Almond tree - Prunus dulcis

The Almond trees (Prunus dulcis) are in bloom in the hills above Malaga right now. Yesterday I talked to a man who grew up here and he said that this was the earliest that the Almonds have ever bloomed. I´m note sure when the Almonds have blossomed in the past but January 26th does seem rather early. I wonder if the fact that we have been having an unusually warm month has anything to do with it.

Dates aside, the Almonds are very beautiful when they are in bloom. Their blossoms are a light shade of pink that makes an interesting contrast with the dark brown, almost black bark color of the tree.
There are a lot of Almond trees around Malaga. A few days ago while driving back from Granada I saw whole hillsides of Almond trees in full color. Makes for a very attractive landscape.
When the Almond fruit grows to maturity it becomes a green seed pod with soft, velvet like exterior. As it ripens this turns dark brown and eventually peels off revealing the hard shell of the Almond beneath.

European Yew tree - Taxus baccata

The European Yew tree (Taxus baccata) has in centuries past been called the "tree of eternity" for its longevity and for the fact that it begins to grow again even after several hundreds years.

In England it is very common to see Yew trees next to churches. In most of these cases the Yew predates the Church. Because the Yew was considered a sacred tree prior to the introduction of Christianity many churches were built close to them.

The flat blade like leaves grow along the length of the new stem branches.

The tree in these pictures is located in the "Fuente del Berro" park in Madrid, Spain.

Pedunculate Oak tree - Quercus robur

The Pedunculate Oak (also called English Oak) is the tree that most people think of when the name Oak tree is mentioned. It is in fact the type species for the genus Quercus (Oak trees). Its native range is very extensive including Most of Europe, Asia Minor and part of North Africa.

The tree that I photographed for this post is located in Spain where the name used is "Carvallo".
I found this tree while on an outing looking for the "Sacred Chestnut of Istan", a tree that is quite famous in the south of Spain. I discovered that the Giant Chestnut was not the only impressive tree in the forest above the town of Istan. In addition to this tree I also found a whole stand of very old Cork Oaks (Quercus suber). Both of these Oak species produce large accorns that are one of the main sources of food for wild and domestic pigs. In fact when I ventured into the stand of old Cork Oaks I flushed out a large wild boar who had been rooting out the fallen accorns.
I don´t know how old this Pedunculate Oak is but judging by its size and by the other trees nearby it must be at least 400 years old if not older.

Bottlebrush tree - Callistemon rigidus

The Bottlebrush tree is a small flowering tree that derives its common name from the shape of its bright red flowers which as you can see in the image above look a lot like a bottle brush. This tree has a close cousin called the "Weeping Bottlebrush tree" (Callistemon viminalis) that is somewhat more popular as an ornamental tree than this one. The difference being mainly that the "weeping" variety has branches that droop down while this one´s are more rigid.
The flowers grow on the ends of the branches and after they fade a series of "knobs" are left in their place that stay of the tree for a year or more. These knobs also create an interesting ornamental effect.

From my observation the C. rigidus has fewer flowers than the c. viminalis although the flowers themselves are very similar. In both cases the flowers grow along the length of the new stem.

Lacebark Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus

The Lacebark Kurrajong, also called the "bottle tree" is a member of the Brachychiton genus of trees and native to Australia. It is a fast growing tree whose trunk tends to bulge a bit, although much less than some of the other "bottle trees" such as the Brachychiton rupestris. The new bark of the Lacebark Kurrajong is green in color and has photosynthesis capability. The bark turns light brown as it ages. As the trunk stretches however new bark is exposed in the stretch marks of the old which creates the "lacebark" pattern.
Like other Kurrajongs this tree species has a great deal variation in its leaf shapes. Leaf shapes vary from simple to multiple lobes. Three lobes are very common and I have seen some with five. It is also very common to see leaves that are asymmetrical with a lobe on one side missing or underdeveloped.
The seed pods grow in clusters of 4-5 pods is a sort of star pattern. Each individual pods has a sort of boat shape the eventually opens up revealing the corn kernel shaped seeds.
The seed pods also have an interesting ornamental value if you are into doing crafts.
The seeds are reputed to be edible although extracting them can be tricky. The inside of the seed pod is lined with very fine hairs that will stick in your skin if handled with bare hands.
more from this genus...
Brachychiton discolor
Brachychiton bidwillii
Brachychiton acerifolius

for an interesting tree that is similar to this tree check out the Chinese Parasol tree

Holm Oak - Quercus ilex

The Holm Oak is native to Spain where it is called the "Encina". Another name for this tree in English is "Holly Oak" in reference to the fact that its leaves resemble those of the Holly. Another name that I have seen used is "Evergreen Oak" which I suppose is used because this tree does not drop its leaves like most other oaks. It is always green with the old leaves falling off shortly after the new ones emerge.
In Spain the "Encina" has several important uses. One of these is the value of its acorns as a source of food for the "Iberian" pigs that are used to make the famed "Jamon Serrano" (cured ham). The cured ham from an Iberian pig that has been allowed to graze in the open fields and that has eaten mostly acorns from the Encina has a special flavour that is highly prized in Spain. Sometimes this ham is referred to as "jamon de bellota" which means "acorn ham".
Another use for the Encina is as firewood. The Holm Oak has very hard and heavy wood that makes it ideal as firewood as it is a slow and long lasting wood. Unlike how firewood is usually cut in the USA in Spain it is not normal to cut the tree down in order to harvest the firewood. Rather every few years the tree is "pruned" back and the branches that are cut off are used as firewood and to make charcoal. In this way one tree can supply burning wood to its owner for hundreds of years. The average lifespan of this tree is about 400 years.
When the Holm Oak is an young sapling its leaves are usually very prickly (like the Holly). This makes it less attractive to livestock as a source of food. When the tree matures however the leaves loose this particular trait.
The image above is of the "Catkins" as the blossoms or flowers of oaks are called. The image below is of the new leaves that emerge after the catkins dry and fall off.

White Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia nicolai

The White Bird of Paradise tree (also called the Giant Bird of Paradise) is like a cross between a Palm tree and a Banana tree. The resemblance to the Banana tree lies in its leaves that are very similar in shape, color and size. The resemblance to the Palm lies in the stem which is someone thiner than most palms but looks quite similar. The flower of this tree is like a giant version of the Bird of Paradise plant (from the same family) although somewhat less attractive. Check out for info and seeds of this pseudo palm.

The large banana like leaves spread out in two directions in a symmetrical manner that creates an attractive effect for parks and gardens.
The White Bird of Paradise tends to grow in clusters with multiple stems growing out of a single base. I´ve seen some clusters with more than a dozen stems. These stems can grow to about 30-35 feet tall (this is my own estimate based on the observation of a large cluster in the Paseo del Parque, Malaga, Spain). The image below is from the Jardines de Picaso in Malaga.

Little Kurrajong - Brachychiton bidwillii

Of all of the Kurrajong trees (Brachychiton genus) that are cultivated in Spain this is the one that I have seen the least. The images in this post are from a few trees that I found at the "Molino de Inca" botanical park in Torremolinos, Spain.
The flowers of the Little Kurrajong are similar to those of the "Lacebark Kurrajong" (also called the Pink Flame Tree). This tree had no leaves on it when I took these pictures which leads me to think that they drop their leaves when in flower much like the Illawara Flame tree (B. acerifolius).
The flowers grew in tight little clusters alone the branches with the biggest clusters occuring at the ends of the branches. One little curiosity was the flowers that were growing right out of the trunk at the base of the tree (below).
All of the trees that I saw had a significant bulge at the base right close to the ground (above).
In the image below you can see the seed pod of the Little Kurrajong which is very similar to the rest of the Kurrajong species. The one in this picture has dropped all of the seeds that it contained.

Australian Pine - Casuarina equisetifolia

One of my childhood memories is of stepping barefooted on the little "cones" that drop from the Australian pine tree. The reason I remember this odd little detail is that these little "cones" were very prickly and left quite an impression on the bottom of ones foot.
I´m not really sure if you can call them cones? They are only about 1cm or so long (1/2 inch). They are sort of shaped likes pine cones but not exactly. This tree is not even a real pine tree (that is to say that it is not a member of the pine genus - pinus)
You can see from looking at it why it might be called a pine tree. It has needle like leaves similar to a pine although if you look closely you will notice that they are different. For one they don´t grow in groups of two, three or four needles. Each one grows individualy from the branch.
The needles are about 15-20 cm in length (4-5 inches). If you look closely at them they have sections.
This native Australian tree, like a good number of others, has easily adapted to the climate of Southern Spain and can be found growing wild in many places.