Nature Notes - Mallorca 2005
Compositae - the Daisy family
Two low-growing plants of bare ground to start off with. The Daisy lookalike is Bellium bellidioides, one of three Mallorcan species that a British visitor would take for Daisies at a casual glance. The others are Bellis annua, which we had last year, and Bellis sylvestris, a winter-flowering plant which I've yet to see.
The grey felty-leaved plant is Evax pygmaea, which lacks ray florets, but the rosette of leaves round the flowerhead may perform the same function, as in some Cudweeds.
With Phagnalon saxatile, shown last year, these two complete the trio of Mallorcan Phagnalon species. The first is Phagnalon rupestre and is in bud here. I didn't find it in flower, but when open it is similar to P saxatile except that the bracts around the flowerhead are closely appressed and there are no bracts on the stem immediately below the flowerhead. The other is Phagnalon sordidum, which is easy to recognise as it has several small flowerheads clustered together instead of large solitary ones.
Yet another grey-leaved composite with no ray florets, though as it's in bud they wouldn't show if there were any. The curry-scented shrub Helichrysum stoechas. It's common on both rocky and sandy shores.
By a process of elimination the plant on the right is Golden Samphire (Inula crithmoides), which only had the previous summer's dead flowerheads to prove it was a Composite. The leaves are very fleshy, the old ones (or ones on short shoots) being cylindrical and the new ones (or ones on long shoots) semi-cylindrical, though I can't find this mentioned anywhere. Do the semi-cylindrical ones fatten up as they get older, or are they a different kind of leaf?
A bit of colour at last (I'm doing them in approx taxonomic order) and even a modest row of ray florets on Pallenis Spinosa, a roadside plant with the habit of a thistle, but with a spine only at the end of each leaf and on the leaf-like involucral bracts.
And some real brightness from Asteriscus maritimus, a seaside plant. In places it carpets the ground making a dazzling display.
This had me baffled for a moment. Low down, with the habit of a daisy but the jizz of a stitchwort, is how it first struck me, and even after I'd noticed that the yellow things were tiny flowers, it took a second or two for the penny to drop that it was a Composite. There were lots like this, and they graded seamlessly into taller, more easily recognisable versions of Corn Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis) nearby, so that is presumably what they are. A version with the normal number of ray florets was shown last year.
The Slender Thistle (Carduus tenuiflorus) is found in Britain, though not Skye. I saw it for the first time near Berwick-on-Tweed in 2002, and this encounter in a Mallorcan lane was the second. It seems to have pinker flowers in Britain, or perhaps this is determined by some factor other than locality.
Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) was seen a few times but seems a lot less common in Mallorca than in Skye, and was not photographed.
The Cone Knapweed (Leuzea conifera) has an involucre rather like a pine-cone. This specimen is pre-flowering; the flowerhead eventually appears from the top of the "cone" and is much smaller than you would expect from the structure beneath it, as are the plant's stems, which only rise a few inches from the ground.
The Rough Star-thistle (Centaurea aspera) is even more closely related to our own Knapweed, as it is still in the same genus, whereas Leuzea is an ex-Centaurea. The inner florets are white with 5 upright lobes and the outer ones purple with 5 spreading lobes; the involucral bracts have 5 spines at their tips.
The Star Hawkbit (Rhagadiolus stellatus) has 5-8 involucral bracts which gradually harden and spread out as the fruit develops inside them; the two out-of-focus heads in the background show the later stages of this process, and the plant ends up with green stars spaced out along straggly branches.
We had Urospermum dalechampii last year but I thought I'd show it again, this time giving a view of the black centre caused by the massed tips of yet-to-open florets. It was very common this time around. U picrioides, which lacks the black tips, is also supposed to be common, but I didn't see it.
Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) is a common escape from cultivation, though it is native to the Mediterranean area. After flowering the involucres close up to look like those on the right, and then when ready they open wide again to produce a Dandelion-like "clock" of feathery fruits.
Had to show this one from both above and below. Reichardia tingitana, seen a few times on bare ground near the coast.
The other Reichardia species, R picroides, has a more typical dandelion-like flower, but the involucral bracts (which continue spaced down the stem) are like those of R tingitana, though narrower. It's a common roadside plant. On coastal cliffs I found a form of it with fleshy leaves and fewer florets, this is seen growing through Sarsaparilla cushions on the Lily page. Both these belong to subspecies picroides. Annual plants with undivided leaves are ssp intermedia.
The RH pic is Tuberous Hawksbeard (Aetheorhiza bulbosa), an extraordinary plant with extremely long leafless (except for a few tiny bracts) and almost branchless stems arising from a basal leaf rosette. I found this in a number of places, and it always had these elongated stems even when there was no shade or competing vegetation. The dark stalked glands on the involucre often extend some way down the stem.
This fine 80 cm tall Spiny Sow-thistle (Sonchus asper) was standing in an expanse of otherwise totally bare ground. It's a common British species but there was something peculiar about it which I've never seen in Britain. One of the flowerheads, shown in the RH pic, had the achenes dark brown and without pappuses. I'd be glad to hear from anyone who can throw any light on this.
Finally two that I'm not certain about. The first is very much like a Crepis, but does not seem to be Crepis vesicaria as its florets have white rather than red on the underside and the outer involucral bracts are not ovate. Genuine C vesicaria was seen on both last year's and this year's visits. Other Mallorca Crepis species are easily ruled out, apart from C foetida but that seems to be very rare on the island and has red under the florets just like C vesicaria.
The second has all the characters of a Hawkweed (Hieracium) except that the flowers seem small in relation to the rest of the plant. If it is one, that's all I need to know, as I don't do Hieracium microspecies. My doubts are not only because of the small flowers but because I get the impression that Hieracia are pretty rare in Mallorca. Though Dr Beckett only says "not common", her drawing is of a Spanish mainland specimen which implies she couldn't find one in Mallorca, and the UIB site does not include Hieracium at all.
I have detailed notes on both these (though not on their achenes I'm afraid) and photos of various parts of them, so if anyone has any suggestions I should be able to verify whether or not they are plausible.
March 2004 Compositae
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer