European Black Pine - Pinus nigra

The European Black Pine tree (Pinus Nigra) is called "Pino Negro" in its native Spain (its native range is actually quite broad and extends from North Africa all across Southern Europe and into Asia. It has relatively small cones as far as pines go. The cones in these pictures were about 6-7 cm long (2 inches). I found the black stripe down the middle of the scales (above) very interesting. These newly opened cones had an almost perfect shape. As they dry and turn more of a grey-brown color this stripe seems to fade.

The image below is of the polen cones.
One of the stand of this tree species that I found was of trees that were quite straight and tall (25 meters, 75 feet). In the vicinity of this tree stand there were numerous Atlas Cedars.
The image below is a detailed drawing of the European Black Pine´s various parts.

Golden Wreath Wattle - Acacia saligna

The Golden Wreath Wattle tree (Acacia saligna) is another one of the Australian trees that are common in Southern Spain. Planted, in some cases along freeway medians and as a wind break this tree species can now be found growing wild in broad areas of Andalucia.

Although this tree is often quite scraggly with multiple stems it is a beautiful tree when in bloom. Its flowers are bright yellow little balls that grow along the ends of the new branches with the adult leaves interspersed (see image below).

The leaves are long and pointy becoming thinner and more pointy on the adult leaves. The juvenile leaves are broader and generally larger than their adult counterparts (the bottom picture is of new juvenile leaves).

Other Australian trees that can be found in Southern Spain are...

Tree Art (by trees)

Palm Nuts

Maple Leaves

Atlas Cedar pollen cones

When it comes to art why not let trees speak for themselves. Every tree species is a work of art in and of itself. Why not take the time to stop and contemplate the beauty of creation.

Spanish Juniper - Juniperus thurifera

Spanish Juniper treeThe Spanish Juniper (Juniperus thurifera) is a member of the Juniper family that is native to the Western Mediterranean region. In Spanish this tree is normally called "Sabina" but in some regions such as Segovia it is referred to as "Enebro" (Common Juniper). The pictures in this post were all taken in the "Enebral" (forest of Enebro) of Hornuez as it is called locally even though it is in fact a "Sabinal" (forest of Sabinas).

Spanish Juniper seed conesThe seed cones of the Spanish Juniper (above) are round "berries" about the size of peas and change from green to dark purple as they mature. The male and female trees are seperate. The male trees have small polen cones (below) that look a lot more like what you would expect a cone to look like but are very small. I estimate that these were about 2-3 mm long. The ones on the left are new green cones and the ones on the right are mature cones that have released their polen.
Spanish Juniper polen conesThe "leaves" of the Spanish Juniper are very similar to the Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) but are easily distinguished from the Common Juniper which has much more pointy, needle-like leaves.
I´m not really sure what the thing in the picture below is. I saw these growing on the female trees and I am guessing that it might be a precurser to the berry like fruit. If you know better please leave a comment.
The pictures below are of the young trees. The Spanish Juniper has considerable difficulty germinating and surviving as a young plant (the sheep and goats like to eat them) so they sometimes need a bit of protection like the one on the left.
The "Sabinal" or Spanish Juniper Forrest at "Hornuez del Moral" is an ancient forest with many very old specimens. Some of the locals say that the trees may be as old as 1,000 years but a more conservative estimate would probably be more like 500 years. At any rate they are some of the oldest Spanish Junipers in the world without a doubt.
This particular forest of Spanish Junipers is quite famous locally as a sight of a supposed aparition of the Virgin Mary. According to this tradition this forest is called the "Bosque de Milagros" or "forest of miracles".
Below is a synopsis of a sign that is located in front of the Hermitage (above) that still contains the famous Juniper trunk...

"Late one evening in the fall of 1243 a couple of shepherds, who were taking their flocks from Soria to Extremadura, stopped to spend the night at Hornuez (Segovia region) within eyesight of the peaks of Somosierra. They decided to make camp at the base of a Spanish Juniper tree and after gathering a bunch of dry branches tried to light a fire. But try as they would they were unable to get their fire going. After trying in vain some time the shepherds were shocked when the branches of the Juniper tree parted and revealed the radiant form of the Virgin Mary as if she was carved right into the trunk of the tree. It was the Virgin Mary who was keeping the men from lighting their fire at the base of this special tree. The shepherds ran into the nearby town and spread the word of the apparition. The site became well known and a hermitage was built to protect the special tree. Over the centuries the hermitage has been rebuilt until it reaches its current form as a very large "santuary" for the virgin and the supposed trunk of the original tree which the locals say has been miraculously preserved. Twice a year one the last Sunday in May and the second Sunday in September there is a "Romeria" (parading the statue of the virgin) at the site. Even though the population of the town is less than a few hundred there are over 1,000 members of the brotherhood that parade the virgin and several thousand show up for the May and September celebrations."

Loquat fruit tree - Eriobotrya japonica

The Loquat fruit tree (Eriobotrya japonica) is a native Chinese tree that has been widely cultivated all over Spain. The edible fruits of this tree are slightly larger than a golf ball and are round to slightly elliptical. Their color is green until they turn a yellow-orange color when ripe.

The way I eat these delicious fruits is to peel of the outer skin, split the inner part in half, remove the seeds (numbering usually from one to three) and then enjoy the "meat" of the fruit. The seeds are fairly large taking up about half the volume of the fruit which means that you have to eat at least four or five of them to feel like you have had a good portion.

These trees are quite sensitive to freezing and rarely produce much fruit if the freezing occurs while they are in flower. There is a tree at a friends house north of Madrid that has a full head of blossoms in December giving the impression that it will produce a lot of fruit. But almost every year they get a good freeze that destroys the fruits even before they have a chance to form. To the south of Madrid and at lower elevation trees that have not been exposed to freezing temps bear their fruit in the Spring.

The leaves of the Loquat tree are about 10-12 inches long, simple in shape with a serrated margin and pronounced veins. They are also quite thick and have a dark green color. The trees themselves do not grow too tall. The ones I´ve seen are about 15 feet tall max.

Osage Orange - Maclura pomifera

The Osage Orange tree (species "Maclura pomifera) is a small to medium size tree native to the United States. It is sometimes also called the Osage Apple, Hedge Apple or Wild Orange. The fruit of this tree as you can see from the pictures is about the size of a large orange although the color is more of a greenish yellow. The surface of the fruit has a sort of brain like appearance and is covered with fine, strangly hairs (see image below).
In contrast to what its name seems to indicate thefruit of the Osage Orange is not edible. Upon cutting one open I found that the inside was quite sappy and full of seeds similar to citris seeds as can be appreciated in the image below. The inside of the fruit is quite dense and its smell is not at all appealing.
The leaves are simple in shape and dark, glossy green in color. At the base of the leaf stem there are short, sharp thorns which is possibly why this species has been used as a cattle or protetion hedge in the past. Being from the Mulberry family the leaves of this tree are a source of food for silk worms.
When this tree is allowed to grow straight (not the case when it is grown as a hedge) it produces a quality wood that is hard and rot resistant. It has been used for making bows as well as for tool handles and fence posts.

(information taken from "Árboles Madrileños" by Antonio López Lillo and Antonio López Santalla, 2007 Obra Social Caja Madrid)

Check out an Osage Orange tree by the Eiffel Tower in Paris!

White Mulberry tree - Morus alba

The White Mulberry tree (species name:Morus alba) is a interesting tree originally from China but cultivated in many countries. I found this one in the Spanish city of Malaga. This particular tree it seems is the property of one rather well mannered mouse (above) who was kind enough to let me take a few pictures. She (or maybe a he?) sat perfectly balanced on her perch while I trained my camera on the leaves, the fruits and the branches of the tree. After I left this kind mouse went back to collecting the ripe Mulberry fruits.

(Mulberries not yet ripe - above)

It is called the "White Mulberry" but I am not sure what the "white" part refers to. There is also a "Red Mulberry" and a "Black Mulberry" that are known to have more flavorful fruits but as far as I can tell the fruits on all three of these trees in black when fully ripe. If someone wants to enlighten me on this one please leave a comment.

One curious thing about the leaves of the White Mulberry is that some of them are are lobed on one side like the one in the picture below. These leaves are also the main source (or perhaps the only source) of food for Silk Worms.

One rather interesting thing about this tree is that when it releases its pollen from its catkins it does so with an explosive burst of built up elastic energy that propels the polen at a speed close to half the speed of sound making it the fastest movement in the plant kingdom (from wikipedia)

(the White Mulberry bark - below)

Green Parrots take over a Norway Spruce in Madrid

Recently while visiting a friend I was shown this very remarkable Norway Spruce tree full of bird nests. There are so many large nests in this tree that it is bit difficult to see what kind of tree it is. It does not take too long however to discover the type of birds that are responsible for this mass of twigs. After standing watch for a few minutes I witnessed several medium sized green parrots. From what I have found on the internet these parrots go by the name "Monk Parakeet" (Myiopsitta monachus) and are originally from Argentina.
I did not get a picture of these birds in the Norway Spruce but I had seen them and photographed these same birds last year in Malaga. In that case they were making their nest in an Gum tree (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and I was able to take a picture of a pair sitting on their front porch.
For some reason these birds only nest (as far as I can tell) in this one tree species in Malaga. As I followed a road lined with these Eucaluptus trees almost every one of them had from two to twenty large nests in their branches much like the tree in the picture below (the dark masses of twigs are the nests). These birds are not native to Spain but are probably a species that has "gone wild" after having escaped or been set free by their owners.

Port Orford Cedar - Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Port Orford Cedar - Chamaecyparis lawsonianaThe Port Orford "Cedar" tree (species - Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) is a coniferous evergreen tree native to Northern California and Southern Oregon. In the picture above it is the cypress looking tree in the center. Other common names for this tree include Lawson cypress, Oregon Cedar, White Cedar and Ginger Pine. This tree is not realy a true cedar but rather belongs to one of the species families that are called by the name Cypress.
Port Orford Cedar female conesThe image above is of the female "flower" or cone of the Port Orford Cedar and the image below is the male flower.
Port Orford Cedar male flowersYou can see from the image below that the male and female flowers grow on the same branch but are on distinct branchlets. The leaves are scale like.
Port Orford Cedar branchThe seeds (in my hand at the top of the image below) are small and have a sort of "flying saurcer" shape.
Port Orford Cedar cones and seeds
"Today nearly all harvested Port-Orford-cedar is exported to Japan. Port-Orford-cedar is very similar to hinoki (Chamaecyparis obtusa) wood, which is used in traditional Japanese house and temple construction. On federal timber sales, Japanese trading companies sometimes purchase stumpage on bid after examining individual trees. The wood is regarded so highly as a hinoki substitute that trees are felled with great care; sometimes cables are used to control the fall." from

Port Orford Cedar trunk
"The wood is light and durable, and particularly highly valued in east Asia, with large amounts being exported to Japan where it is in high demand for making coffins. Due to the straightness of its grain, it is also one of the preferred woods for the manufacture of arrow shafts". - The Rampant Gardener

Blogsphere Highlight - Stinging Trees

(screenshot of blog "Alan´s Wildlilfe")

Today I would like to highlight a very interesting blog post that I found on a blog called "Alan´s Wildlife" about stinging trees and shrubs. Several o f the stinging species mentioned in the post include the Mulberry -leaved or Shiny-leaved Stinging Tree, Dendrocnide photinophylla, which can grow to 45 meters and the Gympie-gympie (Stinging Tree, Dendrocnide moroides).

The post includes some good images and a lot of detailed information abou these Australian plants. If you find this sort of thing interesting I would encourage you to and check it out (click on the image above to visit Alan´s blog.

European Beech - Fagus sylvatica

The Common European Beech tree (species - Fagus sylvatica) is native to central Europe growing from Sweden south to Spain and from England east to Turkey. The images in this post are of the "Purpurea" variety (purple colored leaves) of a tree in the "Fuente del Berro" park of Madrid.
These trees are not found as far south as the city of Madrid growing wild. About an hours drive north of Madrid can be found an ancient Beech forest that is one of the farthest south in Europe. It is called the "Hayedo de Montejo". Beech in Spanish is "Haya" and a Beech forest is a "Hayedo". I have had the privilege of visiting this ancient grove of Beech trees and it is indeed an enchanting and beautiful place full of the kind of trees that you would expect to find in a fairy tale. I hope to visit the Hayedo de Montejo later this fall to get some good images of its Beech trees.
The visit to the Hayedo de Montejo has to be reserved in advance and is conducted in the company of a guide who leads you through the ancient grove and explains the history of the Beech forest. One distinct memory that I have of the visit was not being allowed to step off the path for fear of stepping on one of the Beech saplings. The guide explained that the saplings grow very slowly for the first few years and that even at five years of age might only be 6-12 inches tall and hard to see while walking.
Given that the Hayedo of Montejo is in danger of disappearing great care is taken to preserve the young saplings.
I picked a mature "fruit" (seed pod) off the tree and took it home so I could study it some more.
The next morning I was surprised to see that it had opened up (below) exposing two curvy, three edged seeds that were about 3/8 inch long (1 cm).
European Beech, Fagus Sylvatica seedsThe trunk base of this tree flares out quite a bit.
European Beach flared trunk base

Bonsai Garden Secrets

"Bonsai Gardening Secrets" is an easy to understand quick-start guide that'll show you how to create stunningly beautiful Bonsai trees