Blog: El Paraje de las Alpujarras and Sierra Nevada walks · nature · culture · events · publications · weather
blog by: El Paraje
Berchules, Granada, Spain

29 August 2010

Parnassia palustris or Marsh Grass-of-Parnassus

Our last flora post we dedicated to the Marsh Gentian. Close to this Gentiana pneumonanthe subsp Depressa we saw another interesting bog species with prominent white blossom, namely the Marsh Grass-of-Parnassus. Parnassia palustris is a species with a holarctic distribution according to the on-line magazine Waste. Throughout the northern continents of the world in can be found in moist areas like watersides, damp slopes, shores, wet moorland, swamps and stream banks. It can be found throughout Spain and as far south as Northern Africa (Rif Mountains). In Andalusia, the ´hepática blanca´ or ´hierba del parnaso´ occurs only in Sierra Nevada between 1,500 and 3,000 metres. In Sierra Nevada its habitat are the wet grasslands locally known as ´borreguiles´. In many countries it is on the list of endangered species. In Andalusia it is on the ´Lista Roja de la Flora Vascular de Andalucía´. It was the 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus who first validly published the name ´Parnassius palustris´ in1751. On Wikipedia it is mentioned that the name is inherited from ancient Greece. “Evidently the cattle on Mount Parnassus appreciated the plant; hence it was an honorary grass.“ The Greek Mount Parnassus has an altitude of 2,475 metres. This is more or less the height where we saw our Bog-stars, namely at about 2,600 metres in the Barranco de las Albardas in the Trevélez valley. Other sites in Sierra Nevada where it flowers from June to September are for example Arroyo del Palancón or the Borreguil del Río San Juan.

Related key words: bloemen, northern grass-of-parnassus, sumpf-herzblatt, studentenröschen, paranassiaceae, parnassiafamilie, herzblattgewächse, parnassioideae, alpujarras

27 August 2010

Gentiana pneumonanthe subsp Depressa

There are plant species which are widely distributed in Europe, while it has a subspecies that is endemic to
Sierra Nevada. This holds true for Gentiana pneumonanthe subsp Depressa. This blue-flowered gentian can be found in an area that is almost twenty kilometres long, albeit interrupted due to its ecological requirements. The number of individuals capable of flowering is estimated between 5000 and 10000.
This subspecies of the Marsh Gentian grows at altitudes between 2,200 and 3,200 metres, in the oro- and crioromediterranean levels. The factors that determine its scarcity are the ecological requirements and the limited number of suitable habitats for its development. Its habitats are high mountain pastures, known as ´borreguiles´ and peat bogs. This Gentiana pneumonanthe subsp Depressa and four other gentians that inhabit the marshy meadows of Sierra Nevada are listed as ´vulnerable´ and on the list of endangerd species, the Lista Roja de la Flora Vascular de Andalucía. This is because their habitat, the ´borreguiles´ are affected by overgrazing, the changing of water courses and tourism.  Three weeks ago we saw a fairly large number of this endemic Marsh Gentian along a small stream flowing into the Barranco de las Albardas at an altitude of 2,550 metres.

Related articles:
- References on the local flora

Related links:
- Gabriel Blanca López: Flora amenazada y endémica de Sierra Nevada (pdf 18MB)

Related key words: cáliz de la aurora, genciana de turbera, klokjesgentiaan, lungen-enzian, familia gencianáceas, gentiaanfamilie,  familie der enziangewächse,  famille des Gentianacées

26 August 2010

Senecio nevadensis

The Senecio nevadensis or ´Suzón de Sierra Nevada´ is one of the more than sixty endemic plants of Sierra Nevada. There are other ´senecios´ to be found in the massif, like Senecio elodes, Senecio eriopus and Senecio quinqueradiatus, but this ´Nevada ragwort´ is the only one that can be found exclusively in Sierra Nevada. Its habitats are in the highest parts of the mountain range, between 2,600 metres and 3,300 metres in the ´pisos oro y crioromediterráneo´ (oromediterranean and crioromediterranean levels). This member of the daisy family can be found on steep stony slopes or ´canchales´ (´pedregales móviles´ or ´cascajales sueltos´, gravelly areas with unstable schist slabs). It caught our attention mid July because it has large stems (up to 30 cm) and it was still in bud. Many other plants in the area were tiny, colourful, with hardly any stems or leaves, peeping out of the rocks and in full flower; like the Chaenorrhinum glareosum, Iberis carnosa subsp emberger, and the Viola crassiuscula (violeta de Sierra Nevada or Nevada violet). When we went back early August, we saw this Senecios nevadensis in full bloom just below the ridge of the Loma de Piedra Ventana, a spot were the shepherds probably don´t come. We took another route back, so where we had seen a large number in bud, we did not see whether they had come into flower or not. This ´Nevada reagwort´ is listed as ´vulnerable´ and and therefore included in the ´Lista roja de la flora vascular de Andalucía´ (Red List of Vascular Flora of Andalusia). According to the information on this ´Nevada ragwort´ in Flora amenazada y endémica de Sierra Nevada there are only three populations (between 10000 and 15000 individuals). When we look at the small map in Flora amenazada y endémica de Sierra Nevada on which the known populations are located, we are to the right of them. The ones we have seen, might be a population the scientists are not yet aware of. It is a threatened due to its specific ecological requirements and extreme fluctuations of fruit production, depending on the climatic conditions. Because it flowers late, in years with a particularly early cold autumn, it barely comes to fruition. Apart from this, grazing constitutes another threat. This species was first validly published by the Swiss botanist Emond Boissier and his French companion George François Reuter in their Pugillus plantarum novarum Africae borealis Hispaniaeque australis (1852).

Related articles:
- References on the local flora
- Cerro del Gallo, the highest mountain of Bérchules

Related key words: sierra nevada kruiskruid, sierra nevada greiskraut, sierra nevada kreutzkraut, séneçon de Sierra nevada, Alpujarras, Sierra Nevada, wandelen, wandelingen, trektocht, standplaats vakantie, hiking, trekking, Berchules, B&B, hotel, wanderungen

25 August 2010

Aquila chrysaetos or golden eagle

There are a number of places in the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarra that have a name that refers to an an animal, like Plaza de Lobos or Hoyo del Lobo. When we pass the Tajo del Águila between Juviles and Tímar, we actually quite often see eagles. Mostly you see birds of prey hover or circle high in the sky, too far for us to take a photograph with our camera. The other day we were lucky enough to see a golden eagle fly very low, a few metres in front of us. We had the feeling we could have shaken hands with this magnificent ´águila real´. When we had a look at the map to see where we had this special encounter, we saw the name ´Tosca del águila´. Maybe it was not such a coincidence after all.

Related links:
- On-line magazine Waste: Aguila chrysaetos
- Quercus: Situación actual del águila real en Andalucía
- Quercus: Aumenta la población de águila real en Andalucía

Related key words: águila caudal, steenarend, steinadler, aigle royal

19 August 2010

Plantago nivalis or ´snow star´

The Plantago nivalis or ´estrella de las nieves´ is one of the more than sixty endemic plants of the Sierra Nevada. This ´snow star´ can be found at altitudes higher than 2,300 metres in the ´pisos oro y crioromediterraneo´ (oromediterranean and crioromediterranean levels). This alpine species has a preference for areas where the snow remains for a long period and the borders of high mountain meadows, locally known as ´borreguiles´. The ´snow star´ is a regarded as a bioindicator of this habitat. It presents a number of climatic adaptations. Its leaves hold water and the coating of soft white hairs (pubescence) protects the plant from cold temperatures, prevents evaporation and reflects the strong solar radiation. As the ´snow star´ grows very close to the ground it is a protected from strong winds. The flowers of this plant are grouped in a small head at the end of a long stalk, so as to facilitate the dispersion of the polen by the wind to other plants nearby. According to the text on this Plantago nivalis on the on-line magazine Waste, it has - together with Edelweiss - the legend of being the flower of eternal love as the leaves of the star do no dry out. “People had the tradition to give it do their beloved ones as a token of their eternal love." Nowadays it is a protected species that can not be collected and considered one of the emblematic species of Sierra Nevada. It is the symbol of the Sulayr Long Distance Footpath and can be seen on the wooden waymarkers of this GR-240. The Swiss botanist Edmond Boissier encountered the ´snow star´ on one of his explorations in July 1837 when he went up the Barranco de Benalcázar towards the summits. As he was the first to publish the Plantago nivalis, he is regarded as the author of this botanical name. A drawing can be found in his ´Voyage Botanique dans le Midi de l’Espagne pendant l’année 1837´ (page 181). We saw many ´snow stars´ in the valley of the Río Chico of Bérchules on the first Saturday of august. It is not a threatened species, so it is a species that any visitor interested in the local flora should encounter easily. What is not easy, is to see it in bloom, as this is only for a very short period.

Related articles:
- References on the local flora

Related links:
- On-line magazine Waste: Joyas botánicas de Sierra Nevada
- On-line magazine Waste: La flora endémica del macizo de Sierra Nevada

Related key words: plantaginaceae, plantagináceas, plantain, weegbreefamilie, wegerichgewächse, famille des plantaginacées, plantago thalackeri pau, nardus grasslands

15 August 2010

The endemic flora of the Sierra Nevada

On this blog we quite regularly write posts on the local flora as we love the botanical wealth of the area. In the Sierra Nevada there are over 2,100 catalogued species and subspecies. Spain is the country with the highest number of endemics (176 national ones) and Sierra Nevada is the area with the highest concentration of endemic plant species in the whole of continental Europe (80 species according to the on-line magazine Waste). The idea that it is the only area where it can be enjoyed or photographed makes us feel priviliged when we see a plant endemic to the Sierra Nevada.  An ´endemismo nevadenses´ can sometimes only be seen in one or two locations within the mountain range. It is suggested by some people that we owe the high number of localised plants partly to the ice ages. During the last ice age, the only region with a climate favourable for plant life, was the present-day Mediterranean region. When the years became colder many plants shifted their range southwards where they took refuge on the relatively warm south-facing slopes of the mountains. The Betic Cordillera, to which the Sierra Nevada belonged, held many important refuges. As Europe warmed up again, some of these plants shifted back north, while others retreated to the high parts of the mountains and adapted to the prevailing conditions. This is why the summits of the Sierra Nevada, while appearing almost barren at first glance, in fact display the highest number of ´unique´ plants of the whole of Europe.  As many formed their own biological communities, visitors interested in the flora can easily see a number of unique species once they are at an altitude higher than 2,300 metres. Between thirty and forty percent are to be found in the marshy grasslands known as ´borreguiles´ or on the steep rocky slopes close to the summits known as ´canchales´. The uniqueness also implies a great risk. Endemic plants can easily become endangered or extinct because of their restricted habitat and their vulnerability to the actions of man or climate change. Fortunately almost all endemic plants can be found within the boundaries of the Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada and therefore monitored and protected. Most of them flower in July and August, so this is still the time to go out and enjoy the unique botanical jewels of the Sierra Nevada. We will continue to dedicate articles to them (see posts label flora-endemic), indicating where we encountered them, whether there were a large number or just a few and any pecularities we think are worth mentioning.

Related articles:
- References on the local flora
- Sempervivum minutum
- Boissier, discoverer of many Sierra Nevada plant species

Related links:
- On-line magazine Waste: La flora endémica del macizo de Sierra Nevada
- Gabriel Blanca López: Flora amenazada y endémica de Sierra Nevada (pdf 18MB)

14 August 2010

Boissier, discoverer of many Sierra Nevada plant species

The Swiss botanist Edmond Boissier (1810-1885) is regarded as the discoverer of the Andalusian flora. He started his botanic explorations of Andalusia in the year 1836 and his first findings were published in a pamphlet in which he described about two hundred plants. More exploration trips followed between 1837 and 1845. After seven years of preparations, his work devoted to the botanical wealth of southern Spain, ´Voyage Botanique dans le Midi de l’Espagne pendant l’année 1837` was published. This work has a set of 208 magnificent botanical drawings and a catalogue of 1900 species that constitutes ´an extensive botanical geography of the kingdom of Granada´. As Boissier also described his experiences, it is also seen as an interesting travel guide. On the website of the on-line exhibition ´Luces de Sulayr´ (entrar-descubrir-galería de personajes) we can find a summary of his botanical explorations in the Sierra Nevada. “He was offered a room in cortijo de San Jerónimo, which became his base. At first he concentrated on the areas around el Dornajo and the Trevenque, and he was immediately struck by the number of species unknown to the scientific world at that moment. After his first excursion he decided to stay higher up at the Prados de las Yeguas and later in the Cueva del Panderón, close to the Veleta.” In 1849 he returned with George-Francois Reuter (1805-1872), who became his travelling companion, collaborateur, curator of collections and librarian. Bossier who was financially independent, healthy and strong, a born traveller and mountaineer, visited Spain nine times. It is said of him that he was gifted with unusual mnemonic powers and a consistent worker. He travelled to many countries all over the world and described more than six thousand new species. In ´Boissier´s diagnosis´ by Frans A. Stafleu we can read: “Much of the secret of Boissier´s productivity certainly lies in his close association with his equally enthousiastic and dedicated companion George-Francois Reuter.” They travelled to northern Africa together and made significant contributions to knowledge of the relationship between Andalusian and North African flowers. They published their findings in ´Pugillus plantarum novarum Africae borealis hispaniaeque australis´ in 1852. Boissier validly published a large number of botanical names of plants he encountered in the Sierra Nevada, many of which are now classified as ´endemic´, as they have so far not been seen anywhere else. Because of Boissier´s close co-operation with Reuter, we sometimes see both their names as authors of botanical names of species inhabiting the mountain range. After their publications, many botanists followed in their footsteps and expanded the knowledge of the flora of the Sierra Nevada.

Related articles:
- Erodium cheilanthifolium

Related links:
- Digital version of the ´Voyage Botanique dans le Midi de l’Espagne pendant l’année 1837` (tomo de láminas) from the website Luces de Sulayr
- List of plant names described by Edmond Boissier

12 August 2010

Santo Cristo 2010 celebration in Alcutar

This weekend, the 13th, 14th and 15th of August 2010, Alcútar honours its patron saint Santo Cristo de la Misericordia. Note that the relegious celebrations are put seperately at the right bottom of the program!
The procession will take place Saturday the 14th at 21.00 hours.
Sunday the 15th at 21.00 hours la subida (putting back the statue in the church) is also  impressive to experience.

(Alcútar is part of the ayuntamiento of Bérchules)

11 August 2010

Walking through a snow tunnel in August

Although it is mid August, there are still quite a number of snow fields in the high parts of Sierra Nevada. A couple of days ago, we followed the Río Chico of Bérchules upstream. Before we reached the actual source of this river, we decided to follow a small stream northwestward as we were curious to see which flowers we would see along the edges. We saw a couple of really pretty endemic plants, like Veronica turbicula, and many ´estrellas de las nieves´ or snow stars (Plantago nivalis). But the most impressive thing we encountered was a snow tunnel formed by the melt water. It had a length of about thirty metres and we could actually walk through it. This was really refreshing because of the lower temperature inside and the water that was dripping down. We had actually crossed this same snow field three weeks earlier, without realising how we missed out on the sheer beauty of the carved walls underneath.

9 August 2010

Borreguiles de Sierra Nevada

One of the habitats of the highest vegetation zones of the Sierra Nevada is locally known as ´borreguiles´.  These are wet pastures that can be found above 2,000 metres in the oro- and crioromediterranean levels. These grassy areas can be found near rivers, gullies or tarns and have the ability to accumulate agua. Some areas have a more or less constant humidity, and in others it might vary. Peat bogs, where the ground is permanently waterlogged by still water are scarce, but do exist. The ´borreguiles´ hold a large biodiversity of plants and about thirty-five percent of them are endemic species. This explains why these areas have always attracted botanists and nature lovers. Visitors of the high mountains that are interested in flora, will be suprised when they start exploring the green oases in a seemingly barren, dry landscape. ´Borrego´ means lamb in Spanish and explains the name given to the soft, grassy areas. Unfortunately the delicate balance of the ´borreguiles´ is seriously threatened by overgrazing, the change of water courses and tourism. On the on-line magazine Waste an excellent article ´Borreguiles de Sierra Nevada´ can be found with a list of fifty plants that inhabit these sites.

8 August 2010

Acequia de Bérchules

There are many irrigation channels in and around our village, but there is only one that carries the name ´Acequia de Bérchules´. This is an irrigation channel that runs for a large part at an altitude of about 2,500 metres. It takes most of its water from the Barranco de las Albardas in the Trevélez valley. It was built more than ten centuries ago by the Arabs. Water transported by this acequia has always been used to supply fountains and for irrigation of the land. After many people left the area in the fifties of the last century, this acequia fell in disrepair as it was no longer maintained. When the Sierra Nevada was declared Parque Nacional in 1999, the restoration of the ´acequias de careo´ in the high parts of the massif was one of its priorities. In the summer of 2006 a group of nine men from our village went up the Plaza de Lobos each day to work on its restauration. Everything was done in the original way, in other words manually. From the mountain slopes great blocks of stone were extracted which were made into thin slates. These slates were then used to restore the irrigation channel. They did a marvelous job. Since a few years water is running through this channel again, and it is fantastic to walk along it. Between the Plaza de Lobos and the Barranco de las Albardas there is little height difference and the views are breathtaking. Our next target is to check out the part from this Barranco de las Albardas to the Río de Puerto de Jérez. If it is possible to continue walking alongside the channel, it could be a new walking connection between Bérchules and Trevélez.

Related article:
- water distribution at cima del tejar

Related links:
- Mecina Bombarón news 25-2-2011: Homenaje a los acequieros
- Taha news 24-2-2011: Homenaje a los acequieros
- Article from La Opinión de Granada, 28th of August 2006: Sierra Nevada recupera 600 kilómetros de acequias
- Google satelite position, where the Acequia the Bérchules takes water from the Barranco de Albardas (the photo is taken just a few meters walking south from the sharp bent.)
-Dina-mar: Galería fotográfica de los Careos de las Alpujarras

6 August 2010

Eumigus rubioi, an endemic wingless grasshopper

The same as with the flora, it may seem upon visiting Sierra Nevada that the fauna inhabiting the area is scarce, particularly in the highest parts. However, as occurs with the plants, a multitude of tiny organisms have adapted to the prevailing climatic conditions. There are a large number of different species of invertebrates of which about two hundred are endemic. Eumigus rubioi is one of the insects that can only be observed in Sierra Nevada, above 2,500 metres. This insect, like other orthopterans, avoid being seen and caught by blending in with their natural surroundings with their colour and their shape. Camouflage (´camuflaje´) or mimicry (´mimetismo´) is one of the survival tecniques for the invertebrates inhabiting the massif. Another adaptation is the ´winglessness´ (´apterismo´) or absence of wings (´ausencias de alas´). The biological explanation is based on the fact that wings represent no advantage because the high mountain ecosystem covers a relatively small area and so there´s no need to cover large distances. Enemies are scarce and grasshoppers can defend themselves by hiding behind rocks or in the thorny vegetation. This Eumigus rubioi caught our eye probably because we were looking at the endemic ´cuernecillos´ (Lotus corniculatus subsp. glacialis). So although some areas appear bare, they apparently boast a large number of unique species. Sometimes one just needs to develop an eye for it.

Related links:
- On-line magazine Waste: Fauna de Sierra Nevada - Insectos

Related key words: caelifera, vleugelloze sprinkhaan, kortsprietigen

5 August 2010

ExpoCádiar 2010

This year the XI Edición of Expo Cádiar, Feria agroalimentaria de artesanía y turismo, will take place from the 13th to the 15th of August. All sorts of local products, handicrafts and services will be demonstrated. Posters of this fair are pinned up on many trees, so anybody passing through the area can not miss the notificación. Next to every poster of the Expo, another poster announces the free concerts on Saturday the 14th of August of Alpujarra Libre, Sajr Tambaj and Laberintho B. This same evening San Roque will be celebrated in Narila. The program can be found on the website

4 August 2010

Mercado de las tres culturas, Lanjarón 2010

A market of three cultures can be visited in Lanjarón on the 14th, 15th and 16h of August 2010. More information on this ´Mercado de las 3 culturas´ - Jewish, Arab and Christian - can be found on the website of the Ayuntamiento de Lanjarón. The ´azocaque´ medieval will be inaugurated on Saturday the 14th of August in Calle Real (Monumento de Sor Joaquina) . The market that will dedicated to the three cultures that settled in the area, will offer numerous articles and traditional products such as pottery, silk, plants, honey and sweets. In addition, there will be activities and workshops for children, music and dance performances.

3 August 2010

Jornadas culturales de Cástaras y Nieles 2010

During the 13th, 14th and 15th of August, the VI Jornadas Culturales of Cástaras and Nieles will take place. This year the VI Cuaderno cultural will be presented: Imágenes para el recuerdo (Images to remember the past). Old photographs will be displayed that will bring back memories of Cástaras and Nieles. José Antonio Martín Almendros and Angel Bañuelos Arroyo will give a speech on the Minas de El Conjuro. From Nieles a walk is organized to the fuente Solís, following the camino del Cerro that passes the alberca del Cerro. On Saturday evening there will be traditional alpujarran music, a ´concierto de pulso y púa´, by Los Primos de Nieles. The programa de Jornadas culturales de Cástaras y Nieles 2010 can be found on the website of Nieles. On this same website a number of Imágenes para el recuerdo can be found and also the collection of Cuadernos that have been published so far. The programme can also be found on the website of the Asociación Cultural de Cástaras y Nieles.

Related article:
- slide show of the history of cadiar

Related links:
- Recuerdos de Cástaras, website of Jorge García García
- Asociación Cultural de Cástaras y Nieles

2 August 2010

Chaenorrhinum glareosum or Sierra Nevada dwarf snapdragon

The Chaenorrhinum glareosum or ´Nevada dwarf snapdragon´ is one of the more than sixty endemic plants of Sierra Nevada. There are other snapdragon-like flowers in the massif, like the Chaenorrhinum villosum subsp granatense (´little dragons´) and Chaenorrhinum macropodum subsp macropodum, but this is the only one that can be found exclusively in Sierra Nevada. Its habitats are in the highest parts of the massive, above 2,500 metres in the ´pisos oro y crioromediterráneo´ (oromediterranean and crioromediterranean levels). The ´espuelilla´ or ´dragoncillo´ can be found on steep stony slopes or ´canchales´ (´pedregales móviles´ or ´cascajales sueltos´, gravelly areas with unstable schist slabs). Like the Viola crassiuscula, this perennial herb is able to sprout again after the stem has broken. This member of the figwort family also grows in psychro-xerophilous (cold and dry) pastures that are dominated by perennial grasses and small shrubs. It can also form part of the communities formed by species adapted to live in the cracks of rocks. These communities are very diverse and their composition is influenced by various factors such as orientation, steepness of the slope, level of sunlight and insolation, humidity, depth of the soil and the accessibility of the terrain for herbivorous mammals. This makes that each plant of such a community is linked to a characteristic microhabitat. As there are few insects in the highest parts of the massif, flowers need to compete to be pollinated. The flower needs to attract the insect by well developed petals with attractive colours. According to Gabriel García Guardia, the author of Flores silvestres de Andalucía, the Chaenorrhinum glareosum with its tiny purple flowers with yellow throats, is one of the most beautiful plants of the Sierra Nevada. Maybe that´s why it has been able to withstand to competition so far and is at the moment not considered rare or vulnerable. We have seen this mountain jewel a number of times, close to the top of the Mulhacén and close to the top of the Cerro del Gallo, amongst others.

Related articles:
- Guía de visita Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada
- References on the local flora

Related key words:
scrophulariaceae, escrofulariáceas, figwort family, helmkruidfamilie, braunwurzgewächse, famille de plantes dicotylédones