Nature Profiles

Flora of the Pyrenees

 

Salix pyrenaica (Pyrenean Willow)

slpy
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

As its name suggests, this creeping shrub of limestone crags and scree is a Pyrenean endemic species.  It can be locally common, and is recognised by its smooth green leaves, which are grey underneath.

 

 

Arenaria tetraquetra

arnt
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

This species is described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica section of the site.

 

 

Silene acaulis (Moss Campion)

sla
Cirque de Goriz, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

This species is described in the Flora of Ben Lawers NNR section of the site.

 

 

Dianthus monspessulanus (Fringed Pink)

dm
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

This common Pyrenean meadow species is described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica section of the site.

 

 

Dianthus deltoides (Maiden Pink)

dd

Another common Pyrenean meadow species, Maiden Pink is also described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica section of the site.

 

 

Helleborus viridis ssp. occidentalis (Green Hellebore)

hv
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

Familiar to many as a garden plant, Green Hellebore is native to calcareous mountain woodlands in Spain.  It is easily recognised when in flower (early sping), and the flower bracts persist throughout the year - they are still surrounding the fruits on the specimen shown below.  The nominate subspecies is not found in Spain - it is endemic to central Europe.

 

 

Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold)

clth
Hospital de Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

A common wildflower of marshy places and water margins, Marsh Marigold is a beautiful plant, forming large mounds of cordate leaves, topped with bright yellow buttercup-like flowers.  It can be found throughout Spain, but favours cooloer habitats in the south.

 

 

Aconitum anthora (Yellow Monkshood)

aa
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Fairly widespread in rocky limestone grassland in the mountains of northern Spain, Yellow Monkshood is easily recognised.  If in any doubt, the straight nectary spurs in the flowers will distinguish this from other pale-flowered species.  Yellow Monkshood can be seen throughout the mountains of southern and central Europe.

aa

 

 

Aconitum napellus ssp. lusitanicum (Common Monkshood)

acn
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

This widespread European Monkshood is restricted to the Pyrenees in Spain, where it often forms large colonies in damp grassland.  When in flower, such a sight can be very impressive.  Individual flowers are purplish-blue, and have a broader aspect than other Aconitum species - the hood is usually wider than high.

an

 

 

Papaver alpinum (Alpine Poppy)

pr
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

Primarily a species of the eastern Pyrenees in Spain, the Alpine Poppy is a perennial species, characterised by bright yellow, cup-shaped flowers and soft foliage (visible to the bottom left of the flower in this photo).

 

 

Sempervivum montanum

smn
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

One of four Sempervivum species found in the Pyrenees, S.montanum can be recognised by its rather plain, downy appearance - it lacks the cobweb-like hairs of S.arachnoideum and lacks the glabrous foliage of S.tectorum.  The other species, S.andreanum is a highly localised endemic, found in the eastern Pyrenees, and is not found further west.

 

 

Saxifraga stellaris (Starry Saxifrage)

sst
Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Text coming soon!

 

 

Saxifraga longifolia (Pyrenean Saxifrage)

sln

sln2
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

One of the classic plants of the Pyrenees, this species has to be the most spectacular of all the saxifrages.  All this grandeur comes at a cost though - the plants flower only once (they are monocarpic), and die after they set seed.  Even so, the sight of a cliff face adorned with the arching flower spikes of a dozen or so Pyrenean Saxifrages is a memorable one, and one I was happy to to enjoy whilst sheltering from the mid-summer rain!

sln3

 

 

Saxifraga paniculata (Livelong Saxifrage)

spn
Cirque de Goriz, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

This common mountain saxifrage is described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica section of the site.

 

 

Saxifraga oppositifolia ssp. paradoxa (Purple Saxifrage)

sxo

sxoEsera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Purple Saxifrage is widespread in the Pyrenees, where it forms cushions on base-rich rock.  Elsewhere in Spain this plant has a very restricted distribution, limited to high altitudes in small areas of the Cordillera Cantabrica and Sierra Nevada.  Ssp. paradoxa is endemic to the Pyrenees, and can be recognised by its alternate leave which form rosettes, unlike the typical ssp. oppositifolia.

The species is described in more detail in the Flora of Ben Lawers NNR, Perthshire section of the site.

 

 

Saxifraga exarata ssp. moschata (Musky Saxifrage)

sxm
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

One of the most abundant saxifrages in the mountains of northern Spain, this species can be difficult to recognise as it is so variable!

Ssp. moschata has unfurrowed leaf segments, each of which is divided into three lobes (the leaves in the photo on the left are slightly furrowed, however).  The leaves are slightly hairy.  When flowering, the petals are yellow. 

This is the only subspecies of S.exarata found in Spain.

sxm

 

 

Saxifraga caesia (Blue Saxifrage)

scs
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

This strikingly-coloured saxifrage is restricted to limestone faces in the Pyrenees.  This species was one of my 'target species' during my trek up the Esera Valley, and finally I chanced upon a small colony of it, living amongst various other saxicolous plants on a limestone outcrop.  Sadly, it had finished flowering, but it was enough of a reward to see the scattered cushions of the species in its natural habitat. 

The Pyrenees represents the western limit of this montane species' distribution in Europe, which extends east to the Carpathians.

 

 

Saxifraga aretioides

sar
Ordesa National Park, Aragon

Endemic to the Pyrenees and Picos de Europa, this lime-encrusted saxifrage is a rare species.  The tightly-packed, narrow-leaved rosettes and (when present) the yellow flowers make recognition easy.

I came across this plant quite by accident and photographed it, recognising it as 'something different'.  I was delighted it turned out to be such a special plant!

 

 

Saxifraga aizoides (Yellow Mountain Saxifrage)

sazd
Ampriu

I've described the species more fully in the Flora of Ben Lawers NNR, Perthshire section of the site.

 

 

Parnassia palustris (Grass of Parnassus)

pp

This species is described in the Flora of Corrie Fee NNR, Scotland section of the site.

 

 


 

Potentilla alchimilloides (Alchemilla-leaved Cinquefoil)

ptn
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

pta3

Easily identified thanks to its white flowers, bushy habit and Alchemilla-like palmate leaves with silvery undersides, the Pyrenean endemic species is common in rocky areas at moderate elevations.

ptnt

 

Potentilla sp (tabernaemontani perhaps)

ptn

pt
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

Montane Potentillas can be tricky to differentiate in Spain, given the number of very similar species found.  I've labelled this one as P.tabernaemontani, based on the silky hairs along the leaf margins and non-solitary flowerheads - this second feature would appear to rule out P.reptans.

If you've got a better suggestion for an ID, I'd be delighted to hear from you!

 

 

Oxytropis pyrenaica (perhaps)

ox
Cirque de Goriz, Ordesa National Park

It's impossible to be certain of the Oxytropis species pictured here, but the characteristics of the plant shown here (slightly hairy, narrow oval pods & downy foliage) fit O.pyrenaica.

The species can be found throughout southern Europe

 

 

Astragalus sempervirens

anth
Ampriu, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

This variable, spiny prostrate shrub can be found in mountain pastures across southern Europe, in various forms. 

Individual Astragalus species are often distinguished by small features such as the shape of calyx teeth, but in the central Pyrenees, where this photo was taken, A.sempervirens is the only species present.

 

 

Trifolium alpinum (Alpine Clover)

tal
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

tal3
Foliage detail, Rio Esera valley, Benasque

Thal's Clover and Alpine Clover (T. alpinum) are rather similar species (to my untrained eye) but favour very different habitats.  Alpine Clover is a plant of fertile, deep acid soils in mountain pastures, whereas Thal's Clover inhabits limestone scree on base-rich soils.  If anyone has a better identification, please feel free to get in touch!

tal2

 

 

Anthyllis vulneraria (Kidney Vetch)

anth

anth2

This common species is described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica section of the site.

 

 

Onobrychis sp (Sainfoin)

onb
Ordesa National Park, Huesca

This plant could be either O.argentea ssp. hispanica (Silvery Sainfoin) or O.pyrenaica, which is a smaller plant with less hairy pods - from this single view it's impossible to be certain.

 

 

Sisymbrium austriacum ssp. chrysanthum (Austrian Rocket)

ssmb

Recognisable by its tall spikes of golden yellow four-petalled flowers above greyish-green pinnatifid foliage, this attractive plant is fairly common in partially shaded habitats in the Pyrenees.

ssmb2

 

 

Geranium cinereum ssp. cinereum (Ashy Cranesbill)

gncn
Ordesa Valley, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

Common in the western and central Pyrenees in limestone grassland and scree, Ashy Cranesbill can be recognised by its heavily-veined flowers with notched petals, which arise in pairs on a leafless stem (not especially obvious in this photo). 

Ssp. cinereum is endemic to the Spanish Pyrenees and adjacent France.

 

 

Erodium petraeum (Rock Storksbill)

erpt
Ordesa Valley, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

A widespread and variable species in Spain, Rock Storksbill has conspicuous pale flowers with the upper two petals strongly blotched at their bases. 

E.daucoides is very similar, and occurs in the same rocky, limestone grassland habitats, but has foliage which lacks small alternating leaflets.

 

 

Daphne mezereum (Mezereon)

dpn
Ampriu

Although a rare and elusive plant in Great Britain, Mezereon remains a widespread and familiar plant in the Pyrenees.  It is the most robust of several species found here, and can be recognised by its bright red fruits (seen from late summer onwards) and pale lanceolate leaves.

 

 

Daphne oleifolia (perhaps)

dph

dph
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

Text coming soon!

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the identification.

 

 

Viola tricolor ssp. subalpina (Heartsease)

vla
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Formerly known as V.saxatilis, this yellow summer-flowering Viola is one of three rather similar-looking species to occur in the mountains of northern Spain. 

V. t. subalpina can be distinguished by its pinnate leaf stipules and lanceolate leaves - the yellow-flowered V.biflora has oval stipules and cordate leaves, as well as preferring more shaded woodland habitats.  The very widespread V. lutea also occurs in Spain, and is very similar to V. t. subalpina, including hacving pinnate stipules, but the final lobe is not longer than the others, unlike in Heartease.  V. lutea also has a shorter flowering season, usually ending in July, so plants like the one shown here (flowering in mid-August in an exposed, sunny habitat) can be reasonably confidently assigned as V. t. subalpina.

The alpine form of Heartease is a widespread European mountain plant, occurring in the Alps and Apennines, as well as the Pyrenees.

 

 

Helianthemum nummularium ssp. pyrenaica (Pyrenean Rock-rose)

hm
Ordesa Valley, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

In the Pyrenees, a distinct colour variant of the Common Rock Rose is the found, bearing pale pink flowers.  It is a beautiful plant, and is fairly easy to find in short, closely-grazed grassland and mountain meadows.

 

 

Seseli nanum (Pyrenean Seseli)

sln
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maldeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Endemic to the Pyrenees, this mat-forming dwarf umbellifer is very distinctive and easy to recognise in its montane habitat.  The leaves have an obvious glaucous, rather bluish tint to them, and the plant as a whoile makes an elegant sight when topped by the umbels of pinkish-white flowers in the summer.

ssn

 

 

Bupleurum angulosum (Pyrenean Hare's-ear)

blp

blp2
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Due to their position high above me on a cliff face, I wasn't able to get a good photo of the flowers of this Pyrenean endemic species.  What look like pale green petals are in fact bracts, which are much more prominent than the rather insignificant greenish-yellow flowers.

 

 

Angelica sylvestris (Wild Angelica)

angs
 

A common plant of damp meadows and woodlands in lowland Europe, Angelica can also be seen in similar habitats at higher altitudes in the Spanish mountains.

This species is described in more detail in the Flora of Dorset section of the site.  The Pyrenean endemic A. razulii also occurs in the region, and differs in its fruits, which have narrow corky wings, rather than broad membranaceous ones.

 

 

Androsace villosa

anv
Cirque de Goriz, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

This species is described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica section of the site.

 

 

Armeria maritima ssp. alpina (Thrift)

arm
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

This common plant of upland limestone grassland is described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica section of the site.

 

 

Gentiana nivalis (Snow Gentian)

gn

gn
Ampriu

This species is described in the Flora of Ben Lawers NNR section of the site.

 

 

Gentiana verna (Spring Gentian)

gv
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Despite the common name of the species, these plants were flowering in mid-August when I visited!

 

 

Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian)

gc
Ampriu

This little plant is common in subalpine meadows in the Pyrenees.  Unlike most other Gentian and Gentianella species, the flowers are a pale purple, rather than blue.

 

 

Gentianella ciliata (Fringed Gentian)

gc
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

This beautiful gentian is described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica section of the site.

 

 

Vincetoxicum hirundinaria (Common Vincetoxicum)

vt
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maldeta Parque Natural, Aragon

This shrubby plant is widespread in Spain, and across Europe as a whole.  It can be recognised by its oval, pointed leathery leaves and clusters of small, pale yellow, 5-petalled flowers.

 

 

Echium vulgare (Viper's-bugloss)

ecv
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Viper's-bugloss is a common plant in the calcareous meadows of the Pyrenees.  The species is described in more detail in the Flora of other areas of southern England section of the site.

 

 

Solanum dulcamara (Woody Nightshade)

sln
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

Like many members of the Solanaceae, Woody Nightshade is a very poisonous plant.  It is a cosmopolitan species, happily growing in the lowlands as well as the uplands and can be seen throughout Europe, including much of Britain.  Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the identification.

 

 

Scutellaria alpina ssp. alpina (Alpine Skullcap)

sa
Ampriu

A delicate perennial found in stony places in the mountains, Alpine Skullcap can be seen throughout the Pyrenees, and most of the major mountain ranges and upland areas in mainland Europe.

 

 

Horminum pyrenaicum (Dragonmouth)

hrm
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

This common Pyrenean wildflower can be recognised by its erect flower spikes, with drooping violet-blue flowers, with the typical Labiateae shape. 

In Spain, this species is restricted to the Pyrenees, and further afield it also grows in the Alps.

 

 

Clinopodium vulgare (Wild Basil)

clnv
Ordesa Valley, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

This common European species is described in the Flora of Derbyshire - the White Peak woodlands section of the site.

 

 

Globularia repens

g
Cirque de Goriz, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

In the limestone mountains of northern Spain, this prostrate shrub soon becomes a familiar species.  It is characterised by its small proportions and almost sessile (stalkless) flowerheads - these are visible on this specimen as withered brown balls. 

G.repens is a south-western European species, restricted to northern and eastern Spain, adjacent France and Italy.

 

 

Euphrasia sp (salisburgensis agg. perhaps)

eps
Ampriu

Euphrasias are a notoriously difficult group of species to identify, with differences between many species very slight indeed.

The plant in this photo could be E. salisburgensis, an aggregate of annual microspecies typified by purplish tints to the foliage, which is narrow and deeply-toothed.  It's impossible to identify the photo with any certainty though.

 

 

Ramonda myconi (Ramonda)

rm
Cirque de Goriz, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

One of three European Ramonda species, these plants are the only European representatives of the Gesneriaceae, a mainly tropical family of plants.  R.myconi is endemic to the Pyrenees and north-east Spain, where it grows in dry crevices in limestone high up in the mountains.  Superficially it resembles a Primula species, but no Pyrenean Primula combines the features of wrinkled downy leaves and a hairy flowering stalk. 

The two other European Ramonda species are found in south-eastern Europe.

 

 

Plantago albicans (Downy Plantain)

plal
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

Text coming soon!

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the ID.

 

 

Sambucus racemosa (Red-berried Elder)

smb
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

This common large shrub is easily recognised by its toothed, pinnate leaves and dense clusters of bright red berries.

It can be found throughout southern Europe, and is established a garden escape in many parts of northern Britain.

 

 

Galium pyrenaicum (Pyrenean Bedstraw)

galp

glp2
Bensque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Huesca

Text coming soon!

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the identification.

 

 

Succisa pratensis (Devil's-bit Scabious)

sp
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

This species is described in the Flora of Derbyshire - the White Peak grasslands part 1 section of the site.

 

 

Campanula scheuchzeri

csc
Benasque

csc3
Foliage detail, Valle de Hecho, Aragon

This common mountain species is described in the Flora of the Cordillera Cantabrica part 2 section of the site.

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for confirming the ID.

csc2

 

 

Campanula trachelium (Nettle-leaved Bellflower)

cmpt
Ordesa Valley, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

Nettle-leaved Bellflower is a woodland species, unlike the smaller, showier mountain grassland Campanulas found elsewhere.  The strikingly hairy throats of the pale flowers are indicative of this species, as are the toothed, nettle-like leaves.

 

 

Phyteuma orbiculare (Round-headed Rampion)

pht
Ampriu

As its common name suggests, this Phyteuma has incurved floral parts, creating a globular head - all other Spanish (and European) species have spreading floral parts leading to more open inflorescences.

In the Pyrenees, five Phyteumas occur: P. orbiculare, P. charmelii, P. hemisphaericum, P. pedemontanum and P. rupicola.

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for helping with the ID.

phto

 

 

Aster alpinus (Alpine Aster)

aa
Esera Valley, Benasque, Posets-Maladeta Parque Natural, Aragon

Found throughout the mountainous areas of mainland Europe, this common alpine daisy is easy to recognise, thanks to the pale purple rays and bright yellow centre on each flowerhead.

 

 

Antennaria dioica (Mountain Everlasting)

ad
Ampriu

A common plant of dry mountain pastures in Europe, this species can be recognised by its fluffy seed-heads, which develop in summer from the dense, understated white flowerheads.  The densely downy foliage forms a basal rosette around each stalk, and patches of this plant often cover several square metres.

You can see photos of plants from the Scottish Highlands here.

aa
foliage

 

 

Leontopodium alpinum (Edelweiss)

ed
Cirque de Goriz, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

One of the icons of Europe's high mountains, in Spain the Edelweiss is restricted to the Pyrenees, where it grows in limestone grassland.

 

 

Carlina acanthifolia ssp. cynara

ca
Plant in habitat, showing expanding bud, Valle de Hecho, Aragon

These large, spiny, stemless thistles are common in montane grassland in the Pyrenees, resembling a giant version of their relative, the Carline Thistle (C.acaulis).  The flower buds are pinkish-white, but on opening, the flowers gradually turn yellow. 

The subspecies shown here is endemic to Spain, France and Italy.  The nominate subspecies (ssp.acanthifolia) is much more widespread in Europe, and also occurs in Spain.

 

 

Leuzea centauroides

sc
Ordesa Valley, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

Mountain meadows in the Pyrenees are home to this statuesque thistle relative, which is endemic to northern Spain and southern France.  Its sheer size (over a metre tall when flowering) and bristly, globular flowerheads make it easy to recognise.

 

 

Veratrum album (White False Helleborine)

vta
Ampriu

These statuesque plants grow in damp montane grassland throughout the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula.  The leaves and habit resemble Gentiana lutea, which grows in similar habitats, but the six-petalled white flowers with strongly-veined, green-based petals are distinctive.  The plant is highly poisonous, and often occurs in dense colonies, as it is not browsed by cattle.

vta2

 

 

Allium senescens ssp. montanum (Mountain Onion)

alm
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

Formerly known as A.montanum, this widespread species can be recognised by its dense globular flowerheads, with each rosy-pink flower having obviously protruding stamens.

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the ID.

 

 

Iris latifolia

irl
Ampriu

Endemic to northern Spain and adjacent parts of southern France, this stunning wildflower grows in damp mountain meadows.  Plants are often rather scattered, but the sight of a densely-packed colony (often near a stream or flush) is a memorable sight.  In the Pyrenees, this is the only Iris species, and hence is easily recognised.

 

 

Epipactis helleborine (Broad-leaved Helleborine)

hlb
Ordesa Valley, Ordesa National Park, Aragon

This common orchid of dry, calcareous woodlands is described in the Flora of Derbyshire - the White Peak woodlands section of the site.

hlb2
seed pods

 

 

Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted-orchid)

dct
Benasque

One of Europe's commonest orchids, this species can be found just as readily at moderate elevations in alpine meadows, as in lowland areas.  It can be identified by its 3-lobed lip on the flower, with the central lobe distinctively pointed, and the double row of purple spots and lines on the lip itself.

dcl
basal leaves

 

 

Gymnadenia conopsea (Fragrant Orchid)

fro

Widespread in calcareous alpine meadows throughout the major mountain ranges of Europe (as well as in lowland Britain), Fragrant Orchid is a variable species, found in a range of colour forms regarded by some authors as distinct species.

Characteristic features of Fragrant Orchid are the hooded upper petals, 3-lobed lip and long, slender, curved spur (all visible in this photo).

 

 

Ferns

Cryptogramma crispa (Parsley Fern)

crc
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

This common mountain fern is described in the Flora of northern England section of the site.

 

 

Asplenium septentrionale (Forked Spleenwort)

aspl
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

A common fern of mountains in central and southern Europe, Forked Spleenwort is an easily-recognised species, thanks to its flat, leathery, narrow fronds with notched or forked tips.

 

 

Gymnocarpium robertianum (Limestone Oak Fern)

gymn

A rare fern in Britain, this species is more frequent on the limestone mountain slopes of the Pyrenees. 

It is described more fully in the Flora of Derbyshire - the White Peak grasslands part 2 section of the site. 

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the identification.

gmync
sori

 

 

Luzula pediformis

lzp

lzp2
Valle de Hecho, Aragon

Recignised by its pendent brown compact flowerheads and fruits, L. pediformis is a fairly widespread south-west European montane species.  It occurs in the Alps, Pyrenees and several mountain ranges in central and Eastern Spain.

lzp3