Balearic Coastal Cliff Vegetation

In terms of botanical interest the coastal cliffs of the Balearic Islands closely follows the mountain flora.  On the seaward fringe, the maritime vegetation is characterized by the presence of Crithmum maritimum Rock Samphire and species of Limonium sea lavender. In the case of the latter there are over twenty species and almost half are endemic.  The most maritime of the endemics is Limonium caprariense - other endemics include L. biflorum and L. majoricum (Plumbaginaceae). A little further inland, the endemic Launaea cervicornis (Asteraceae) usually becomes the main species. This is a spiny ‘pin cushion’ plant which occasionally shares this habitat with three other endemic ‘pin cushion’ species: Anthyllis fulgurans, A. hermanniae var. hystrix (Fabaceae) and Senecio rodriguezii (Asteraceae). Naufraga balearica is also confined to a small area of sea cliffs. The species (and genus) was originally thought to be endemic to this BioProvince, but in 1981 it was discovered in Corsica. In Minorca the endemic maritime shrubs Daphne rodriguezii (Thymelaeaceae) and Philyrea media var. rodriguezii (Oleaceae) occur in sheltered situations.

Eastern Mediterranean Coastal Thorn-Cushion Formations

Coastal thorn-cushion formations can be found, for example, on the wind-swept coasts of Corsica, Sardinia and southern France. These, however, probably represent remnants of vegetation that is still relatively widespread in the islands of the Aegean Basin. On the northwest coast of Sardinia the formation is dominated by the endemic taxa Astragalus massiliensis (Fabaceae), Centaurea horrida (Asteraceae) and Genista acanthoclada (Fabaceae), but on the south coast Sarcopoterium spinosum is the main species. These formations are characteristic of very steep coasts rapidly rising to more than 100 m and probably provide a refuge zone for these plants. In the dryer Tertiary period this type of vegetation appears to have been much more widespread.

Southern Mediterranean Atriplex halimus-Lycium europeaum Coastal Shrubland

These shrublands are characteristic of some of the more favourable parts of the coastal zone and typically found in and around wadis. They can reach heights of over 3 m but normally rarely exceed 1 m, and they can display considerable floristic variation with several different sub-associations recognized. Floristic samples have been recorded, for example, in the coastal zone just south of Mersa Matruh in Egypt. In addition to Atriplex halimus and Lycium europeaum other common species depending on locality include Periploca angustifolia, Phlomis floccosa, Plantago albicans and Salsola scheinfurthii. Phlomis floccosa (Lamiaceae) appears to be close to its western limit here and is nearly endemic to the Egyptian-Arabian BioProvince. However, much of this vegetation has been grazed, especially by goats, for thousands of years and so how close it is to the original vegetation is difficult to say. Associated endemic or near endemic species possibly include Anacylus alexandrina (Asteraceae) and Scorzonera alexandrina (Asteraceae), and several species, such as Ammochloa palaestina (Poaceae), Lobularia arabica (Brassicaceae), Paronychia arabica (Caryophyllaceae) and Verbascum letourneuxii (Scrophulariaceae) are, like the above mentioned species, possibly close to their western limit here and nearly endemic to the Egyptian-Arabian BioProvince.

Southern Mediterranean Thymelaea hirsuta – Plantago albicans Coastal Shrubland

These shrublands typically occur on coastal plateaus and slopes as well as in depressions, and can be seen, for example, in the Marmarica area of Egypt. Thymelaea hirsuta can grow to heights of up to 1.5 m but is usually less the 1 m. Species composition can vary considerably and several sub-associations are recognized. Other common associates depending on locality include Atriplex halimus, Paganum harmala, Salsola schweinfurthii and Traganum nudatum, but where, for example, there are large accumulations of loose sand psammophytes like Ammochloa palaestina become conspicuous. Other less common associates include Asphodelus microcarpus, Astragalus asterias, Bupleurum lancifolium, Carduncellus mareoticus, Centaurea calcitrapa, kickxia aegytiaca,  Linaria haelava, Medicaga littoralis, Marrubium alysson, Reichardia tingitana and Salvia tetrandra. Thymelaea hirsuta is quite resistant to grazing pressure and is not browsed when green, but is commonly used for fuel, timber and shelter.


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