The best time of course to visit as a botanical tourist is in the Spring, but even as we approach the depths of winter there is flowering flora to find and puzzle over.
Yesterday evening as we strolled around the salt pans and marshes I was certainly puzzling, and I am still struggling this morning to identify this plant even with the help of the superb Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of the Algarve.
I’m pretty confident it is a form of Amaranthaceae, a family of plants that has over 2,500 species, and think it might be Suaeda vera. Unfortunately the photograph in the guide isn’t great, the description however is good and is what has led to me to think this is Suaeda vera.
A small succulent, wood shrub to 1.2m, leaves densely crowded, blunt and fleshly, alternate, small 5-18mm, semi-cylindrical, sessile and glaucous, becoming reddish or purplish.
Part of my problem is at the time I am taking the photographs I am in my photographer mode thinking about the end product, but what I need to do is also put my botanical hat on so when I’m back at the apartment with my guide I also have a few photographs or even better hand-written notes that show me the plant in situ and provide details on size. The following photographs of the calendula are a classic example.
They are lovely photographs but they don’t answer questions about size of flower and leaves, positioning of leaves and general appearance. So of course a day later I am having to rely on memory to recall the size of the flower and other aspects of its anatomy in order to identify the species.
Based on what I can recall and these photographs, I am going to say this is the Field Marigold – calendula arvensis. However don’t take my word for it! I will confirm once I have had a chance to revisit it in the field and have taken some botanical notes.
And on that note I’m going to finish with another ‘photographers’ photo rather than a botanical one. Was definitely thinking winter pictures when I took this! It was quite a large shrub, with needle shaped leaves that seem verticillate. It was the berries that caught my eye. Another identification puzzle for you and for me, and one I hope to solve before my next Flora and Fauna post.