Wild spring flowers in Europe: readers’ travel tips


Red and yellow and pink and green … readers recommend wild beauty spots across the continent for enjoying blooms and blossom in a rainbow of colours

The colour, diversity of floral species and health of pollinating insect communities remain, for now, in rude health in the southern Carpathians of Romania. The scattered village of Magura lies along a ridge just north of Bran Castle and showcases a simpler agrarian lifestyle not common in Britain since the 1930s. Viper’s bugloss, yellow rattle and Carpathian pinks are just a few of the stars of these special meadows.

The rocky meadows a few miles outside Monte Sant’Angelo, on Italy’s Gargano peninsula, demanded a closer look: shimmering purples and mauves stretched into the distance. A friendly fellow walker explained the area was noted for its huge variety of orchids. He pointed out the distinctive shapes, shades and evocative names of a few: naked man, pink butterfly, bird’s-nest, green-winged. A gentle clamber took us past more common, but no less beautiful spring blooms, including grape hyacinths and yellow alyssum. I particularly loved the ubiquitous golden-centred rock roses, looking like little fried eggs on the limestone escarpment. This was a magical interlude en route to the coast.

Wild flowers on red cliffs, Algarve, Portugal
The red sandstone cliffs near Lagos in the Algarve are a great place to see wild flowers. We visited in May and saw several that were new to us. Head for Ponta de Piedade lighthouse and then walk west along the cliffs. Agave growing wild is a sight to behold, as are the prickly pears’ huge orange-red flowers with yellow centres. And so are the much smaller flowers like Spanish oyster plant, dwarf morning glory, mallow-leaved bindweed, hottentot fig, French lavender, yellow sea aster and mirror orchid. We wouldn’t have known all the plant names, but my partner found a paperback in Lagos called Wild Flowers in the Algarve, by Pat O’Reilly and Sue Parker (First Nature, £6.50).

Pindus mountains blooms, Greece
The northern Pindus mountains have a wealth of biodiversity, thanks to their complex geological history and geographic isolation. From April to mid-June, every surface, from rocky moonscapes to verdant river banks, bursts with blooms in every colour. One of the most stunning spots is Annitsa, site of a memorial dedicated to the fighting of 28 October, 1940, which marked Greece’s entry into the second world war. From this vantage point, you can see the two highest mountains in Greece, Mount Olympus and Mount Smolikas, as well as the whole eastern front of the Pindus, rising from an ocean of buttercups, narcissus, hyacinths and more. There are many hotels and mountain lodges, and the city of Grevena, a half-hour drive away, is known as the city of mushrooms, and wildflower season, as it happens, is also a great time for mushrooms.
Dina Ghikas

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