Though we’re often reminded that our natural landscape needs some serious protecting, it’s good to remember exactly what we would be losing if environmental neglect and over-development is taken to its logical conclusion.
Wild Flowers Of The Maltese Islands, a book by Edwin Lanfranco with photos by Guido Bonett, shines a light on some of the more beautiful specimens (at least those which haven’t been picked and taken home to wither and die days later). Here’s just a fraction of the plants you can expect to find while roaming around our green areas.
1. Dovesfoot cranesbill
Looking like something the Impressionists would go ga-ga over, the dovesfoot cranesbill blooms at a generous rate from January to April, and belongs to the Geraniaceae family.
2. Maltese Spider Orchid
As striking to look at (up close) as it is rare, this species boasts the wonderful Maltese name Brimba Sewda ta’ Malta (‘The Black Spider of Malta). It is also “very variable” and according to Lanfranco it’s so much of a hybrid that it probably remains “very much unsettled” as a species.
3. Malta Fungus
Ok, so it’s not exactly a ‘flower’, but it is rare and very picturesque; the Malta Fungus tends to flower around April and May. Contrary to popular belief, it is found in places other than just Fungus Rock (Dwejra, Gozo). Bonus: According to Lanfranco, “several medicinal and magical properties have been attributed to it”.
4. Hairy Broomrape
Blooming between March and May, this one’s a bit less of a challenge to find… not least because Lanfranco informs us that it stands “stiffly erect” between 20 and 40cm high. Ahem.
As fragrant as it is regal-looking – Lanfranco describes it as “strongly aromatic” – this member of the Lamiaceae family blooms from April to August around water courses, ditches, ponds and rainwater rock-pools.
6. Sanicle-leaved Water-crowfoot
Another one for the Impressionists, this annual aquatic herb – blooming from January to April – is known as Cfolloq tal-ilma in Maltese, and can be found in temporary rainwater pools on rocky ground.
7. Common brighteyes
This is an easy one for you: it’s around for most of the year, and can be found on garrigues, steppes, coastal rocks and “disturbed ground” in both rural and urban settings.
8. Maltese Rock-centaury
Say hello to Malta’s National Plant since 1971. Endemic exclusively to the Maltese Islands, this pretty little thing – or not so little, as it can reach up to 60cm when in flower – is now a fixture of public gardens and roundabouts, with its “fleshy smooth leaves shaped like a spoon handle”.
Wild Flowers of the Maltese Islands is published by BDL Books. All photos by Guido Bonett.