Lovely plants of Madeira

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At home we regularly tease my foodie sister about how she is into foodporn and how the majority of her travel pictures consist of new dishes she discovered along her journeys. However recently it’s been dawning on me that I’m obsessed with something similar, which I guess can be called plantporn.

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I love close up photos of gorgeous plants with their tiny leaves, colourful petals, uncanny shapes and intriguing textures…

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What made Madeira so special to me in terms of plantporn, was that succulents grow in the wild all over the place and in general there were also many unfamiliar plant species I don’t get to see every day.

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I spent a great deal of time in the holidays behind my camera attempting to take decent macros of the amazing plants that caught my eye. (Thanks to Paolo for the picture above and especially for his patience when I get mesmerised by yet another plant!)

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I took these last two pictures in the natural park of the São Lourenco peninsula – though to me these plants look like they really belong in the landscapes of Arrakis (Dune;)

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6 magical places in Madeira

 

My personal overview of the places I loved the most in Madeira:

  • Sao Vicente

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Sao Vicente is a village on the Northern coast where we stayed for the whole of our trip. It’s a quiet village however it does have a supermarket, some restaurants AND two good bakeries (perfect to enjoy a bolo de arroz or pasteis de nata after a long hike).

I spent many hours watching the changing light over this sea view while Paolo attempted to catch the elusive bodiao, a typical fish from Madeira. With help from the local fishermen as well as trial and error, Paolo fine tuned his technique and managed to catch the bodiao on our last day!

Sao Vicente is surrounded by mountains, with the base of the hills covered with terrace cultivations of vineyards and other crops.

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  • On the path to Pico Ruivo (PR 1.3)

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Good conditions for hiking in the mountains in Madeira are not a given, as it is sometimes sunny on the coast but very misty on the peaks. We took our chances one morning and were very lucky as it was sunny when we started on the walk from Encumeada towards Pico Ruivo.

After the steep hike up hundreds of steps on the mountain top, you are rewarded with breathtaking views and on the crest at times you can see both the sea of both the Southern and Northern coasts.

  • Natural pools in Seixal

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Swimming on the Northern Coast of Madeira is not always easy because there are large waves and strong currents. But luckily there are the natural pools of Seixal, where you can swim safely to the sound of the waves crashing on the volcanic rock. We practically had the pools to ourselves that day:)

  • Botanical Gardens

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I already wrote about it here… Best succulent garden ever!!

  • Jardim do Mar

We discovered this village by chance and I immediately fell in love with its tiny winding pathways between houses and beautiful gardens. At the bottom of a steep stairway, you can access the peaceful rock beach which is perfect for swimming and chilling, and watching the sun set at the end of the day.

  • Levada Faja do Rodriguez (PR  16)

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This was my favorite walk along one of the levadas (man-made waterways that cross the island of Madeira to bring irrigation to the fields and vineyards).

A headlamp is needed as there are several tunnels, including an extremely long one, where you have to squeeze yourself against the wall with only about 15cm for your feet and walk alongside the levada.

Not only was there a light at the end of the tunnel, there is the most stunning, secluded valley with rushing waterfalls, lush ferns, mosses and plants. Definitely worth it!

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(Thanks to Paolo S. for the photo!)

 

Sublime succulents in the Madeira Botanical Garden

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I love botanical gardens (this should not really come as a surprise given the nature (literally) of this blog). But I was not prepared for how excited I would be about the Botanical gardens in Funchal.

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Since the island has quite a tropical climate, the botanical gardens have a huge section dedicated just to succulents and cacti which is simply outdoors, with the plants growing directly in the ground.

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The best thing was that we went at the end of the afternoon, near closing time and by the end of our visit we were all alone in the gardens. It was wonderful to be free to observe all the plants at our leisure, in the warm light of the magic-hour sun.

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There were so many different species, I walked around several times to try and see it all. I couldn’t get enough of the amazing colours and details. Like the symmetry of the plant above, and like these little red spikes all along the outside of the leaves of the plant hereunder.

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Or this little guy below who looks to me like a monster’s paw with many tiny claws on it. It’s fascinating how so much colour can just emerges from a stump that looks grey and dried-up…

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Magnificent mosses

It’s kind of ironic that after enjoying Madeira’s wide open spaces, high peaks and beautiful coastline viewed from the many ‘miradouros’, one of the first things I feel like sharing here is something as small and seemingly insignificant as moss.

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As we went on hikes in the volcanic mountains of Madeira, we came accross the most spectacular walls of mosses along the levadas and beneath waterfalls.

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The shapes, textures, colours and combination of the mosses were so varied and different from anything I’d seen before.  The mosses seemed to grow relentlessly, sometimes in thick layers, basking in the humidity. 

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It was really fascinating to observe them and I loved the patterns they formed, and how they interacted with each other.  Paolo was very patient while I struggled to somehow capture them on camera.  

It reached a peak one day while we were sitting on a log and eating our picnic, and I started to ‘see’ things… The mosses in the picture below look to me like minuscule sci-fi villages with mushroom houses and diminutive trees. Aren’t they amazing?!

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