Perched on a road bike on a hill climb and in the lowest gears is not the ideal situation in which to identify plants growing at the roadside, but I confess to finding myself doing so on Monday this week. I was lucky enough to spend last weekend with a friend in the north of the beautiful island of Mallorca. In preparation for a cycling challenge later this summer, we completed a 25 mile round trip to a cafe a couple of kilometres beyond the monastery of Lluc, in the mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana. Much of our route was a steady climb, craggy peaks visible ahead.
I was peripherally aware of intriguing plants to my right, but so fixed was I on the task in hand I did not give it the attention I might have done had I been on foot. The descent posed different challenges with bike handling taking precedence over botanising. However, along with a sense of a rise in air temperature as we rode towards sea level, I noticed that the scrubby white Cistus bushes (Rock roses) and Scabious (Balearic pincushion flowers) which lined the road at the higher levels, gradually gave way when we reached the plain to margins carpeted with Daucus carota (Wild carrot). Beyond the verges are olive groves and fields of almond trees.
Self-seeded beneath the wooden barriers which protect road users from cliff-sides and sheer drops I spotted species of Euphorbia and Verbascum. For most of the higher regions to either side of the route lay forests of Holm oak (Quercus ilex) and an aromatic conifer I haven’t been able to identify, with roadside signs indicating wildlife reserves and hiking paths. Fat dark brown pods approximately 15cm long scatter the tarmac in some places, the fruit of the Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua).
Needless to say, being on a bike prevented me from photographing the plants I’ve mentioned. There follow images of some of the plants I saw in gardens on the island, several of which are grown in the Temperate House in Kew Gardens.
Succulents entwine the terracotta heads above this stone table in the gardens of a sculpture garden near Alcudia, ‘Museo Sa Bassa Blanca’.
The wild banana, Strelitzia Augusta, or giant white bird of paradise.
Finally, I’d love to identify the following plant, a shrub approximately 2 metres high, with pea-like purple flowers opening from this delicately veined bud. Do comment if you can tell me what it is.