Early summer wildflowers in the 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: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/orchids-in-spain/

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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