sepals end in points which angle downwards, their colour may be bright pink to purple, seldom white and always with a green central stripe. The main lip is brownish in colour and divided into 3 lobes, the main central one turns under at the base the outer two are short. Flowering from April to May in meadows, woodland clearings, damp areas and scrubland with a wide distribution.

Left: Ophrys apifera Right: Ophrys tenthredinifera
Left: Ophrys apifera Right: Ophrys tenthredinifera

Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera)
This is a short to medium orchid, up to around 45cm tall though frequently around 20cm. The outer sepals vary from bright pink to purple and occasionally white, they are oval in shape. The main lip is often brownish and squared in shape with a yellow margin that ends in a tiny tip which turns upwards. Flowering in April and May in scrubland, olive groves, stony hillsides and roadside verges. Found in the Iberian peninsular and North Africa towards Turkey.

Lax orchid (Orchis laxiflora)
This is a medium height orchid with a dark stem and purple flowers (white forms occur occasionally). The two upper petals form a loose hood along with the central sepal. The main lip is only slightly 3 lobed and has a white centre. The spur pointing out behind the flower is virtually straight and might end with two small lobes. This orchid grows in damp, marshy areas and stream sides, sometimes in large groups. Flowering from March to May with a widespread distribution.

Left: Orchis laxiflora Right: Orchis langei
Left: Orchis laxiflora Right: Orchis langei

Lange’s Orchid (Orchis langei)
This species can be found in purple, pink or white colour forms, often in mixed groups. The spike is of medium height and the flowers openly spaced out. Some have spots on the central lip, but not all. The central lip is cut into 3 lobes with an obvious backwards curve in the centre, often described to be like a ‘sheep’s nose’. The spur which points out from behind the flower is slightly up curved and thickens towards the tip. Flowering from April to June on roadside verges, woodland clearings, scrubland and rocky hillsides.

Have a look at this list of some of the more common orchids found in Spain over at Wildside Holidays:

Heres a list of early summer wildflowers in the Sierra de Grazalema

  • Yellow Retama (Retama (Lygos) sphaerocarpa )
  • Spanish broom (Spartium junceum)
  • Giant Fennel (Ferula communis)
  • Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris)
  • Corn marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum)
  • Yellow Bartsia (Bartsia trixago)
  • Rabbits Bread (Andryala integrifolia)
  • Squirting cucumber (Ecballium elaterium)
  • Giant Mullein (Verbascum giganteum)
  • Spiny Starwort (Pallenis spinosa)
  • Small-flowered melilot (Melilotus indicus)
  • Crown Daisy (Chrysanthemum coronarium)
  • Shrubby Buckler Mustard (Biscutella frutescens)
  • Hop Trefoil (Trifolium campestre)
  • Everlasting Flower (Helicrhysum stoechas)
  • Rock Phagnalon (Phagnalon rupestre)
  • Perennial Hyoseris (Hyoseris radiata)
  • Yellow Lupin (Lupinus luteus)
  • Spiny Broom (Calicotome villosa)
  • Lampwick-plant (Phlomis lychnitis)
  • Cytinus hypocistis
  • Linaria platycalyx
  • Draba hispanica
  • Biscutella auriculata
  • Viola demetria
  • Centurea clementii
  • Navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris)
  • Brown Bluebell (Dipcadi serotinum)
  • Biarum carratracense
  • Crambe filiformis
  • Ornithogalum reverchoni
  • Ornithogalum orthophylum
  • Omphalodes commutate
  • White Flax (Linum suffruticosum)
  • St Bernard’s Lilly (Anthericum baeticum)
  • Narbonne Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum narbonense)
  • Sage–leaved Cistus (Cistus salvifolius)
  • Narrow-leaved Cistus (Cistus monspeliensis)
  • Gum Cistus (Cistus ladanifer)
  • Cistus populifolius
  • Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
  • Paronychia (Paronychia capitata)
  • Bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis)
  • White clover (Trifolium repens)
  • Bladder campion (Silene vulgaris)
  • Mountain Catchfly (Silene Andryalifolia)
  • White Bartsia (Bartsia trixago)
  • Lesser Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum)
  • Spanish thyme (Thymus mastichina)
  • Hairy Woundwort (Stachys ocymastrum)
  • White horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
  • Saxifraga globulifera
  • Saxifraga haenseleri
  • Saxifraga bourgeana
  • Peony (Paeonia broteroi)
  • Byzantine Gladiolus (Gladiolus communis subsp byzantinus)
  • Purple Phlomis (Phlomis purpurea)
  • Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
  • Anthyllis vulneraria subsp. arundana
  • Grey-leaved cistus (Cistus albidus)
  • Cistus crispus
  • Rosy Garlic (Allium roseum)
  • Evergreen rose (Rosa sempervirens)
  • Rosa pouzinii
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera implexa)
  • Common mallow (Malva sylvestris)
  • Malva hispanica
  • Malva cretica subsp. althaeoides
  • Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum)
  • Mallow-leaved Bindweed (Convolvulus altheoides)
  • Lesser centaury (Centaurium erythraea)
  • Cheirolophus sempervirens
  • Annual Valerian (Centranthus calcitrapae)
  • Centranthus macrosiphon
  • Annual Leek (Allium ampeloprasum)
  • Sedum mucizonia
  • White-leaved bugloss (Echium albicans)
  • Candle bugloss (Echium boissieri)
  • Reversed Clover (Trifolium resupinatum)
  • Purple vetch (Vicia benghalensis)
  • Fairy foxglove (Erinus alpines)
  • Woolly clover (Trifolium tomentosum)
  • Tree mallow (Lavatera arborea)
  • Weasel’s snout (Misopates orontium)
  • Long-stalked Crane’s-bill (Geranium columbinum)
  • Cut-leaved Cranesbill (Geranium dissectum)
  • Shining cranesbill (Geranium lucidum)
  • Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill (Geranium molle)
  • Round-leaved Crane’s-bill (Geranium rotundifolium)
  • Three-lobed Stork’s-bill (Erodium chium)
  • Purple Milk Thistle (Galactites tomentosa)
  • Small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica)
  • French Figwort (Scrophularia canina)
  • Melancholy Toadflax (Linaria tristis)
  • Cliff-hanger (Chaenorrhinum villosum)
  • Large Blue Alkanet (Anchusa azurea)
  • Borage (Borago officinalis)
  • Viper’s Bugloss (Echium plantagineum)
  • Blue Aphyllanthes (Aphyllanthes monspeliensis)
  • Spanish love-in-a-mist (Nigella papillosa subsp. papillosa)
  • Peruvian Squill (Scilla peruviana)
  • Shrubby Gromwell (Lithodora fruiticosum)
  • Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
  • Dwarf Morning Glory (Convolvulus tricolour)
  • Blue Lupin (Lupinus micranthus)
  • Pitch trefoil (Bituminaria bituminosa)
  • Blue lettuce (Lactuca tenerrima)
  • Scarlet Pimpernel (blue form) (Anagallis arvensis)
  • Barrelier’s Sage (Salvia barrelieri)
  • Mediterranean Catmint (Nepeta tuberosa)
  • Rampion (Campanula rapunculus)
  • Rampion bellflower (Campanula lusitánica)
  • Delphinium pentagynum
  • Shrubby germander (Teucrium fruticans)
  • Stavesacre (Delphinium staphisagria)
  • Large Blue Alkanet (Anchusa azurea)
  • Pitch trefoil (Bituminaria bituminosa)
  • Blue hounds-tongue (Cynoglossum creticum)
  • Southern Campanula (Campanula velutina)
  • Small Bellflower (Campanula erinus)
  • Campanula specularioides
  • Ronda Geranium (Geranium malviflorum)
  • Spanish Iris (Iris xiphium)
  • Lice Bane (Delphinium staphisagria)
  • Delphinium pentagynum
  • Field Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
  • Long-headed Poppy (Papaver dubium)
  • Prickly Poppy (Papaver argemone)
  • Rough headed poppy (Papaver hybridum)
  • Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)
  • Asparagus pea (Tetragonolobus purpureus)
  • Italian Sainfoin (Hedysarum coronarium)
  • Pheasant’s Eye (Adonis annua)
  • Pomegranate Tree (Punica granatum)
  • Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)
  • Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera)
  • Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax)
  • Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)
  • Ophrys dyris
  • Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea)
  • Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)
  • Champagne Orchid (Orchis) (Anacamptis champagneuxii)
  • Fragrant Bug Orchid (Orchis coriophora subsp fragrans)
  • Lax orchid (Orchis laxiflora)
  • Lange’s Orchid (Orchis langei)
  • Man orchid (Aceras) (Orchis anthropophorum)
  • Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua)
  • Small-flowered Serapias (Serapias parviflora)
  • Red Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra)
  • Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)
  • Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis tremolsii)
  • Dense-flowered Orchid (Neotinea maculata)

We hope you enjoyed reading Early summer wildflowers in the Sierra de Grazalema. Please leave any comments here or over at the Iberia Nature Forum. Thanks! 🙂

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News from the Grazalema Guide, Wildside Holidays, Ronda Today, The Caminito del Rey and the Iberia Nature Forum

A bit of news from the Grazalema Guide!… Here in Grazalema, international tourism seems to be picking up again with quite a few French, German and Dutch visitors exploring the village and walking trails. Very few UK visitors still, but hopefully this will be solved once borders open properly again and covid restrictions become more relaxed.

The Grazalema Guide

Its still really odd not seeing the groups of walkers setting off in the mornings for the peaks of the Sierra de Grazalema or neighbouring villages. Tourism has changed here over the covid years with much more day visitors on motorbikes, cyclists and day visitors. There has also been a huge increase in campers vans parked up for short stays.

Out in the countryside, almond trees in blossom are the most noticeable which adorn the hillsides and fields, varying from almost white to a shocking pink. The Paperwhite narcissus, Branched asphodels and Broad-leaved iris as each can create swathes of colour across pastures. Even the much smaller flowered Andaluz storksbill and Field marigolds can cover a large area in pink or golden yellow blooms. Migratory birds are returning and spring is definately around the corner.

If you are looking for a wildlife guide for this area then look no further than Sue of Nature Plus Grazalema. More information here:

Regular visitors to Grazalema will notice a few changes in the Hotels, bars and restaurants as the guys running the Kiboka burger and sports bar have now taken over the Simancon restaurant after the previous owners retired. The Torreón restaurant has new owners as does the bar Travesía. There is a new burger joint opening in the old Contrastes bar next month and Rumores bar is now removing the bakery area and replacing it with a new eating area. The hotel Peñon Grande has been closed for a while now and I believe its up for sale!

Here is a bit of a roundup from our other tourist infomation projects in this fantastic corner of Western Andalucia

Wildside Holidays

Spring is on its way and it is great to see bookings for the coming season are on the up and up. Hopefully very soon we can put this awful covid event behind us and get on with what we are good at, which is, of course, guiding people across some of the most stunning natural areas of Spain.

A bit of news from the Grazalema Guide

Traffic to the home page of Wildside Holidays is now exceeding over 4000 unique visitors each month and (not surprising to us) some of the wildlife information pages are getting upwards of 20,000 hits a month. (Especially the life cycles of the processionary caterpillar and various reptile pages). So, the plan for the coming months is to continue the ongoing project of Iberian wildlife articles as well as some info on the Vias Verdes of Spain and finishing all the entries for the Global Geoparks.

Sustainable rural and wildlife tourism in Spain is a major key to wildlife and habitat protection. There are many studies showing how wildlife tourism can impact local economies, habitats and the wildlife it contains in a very positive way. Read more about Wildside Holidays here:

Ronda Today

Ronda Today continues to be the largest and most informative English language information website for the town of Ronda. A walking tour of Ronda is a pleasant and enjoyable way to spend a lazy few hours, almost everything you could want to see in Ronda is no more than 200-300 metres from the new bridge. See the homepage here:

Ronda Today

Ronda, too, has suffered greatly from the covid crisis. Hotels,bars and restaurants have changed hands, reduced staff or simply closed. That said Ronda continues to be an important bucket list destination for foreign travellers and our site reaches more than 20,000 unique visitors each month. Traffic and hotel bookings on the site a rising steadily so the outlook is pretty good. Over the next few months we’ll be editing and reviewing certain pages to make sure all the information is current and up to date.

The Caminito del Rey

The Caminito del Rey website has continued to grow in both traffic and content. During the last four months we have sold over 20,000 euros worth of tickets via the affiliate adverts.

Caminito del Rey

When the official website stops working or selling tickets, sales from our site continue, helping people to get and entry ticket for this very popular destination. Ticket sales for the Caminito del Rey in 2022 look to be record breakers for us so our recent affiliation with Get Your Guide continues to be a great success. Guided tours for the Caminito del Rey can be found here:

Recently the operation of the Caminito del Rey was taken over by a new company and so hopefully the official website will be improved as well as the general infrastructure such as local connecting roads, bus services, the interpretation and carparking areas. Time will tell but you can be sure any news and changes will be published first in English at

The Iberia Nature Forum

The forum is developing into a nice English language resource for information about the wildlife of Spain and there are quite a few interesting subjects ranging from the VCF Tracking Iberian black vultures, the bearded vulture 2022 Andalucia captive breeding season, A petition to stop illegal water extraction in Doñana and the collapse of the endemic lizard Podarcis pityusensis on the island of Ibiza.

Iberia Nature Forum

Here are a few other topics at the Iberia Nature Forum. Please feel free join in with the conversatons and don’t forget to share with your family and friends across your social networks!

Look forward to hearing news from your “neck of the woods” on the forum!

So, there is a bit of news from News from the Grazalema Guide, Wildside Holidays, Ronda Today, The Caminito del Rey and the Iberia Nature Forum!

Please feel free to share will all of your friends and family across your social networks and blogs! 🙂

Hotels in the Sierra de grazalema

There are hundreds of hotels, rental houses and apartments in the Sierra de Grazalema.

The Grazalema Guide uses an affiliation with and we get paid a small amount of commission when you book a room. This helps us to pay for server costs and to keep all of our websites as up to date as possible.

Thank you for supporting us!

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A visit to the botanic garden in the village of El Bosque.

Regular visits to the Botanic Garden in El Bosque village allow us to see the local wild plants as they change through the seasons.

Mid June is the best time to see some of the parks endemics in full flower. Phlomis x margaritae is a hybrid shrub in the Sage family that occurs naturally on a mountain named Margarita – hence the plant name. This is placed in the “rupicola” section (rock gardens) at the highest point of the meandering pathways. It is a plant endemic to the Sierra de Grazalema park area. This meaning that it is not found in the wild anywhere else in the world.

In the same rock gardens and in full flower at this time of year are the orange blooms of the cliff dwelling Grazalema poppy (Papaver rupifragum) which although it was thought that this plant was exclusive to this mountain range it has also been recorded in Morocco.

The delicate lemon flowers of (Sideritis incana subsp occidentalis) are easily overlooked on a mountain side and this again is only from the Grazalema area.

The sky was a beautiful deep blue and I love the combination of dark green trees and fresh white clouds against such a colour. My progress around the gardens was slow as there is so much to see and photograph at this time of year. Even seed pods from plants that flowered earlier are very photogenic.

The shaded areas beneath the mature trees on visits to the Botanic Garden in El Bosque village are always welcome at this time of year!

On my first visits here I used to write the plant names that I wanted to learn onto a note pad, now I cheat and take a photo of the sign along with the plant pictures – so much quicker!

Wildside Holidays – Spain

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A Small river in the Gaidovar valley

Lovely observations from Rachel who stayed in the Grazalema area with her husband for a few months last year (2019). After exploring the main footpaths such as the Garganta Verde, Pinsapo forest and the high peak of Torreon they found a small River in the Gaidovar valley and walked upstream finding some nice surprises in the heat of the summer.

At the beginning of August, when the heat was turning up towards its maximum for the year, Dave and I decided to walk for a couple of kilometres up one of the smaller river beds within the Sierra de Grazalema natural park to see if any small pools lingered through the summer and just what treasures they would hold, we were more than pleased with the results!

Dried, bleached algae blankets the river bed rocks
Dried, bleached algae blankets the river bed rocks

The striking images above show a blanket of algae that has been bleached and baked dry in the sunshine clinging onto boulders, in stark contrast to the heavy flooding just 4 months earlier!

Expecting a dry river bed

The first part of our walk turned up several dried exoskeletons of crayfish that had dried out as the exposed shallow pools diminished in the heat. Tamarisk, oleander, willow, brambles and smilax at times virtually closed off our access as we traced the dry waterway upstream. The first water filled pool that we came across had a distinct autumnal feel despite the time of year. Some trees drop their leaves in the summer to conserve energy. These ash trees overhanging the pool had cast a yellow cover of dried leaves, crunching through them at the edge were a couple of terrapins unsuccessfully trying to avoid detection. The pool at about half a metre deep and 20 metres long may provide a safe haven for many creatures.

leaf covered pool and a Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
leaf covered pool and a Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)

The next of these pools that we came to was teaming with tiny frogs. As we developed an eye to pick out their tiny forms we could count 10 or so in a metre squared, some clustered in small groups on rocks and others with just a pointed snout breaking the water’s surface.

Left: Young Iberian Water Frogs. Right: Tiny fish looking for a meal.
Left: Young Iberian Water Frogs. Right: Tiny fish looking for a meal.

A larger body of water which stretched for perhaps 50 metres had many small fish that were extremely inquisitive, shoaling around my feet looking for an interesting snack. There were less frogs in this pool for a very good reason. Further upstream some larger boulders held what would be an impressive cascade in the right season but, for now it simply retained a higher pool with amazingly bright green algae and families of terrapins sunbathing on exposed rocks. It seems that each wet area is host to different creatures depending on depth, overall length, shade etc. This small pool has more sunshine hence the algae growth and terrapin occupation as an important need for their metabolism is warmth from the sun.


The next pool may have put some people off as I noticed a Viperine snake moving around the edge despite its impressive camouflage against the gravel base. Once it realized that we had seen it, this small aquatic snake made a dash through the open water before hiding briefly around Dave’s sandals and then disappearing around rocks into the deeper area. And next we had to climb out and over some large boulders to avoid breaking long strands from a spider’s web!

Left: A Viperine snake underwater. Right: A spider's web blocked our path.
Left: A Viperine snake underwater. Right: A spider’s web blocked our path.

Deep in the shade of overhanging trees we found a pool with ripped apart remains of large fish. But just the bones and scales with none left swimming around. These enclosed water bodies had made catching a summer meal much easier for the hunter. A strong odour emanating from rocks along the banks quickly led us to numerous spraints laced with fish bones and crayfish shells which confirmed to us that we were in otter territory. We were surprised to find that an otter could survive through the summer on an area that virtually dries out but having walked it, and given the over grown nature of the banks an otter could easily wander up and down stream undetected to the various pools in order to find a meal.

The frogs were plentiful down stream and further on we found a good selection of large fish in an area with slow flowing water with plenty of grassy cover on the banks. This new area was popular with dragonflies and damselflies which danced lightly through the air in colourful displays as we briefly disturbed their tranquillity before leaving the river and returning to our car.

Left: An otter spraint. Right: A Small Pincertail dragonfly (Onychogomphus forcipatus)
Left: An otter spraint. Right: A Small Pincertail dragonfly (Onychogomphus forcipatus)

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