The change from the forest (Madeira means wood) to the flower island took place in the 18th century. Merchants and aristocrats brought attractive tropical, subtropical and exotic plants to England to decorate orangeries, gardens and parks. Madeira served as a stopover on the way to England to acclimatize the plants. That's why every Madeira species is found in the Botanical Garden in Funchal.
From South Africa came the "bird of paradise, protea, aloe, agapanthus, torch lily and calla lily, in Japan camellia, hydrangea, privet and orchids were shipped, from China hibiscus, jasmine and firethorn brought. Jacaranda and coral tree were imports from Brazil, from Australia flame trees and wattle arrived, from Mexico agave, dahlia, zinnia and poinsettia plants. Among the garden owners a "competition" developed and the one that brought something to bloom in every season was reputable.
Nature is Madeira's most precious treasure. As a hiker or by bike you can explore the different vegetation zones.
The coastal vegetation inhabits the area up to about 300m altitude. The Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco) is one of the most prominent representatives of the Macaronesian flora. Many species of spurge can be found, such as the up to 2-meter-high fish-stunning spurge plant. In the rock regions are rare crassula plants, partly only here resident, to find. Essentially, it is the disc houseleek, which has specialized on vertical rock walls. It is noticeable by its 20-30cm flat leaf rosette. An offshoot of this is the viscid houseleek growing in shrubs, also often found.
Among the native (endemic) plants, the daisy family are very widespread, including everlastings, thistles and the chrysantheum. Where the forest was cleared, terraced fields were planted to grow bananas, citrus fruits or wine. Fruits and vegetables became important export articles for Madeira.
In order to prevent the erosion that was a consequence of the deforestation of the forests, Australia introduced the blue gum tree. This grows quickly and anchors in the ground. Unfortunately, the blue gum tree has become a plague, especially on the south side of the island. It pulls the water out of the ground through its root system and thus gives other plants no chance to survive.
The transition zone to the laurel forest, from an altitude of 300m to 800m, still has remnants of the original forests of Madeira. Their representatives already include trees that we can also find in the laurel forest - the wax myrtle, the first representatives of the canary laurel and the canary willow. Due to the fog, the forests are very humid. Among the characteristic tree species in the Laurisilva Forest are the Azorean or Canary Laurel, the Canary Holly, the Tree Heather, the Madeira Elder and the Madeira mahagany. In the undergrowth of the laurel forest grow mainly ferns and mosses.
... is the transition zone between the laurel forest and the high mountains. Above the laurel forests prevail in the high altitudes harsh climatic conditions. Dominant here are the tree heather and the besom heath. All plants occurring here are often up to four meters high, but also remain bushy low in some places. The Madeira blueberry, which can grow up to six meters high, is often found here.
The high mountains are characterized by sparse, stony and very thin soils. In addition to the Madeira blueberry and tree heath we also find the Madeira mountain ash, the pine and the Canary cedar in sheltered areas. Also some endemic plants grow here, e.g. Madeira thrift, who looks like a rose. However, she has no spikes. The best known plant is the pride of Madeira. The Madeira bell-heather has adapted to the high mountain conditions. On the high plateau Paul da Serra, deforestation has led to almost exclusively grasses, ferns and gorses being seen here. Newer afforestations should again lead to a forestation.
These Casa de Colmo are worth a visit!
In Santana, the colorful, unusual houses are one of Madeira's attractions. In the small park next to the town hall, the municipality of Santana has rebuilt some of the small houses and promotes their preservation. About 100 of these, also called beehive sheds, are still around Santana. The Casa de Colmo were until a few decades ago, the traditional house of farmers in many island towns. The small gabled, thatched roofs reached down to the ground. The colorfully painted front of the Casas is made of wood.
The Casa de Colmo were born from the distress and remoteness of the Madeirans on the north coast. Wood was in abundance - straw was also there enough after the threshing. The interior was more than modest, the real life like cooking took place outside. Today the tourism center is housed in one of the cottages.