Wildflowers, trees and shrubs in the Algarve

Some of the most enduring images of the Algarve for those who visit in spring and early summer (from January through to the end of May) are the displays of wildflowers. They are everywhere, from the clifftops which tower over the beaches, through the barrocal (the coastal strip behind the Algarve's magnificent beaches), in the river valleys and right up into the mountain pastures and woodlands. Every little bit of uncondsidered roadside land is home to numerous species of these tough and opportunistic plants.

One of the rockroses of the Algarve
Halmium ocymoides one of the rockroses of the Algarve. Picture: Rob Petley-Jones

The relatively small Mediterranean climate regions are home to a massive 20 per cent of the planet's plant species and the Algarve simply underlines the point - the abundance and diversity of plant species found there are mind-boggling.

If you are there at the right time you hardly need to get into your car and make a journey to see the wild flowers as you might in the UK or the more northerly countries of Europe. Instead, just take a short stroll from your hotel or holiday villa and you'll find them in their thousands. The most common species to inhabit the roadsides are the lovely Crown Daisies, thistles, fumitories, various types of convolvulus, asphodels and even some prized plants that we go to great lengths to cultivate in our own gardens such as beautiful blue Borage.

Walk a little further to some abandoned farm terraces and you could be in for a real treat. If not too heavily grazed by goats and sheep, these pockets of land are home to some of the many wild orchid species that grow in the Algarve, along with other pretty flowers such as Algarve Toadflax, Bellardia, wild Gladiolus and many brightly coloured members of the pea (Fabaceae) family of plants.

In the hills, river valleys and mountains behind the coastal strip there are pastures and woodlands with carpets of flowers which begin in spring with the flowering of narcissi, scillas, irises and other spring bulbs and then follow on with daisies, catchflies, foxgloves, clovers and deep purple-blue buglosses.

A pasture in the mountains
Mountain pastures are carpeted with wild flowers in springtime.

From April onwards the vast colonies of the various species of cistus to occur in the Algarve are real attention grabbers, but well before they start flowering many other beautiful shrubs and trees are in full bloom. Several types of acacia trees, with their bright yellow frothy flowers, flourish throughout the region and compete early on with the famous Strawberry Tree the fruits of which are used by the Portuguese to make a powerful spirit. Almond trees are probably the first of the trees to flower in the Algarve and we have even seen their beautiful flowers as early as January in warm years. These trees are remnants of the Portuguese Almond producing industry of former years, and although marzipan remains a favourite sweet in the Algarve today, nearly all the almonds used in its production are imported from outside the country. Beware of eating almonds from neglected trees because the nuts have a much higher concentration of cyanide than those on well cared-for trees, a fact which becomes evident the moment you bite into one! Pistachio trees are also quite common in the Algarve although we have not found any bearing nuts so far. Another beautiful shrub that lights up the side of the road in spring, is the Castor Oil plant which has dark reddish-green leaves and dark red flowers. It grows to several metres in height and is really quite unmistakeable.

List of wildflowers in the Algarve

Scientific Name English Name
Portuguese Name Botanical Family
Acis autumnalis Autumn Snowflake   Amaryllidaceae
Acis trichophyllum Three-leaved snowflake   Amaryllidaceae
Allium ampeloprasum Wild Leek Alho-porro Liliaceae
Allium subvillosum Allium subvillosum   Liliaceae
Anacamptis coriophora Bug Orchid   Orchidaceae
Anacamptis coriophora subsp. fragrans Bug Orchid   Orchidaceae
Anacamptis laxiflora Loose-flowered Orchid   Orchidaceae
Anacamptis longicornu Long-spurred Orchid   Orchidaceae
Anacamptis morio Green-winged Orchid Testiculo-de-cao Orchidaceae
Anacamptis morio subsp. champagneuxii Champagne Orchid   Orchidaceae
Anacamptis papilionacea Pink Butterfly Orchid   Orchidaceae
Anacamptis pyramidalis Pyramidal Orchid Orquidea-piramidal Orchidaceae
Anacamptis pyramidalis var. albiflora Pyramidal Orchid - white variant   Orchidaceae
Anagallis monelli Shrubby Pimpernel Morrião-perene Primulaceae
Anagallis tenella Bog Pimpernel   Primulaceae
Anchusa azurea Large Blue Alkanet Língua-de-vaca Boraginaceae
Andryala integrifolia Andryala Tripa-de-ovelha Asteraceae
Anemone palmata Yellow Anemone Anemona-do-tejo Asteraceae
Anthyllis vulneraria Kidney Vetch Vulneraria Fabaceae
Antirrhinum majus Snapdragon   Scrophulariaceae
Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree Medronheiro Ericaceae
Arisarum vulgare Friar's Cowl Candeias Araceae
Aristolochia baetica Dutchman's Pipe Erva-cavalinha Aristolochiaceae
Aristolochia paucinervis Aristolochia longa Erva-bicha Aristolochiaceae
Armeria pungens Sea Rose Arméria Plumbaginaceae
Arum italicum Large Cuckoo Pint Jarro-dos-campos Araceae
Asphodelus aestivus Common Asphodel Abrótea Liliaceae
Asphodelus fistulosus Hollow-stemmed Asphodel Gambanito Liliaceae
Astericus maritimus Yellow Sea daisy Pampilho-marítimo Asteraceae
Astragalus lusitanicus Astragalus lusitanicus   Fabaceae
Astragalus tragacantha Astragalus tragacantha   Fabaceae
Bellardia trixago Bellardia Flor-de-ouro Scrophulariaceae
Bellardia trixago Bellardia Flor-de-ouro Scrophulariaceae
Borago officinalis Borage Borragem Boraginaceae
Bougainvillea glabra Bougainvillea   Nyctaginaceae
Brassica oleracea Wild Cabbage   Brassicaceae
Calluna vulgaris Heather, Ling Torga-ordinaria Ericacea
Calystegia soldanella Sea Bindweed   Convolvulaceae
Carpobrutus edulis Hottentot Fig - mauve   Aizoaceae
Carpobrutus edulis Hottentot Fig - yellow   Aizoaceae
Centaurea pullata Centaurea pullata Cardinho-das-almorreimas Asteraceae
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury Fel-da-terra Gentianacea
Cephalanthera damasonium White Helleborine   Orchidaceae
Cephalanthera longifolia Sword-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia Orchidaceae
Cerinthe major Honeywort - cream   Boraginaceae
Cerinthe major Honeywort - purple   Boraginaceae
Chrysanthemum coronarium Crown Daisy Pampilho-ordinário Asteraceae
Cichorium intybus Chicory Chicória Asteraceae
Cistanche phelypaea Cistanche Cistanca Orobanchaceae
Cistus albidus Grey-leaved Cistus Roselha-maior Cistaceae
Cistus ladanifer Gum Cistus Esteva Cistaceae
Cistus salviifolius Sage-leaved Cistus Sargaço Cistaceae
Colchicum autumnale Autumn Crocus   Liliaceae
Consolida ambigua Annual Larkspur   Ranunculaceae
Convolvulus arvensis Field Bindweed Corriola-rosada Convolvulaceae
Convolvulus tricolor Dwarf Convolvulus Azuraque Convolvulaceae
Cota tinctoria Yellow Chamomile   Asteraceae
Cotula coronopifolia Buttonweed   Asteraceae
Cynoglossum creticum Blue Hound's Tongue Cinoglossa-de flor-listrada Boraginaceae
Cytinus hypocistis Cytinus hypocistus Putega Rafflesiaceaea
Datura stramonium Thorn-apple   Solanaceae
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove Dedaleira Scrophulariaceae
Dipcadi serotinum Dipcadi   Liliaceae
Drosophyllum lusitanicum Portuguese Sundew   Drosophyllaceae
Ecballium elaterium Squirting Cucumber   Cucurbitaceae
Echium angustifolium Narrow-leaved Bugloss   Boraginaceae
Epipactis helleborine Broad-leaved Helleborine   Orchidaceae
Epipactis lusitanica Epipactis lusitanica Epipactis-vermelha Orchidaceae
Epipactis tremolsii Epipactis tremolsii   Orchidaceae
Erica lusitanica Portuguese Heath Queiroga Ericaceae
Erica multiflora Erica multiflora   Ericaceae
Eryngium maritimum Sea Holly   Apiaceae
Fedia cornucopiae Fedia Alcace-de-argel Valerianaceae
Ferraria crispa Black Flag   Iridaceae
Foeniculum vulgare Fennel   Apiaceae
Fritillaria lusitanica Fritillaria lusitanica Fritilaria Liliaceae
Fumaria capreolata White Ramping-fumitory   Fumariaceae
Galium verum Lady's Bedstraw   Rubiaceae
Gennaria diphylla Gennaria diphylla   Orchidaceae
Gladiolus italicus Field Gladiolus Espadana-dos-montes Iridaceae
Glaucium corniculatum Red Horned-poppy   Papaveraceae
Glaucium flavum Yellow Horned-poppy   Papaveraceae
Gynandriris sisyrinchium Barbary Nut Pé-de-burro Iridaceae
Helichrysum stoechas Helichrysum stoechas Perpétua-das-areias Asteraceae
Himantoglossum hircinum Lizard Orchid   Orchidaceae
Himantoglossum robertianum Giant Orchid   Orchidaceae
Hyoscyamus niger Henbane   Solanaceae
Iris albicans Iris albicans Lírio-branco Iridaceae
Iris xiphium Spanish Iris Maios-roxos Iridaceae
Lathyrus latifolius Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea   Fabaceae
Lavandula stoechas French Lavender Rosmaninho-maior Lamiaceae
Limodorum abortivum Violet Limodore   Orchidaceae
Linaria algarviana Algarve Toadflax Esporão ou Linária-de-cor-de-ametista Scrophulariaceae
Linaria reflexa Reflexed-fruit Toadflax   Scrophulariaceae
Linum narbonense Beautiful Flax Linho-comum Linaceae
Lithodora fruticosa Shrubby Gromwell Erva-das-sete-sangrias Boraginaceae
Lobelia dortmanna Water Lobelia   Campanulaceae
Lupinus angustifolius Narrow-leaved Lupin Tremoceiro-das-folhas-estreitas Fabaceae
Lupinus luteus Yellow Lupin Tremocilha Fabaceae
Malcolmia flexuosa Malcolmia flexuosa   Brassicaceae
Malcolmia littorea Malcolmia littorea Goivo-da-praia Brassicaceae
Malva neglecta Dwarf Mallow   Malvaceae
Matricaria discoidea Pineaple Mayweed   Asteraceae
Medicago marina Sea Medick   Fabaceae
Misopates calycinum Misopates calycinum   Scrophulariaceae
Misopates orontium Lesser Snapdragon Boca-de-peixe Scrophulariaceae
Muscari comosum Tassle Hyacinth Jacinto-das-searas Liliaceae
Muscari neglectum Grape Hyacinth   Liliaceae
Narcissus bulbocodium Yellow Hoop Petticoat Daffodil Campainhas-amarelas Liliaceae
Narcissus calcicola Narcissus calcicola Mendonca Amaryllidaceae
Narcissus elegans Narcissus elegans   Amaryllidaceae
Narcissus papyraceus Paperwhite Narcissus Narciso-de-inverno Amaryllidaceae
Narcissus serotinus Narcissus serotinus   Amaryllidaceae
Neotinea maculata Dense-flowered Orchid   Orchidaceae
Neotinia tridentata subsp. conica   Orquidea conico Orchidaceae
Nepeta tuberosa Catmint (Nepeta tuberosa) Nepeta-tuberosa Lamiaceae
Nerium oleander Oleander Loendro Apocynaceae
Ononis pusilla Ononis pusilla   Fabaceae
Onopordum illyricum Illyrian Scotch Thistle   Asteraceae
Ophrys apifera Bee Orchid   Orchidaceae
Ophrys bombyliflora Bumblebee Orchid Erva-mosca Orchidaceae
Ophrys dyris Ophrys dyris   Orchidaceae
Ophrys fusca Sombre Bee Orchid Moscardo-fusca Orchidaceae
Ophrys iricolor Rainbow Ophrys   Orchidaceae
Ophrys lutea Yellow Ophrys Erva-vespa Orchidaceae
Ophrys scolopax Woodcock Orchid Ophrys sphegifera Orchidaceae
Ophrys speculum Mirror Orchid Erva-abelha Orchidaceae
Ophrys speculum ssp. lusitanica Lusitanica Orchid   Orchidaceae
Ophrys tenthredinifera Sawfly Orchid Ophrys tenthredinifera Orchidaceae
Opuntia ficus-indica Prickly Pear   Cactaceae
Orchis anthropophora Man Orchid Erva-do-homen-enforcado Orchidaceae
Orchis italica Naked Man Orchid Flor-dos-macaquinhos-dependurados Orchidaceae
Orchis Olbiensis Southern Early-purple Orchid MAKE FN PAGE Orchidaceae
Ornithogalum narbonense Ornithogalum narbonense Cebolinho-de-flor-branca Liliaceae
Ornithogalum umbellatum Star-of-Bethlehem Ornithogalum-umbellatum Liliaceae
Orobanche amethystea Amethyst Broomrape   Orobanchaceae
Orobanche crenata Carnation-scented Broomrape   Orobanchaceae
Orobanche foetida Orobanche foetida Erva-toira-denegrida Orobanchaceae
Orobanche minor Common Broomrape   Orobanchaceae
Orobanche ramosa Hemp Broomrape   Orobanchaceae
Oxalis articulata Pink Oxalis   Oxalidaceae
Oxalis Pes-capre Bermuda Buttercup Azedas Oxalidaceae
Paeonia broteroi Wild Peony   Paeoniaceae
Pancratium maritimum Sea Daffodil   Amaryllidaceae
Papaver rhoeas Field Poppy Papoila Papaveraceae
Paronychia argentea Paronychia Erva-prata Caryophyllaceae
Phlomis purpurea Purple Phlomis Marioila Lamiaceae
Prunus dulcis Almond   Rosaceae
Rhododendron ponticum Rhododendron Adelfeira Ericaceae
Romulea bulbocodium Romulea bulbocodium Nosilhas Iridaceae
Rosa canina Dog Rose Rosa-canina Rosaceae
Ruta chalepensis Fringed Rue Arruda Rutaceae
Salvia verbenaca Wild Clary Erva-crista Lamiaceae
Sarcocornia perennis Perennial Glasswort   Chenopodiaceae
Scandix pecten-veneris Shepherd's Needles   Apiaceae
Scilla autumnalis Autumn Squill   Liliaceae
Scilla bifolia Alpine Squill   Liliaceae
Scilla monophyllos One-leaved Scilla   Liliaceae
Scilla peruviana Scilla peruviana Albarra-do-peru Liliaceae
Scolymus hispanicus Spanish Oyster Plant Cardo-de-ouro Asteraceae
Serapias cordigera Heart-flowered Serapias Erva-língua-maior Orchidaceae
Serapias lingua Tongue Orchid Erva-lingua Orchidaceae
Serapias parviflora Small-flowered Serapias Serapiao-de-lingua-perquena Orchidaceae
Serapias strictiflora Serapias strictiflora    
Serapias vomeracea Long-lipped Tongue Orchid   Orchidaceae
Silene colorata Pink Catchfly Silene Caryophyllaceae
Silene gallica Small-flowered Catchfly Nariz-de-zorra Caryophyllaceae
Solanum dulcamara Bittersweet   Solanaceae
Solanum linnaeanum Apple of Sodom   Solanaceae
Spiranthes aestivalis Summer Lady's-tresses Trança-de-dama-estival  
Spiranthes spiralis Autumn Lady's Tresses Trança-de-dama Orchidaceae
Thalictrum aquilegifolium Great Meadow Rue   Ranunculaceae
Thymus polytrichus Wild Thyme Erva-ursa ou Tomilho-cabeçudo Lamiaceae
Tolpis barbata European Umbrella Milkwort Olho-de-mocho Asteraceae
Tragopogon hybridus Pasture Goatsbeard Tragopogon hybridus Asteraceae
Tragopogon porrifolius Salsify   Asteraceae
Tripleurospermum inodorum Scentless Mayweed   Asteraceae
Tripleurospermum maritimum Sea Mayweed   Asteraceae
Tripodion tetraphyllum Bladder Vetch   Fabaceae
Tuberaria guttata Spotted Rockrose Alcar Cistaceae
Vicia benghalensis Red Tufted Vetch Ervilhaca-vermelha Fabaceae
Vicia cracca Tufted Vetch   Fabaceae
Vinca minor Lesser Periwinkle Boas-noites Apocynaceae
Viola arborescens Woody Violet   Violaceae


Other wildlflower resources for Portugal

We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would also enjoy our books about Algarve wildflowers. Buy them online here...