baumzaehlen - Primeval Forests & Their Trees

©2017 copyright christoph hase

Madeira Nature Park, Portugal

There was no human settlement on Madeira before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1400's. The original forests have since been completely destroyed on the drier southern half of the island 1 , but on the northern slopes there are still places very close to their primeval state 2 . The best preserved sites have special protection as Nature Reserves 1 . The park is also a World Heritage Site - “Laurisilva of Madeira”.

The natural vegetation of northern Madeira is mainly composed of evergreen angiosperms. The most important species are Opens internal link in current window Laurus novocanariensis , Opens internal link in current window Ocotea foetens , Opens internal link in current window Persea indica , Opens internal link in current window Clethra arborea (lily of the valley tree) and Opens internal link in current window Morella faya . O. foetens is the tallest species 1 . In the exposed sites and close to the forest limit, Opens internal link in current window Erica arborea (tree heath), Opens internal link in current window E. scoparia (besom heath) and Opens internal link in current window Vaccinium padifolium are common. As volcanic Madeira has never been connected to any continent, its tree species diversity is low. Differences between many species are small but learning to identify the main species is relatively easy. The same forest type also exists on the Azores, where it is rather degraded, and on the Canary Islands, where the largest and best preserved forest has been protected in Opens internal link in current window Garajonay National Park ; as compared with Garajonay, the Madeiran forest is much larger (some 150 km 2 ), better preserved, more luxuriant, wetter, cooler and growing on steeper slopes 3 . Annual precipitation at 1000 m is approx. 2500 mm, fog drip further increasing it by 200 m 4 .

The levadas (aqueducts with accompanying paths) of the island of Madeira are a popular hiking destination. Hiking is very easy along the levadas but extremely difficult outside them: slopes are steep to vertical without exception.


1 Press, J. R. & Short, M. J. (1994): Flora of Madeira. The Natural History Museum, London.

2 Costa Neves, H. et al. (1996): Laurissilva da Madeira, caracterização quantitativa e qualitativa. Governo regional.

3 Opens external link in new window World Heritage Nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation: The Laurisilva of Madeira (Portugal) .

4 Figueira, C. et al. (2013): Opens external link in new window Cloud water interception in the temperate laurel forest of Madeira Island . Hydrological Sciences Journal 58 :1, 152–161.

High altitude (900 m) Laurus novocanariensis forest.
Laurus novocanariensis dominated forest on steep slope at 400 m.
Valley of Ribeira da Janela.
Evening view down into the Ribeira da Janela valley.
Polypore ( Laurobasidium lauri ) on Laurus novocanariensis .
Laurus novocanariensis .
Ocotea foetens .
Ocotea foetens .
Persea indica .
Clethra arborea (lily of the valley tree).
Morella faya .
Salix canariensis on the right.
Erica arborea (tree heath). Elev. 1700 m.
Hill (foreground, elev. 800-850 m) covered by Erica .
The most important tree species of laurisilva. ( Myrica faya = Morella faya )
Some tree species of higher altitudes (1100-1300 m).