The warm weather during April and May means that the Pyrenees are already bursting with life and lots of species of wildflowers that I wouldn’t normally expect to see at this time of year are already flowering – these are all photos taken on my hikes over the last couple of weeks.
Saxifraga Longifolia are one of the specialities of the Pyrenees. Known locally as Corona del Rey (Kings Crown) they grow slowly on cliff faces for about 4 or 5 years before exploding into flower for just one season before dying. The flower stem can be up to 60 cm tall and is covered in small white flowers.
This Spanish Moon Moth was a fantastic find. It was the biggest moth I’ve ever seen with a wingspan approaching 15cm and had fantastic colours. They live in pine forests and are quite rare so it was a real privilege to see it.
Fly Orchids (ophyrs insectifera) are fascinating and highly specialised orchids. Each member of the Ophrys family is designed to be pollinated by a particular type of insect. The flower mimics the shape of the insect that it’s trying to attract and the plant even lets off a scent that imitates the smell of the pheremone of the female inscet. The males insects pollinate the orchid as they try to mate with the flower.
The Oreja de Oso or Bear’s Ear (Ramonda Myconi) is found only in the Pyrenees. It’s leaves resemble an african violet and the other species in this family grow mainly in the tropics.
It’s thought this species was established when the area was much hotter and then adapted as temperatures got cooler. It’s flowers are distinctive with a protuding yellow central stamen.
Elder flowered orchids (dactylorhiza sambucina) are the most numerous in the Pyrenees and in early summer the alpine meadows are covered in these orchids. They can be found with both purple and yellow flowers – both are the same species.
The yellow swallowtail butterfly and the black and white scarce swallowtail are two of my favourites. Both are quite large and I’ve seen quite a few in flight already this summer. The peak of Punta del Pacino is a great place to see these butterflies and there always seem to be several pairs flying around the summit cairn.
The insect eating large flowered butterwort (pinguicula grandiflora) is another fascinating wildflower. It’s lime green leaves are greasy to the touch and small insects get stuck to the leaves. A second enzyme then breaks down the insect whose nutrients are absorbed through hundreds of microscopic holes in the leaves.
These holes also dry the plant out so they are always found in damp places – particularly on continually wet rock faces. As the plant is topping up it’s nutrients with insects it can survive on very poor soil and rocks.
These are just some of the flowers currently out in the Pyrenees – it’s shaping up to be an excellent season for flowers. If your interested in flora our Lakes & Valleys walking holidays are ideal and visit some of the best alpine meadows in the area.