Costa del Chamaerops

(page 3)

Coastal cliffs

There is usually a zone of very sparse vegetation above the water line that appears to be barren at a distance. Above this zone there are scattered salt tolerant shrubs including Chamaerops which tends to be established in crevices. These are not like manicured garden specimens but are irregular mounds up to about one metre high with an untidy skirt of many years accumulation of dead leaves.

Illustration 1 shows sparse shrubland, rich with Chamaerops, extending some distance from the sea. Much of the rocky coastline was like this before forest regeneration started. This contrasts with the richer shrubland extending to the cliff edge in plate 2 where there is rapid forest regeneration. These locations were only five kilometres apart. The non-rocky coastal cliffs are very barren and I have not seen Chamaerops on these. The Chamaerops illustrated in plate 3 was facing the open sea, but rocky outcrops like this are limited in the province and are mostly located in the northern region. Plate 4 illustrates a field of coastal shrub with abundant Chamaerops just 50 metres back from the edge of the cliffs. The coastal shrub merges rapidly into a very rich and dense shrubland as illustrated in plate 5.

The characteristic dominant plants in this community are the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) and the kermes oak (Ouercus coccifera) - Chamaerops is almost swamped by this impenetrable shrub and is best seen from an elevated position. This shrub carpet is 1-1.5 metres high and Chamaerops is just visible at the surface. When standing at ground level it is visible only at close range but from an elevated position it is possible to scan the surface and pin-point the distribution. Plate 6 was located 25 metres from No 5 and shows an area that was ravaged by fire two years earlier. Note that Chamaerops had survived the fire and that regeneration of the other plants is proceeding rapidly either from seed or shooting from underground stems. Where forest regeneration is in progress the shrubs now become an under-layer beneath the trees. The growth tends to be more open as the plants stretch towards the light. The clusters of Chamaerops tend also to be open and spindly with petioles more elongated and the pinnae narrower and more pointed (plate 7).

Progressing inland to drier areas the shrubland becomes thinner and more scattered as in plate 8 and grass starts to become an important component of the flora. It is quite difficult at a distance to pin-point the scattered domes of Chamaerops. Progressing further inland and to the southern plains and hills in the south of the province the grasses predominate. The result is scattered grass tussocks with a scattering of small shrubs and domes of Chamaerops. In the hills Chamaerops tends to be confined to hollows and gullies (plate 9) whereas on the flatter land it tends to be uniformly scattered The dark green domes of Chamaerops being quite prominent as in plate 10. It is fascinating to see these areas in the evening as at late dusk the tussock grass tends to fade from sight and you see a greyish landscape dotted with blackish domes. Fascinating, but rather eerie. It is, however, in the rocky hills and mountains that straddle the length and breadth of the province that Chamaerops reigns supreme. As far as I can estimate it probably occurs throughout the whole mountain complex. Assumptions are inevitable as many of the mountain areas are not readily accessible.

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