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La Sierra de Las Nieves

In the hearth of the hottest Andalucia in the middle of August you can still see snow!

La Sierra de las Nieves with peaks up to 3480 (Mt. Mulhacén) is astonishing if you look over the city buildings of Granada trying to survive the 43°C  heat.

The way from Granada to the Sierra may bring you through the so called Alpujarras, a bunch of towns with white Andalusian houses characterized by slate roofs and evident chimneys (that you don’t see often in the region).grassland with cushion plants

The road from Capileira goes up crossing pine plantations and finally widespread grasslands characterized by wonderful cushion plants.

Cushion plants are compact, low growing plants that are often found in alpine environments around the world. The term “cushion” is usually applied to woody plants that are limited in height, have relatively large and deep roots, and have life histories adapted to slow growth in a nutrient poor environment with delayed reproductivity. This plant form is an example of parallel or convergent evolution with species from many different plant families on different continents converging on the same evolutionary adaptations to endure the harsh environmental conditions

Bupleurum spinosum

Among the Sierra Nevada cushion plants, the species with the most coloured flowers in August is definitely Bupleurum spinosum.

Its yellow flowers are in an umbrella-like arrangement, as it is tipically in the family of Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae). Less typical is the cushion growth-form that I haven’t see often in the species of this family.

Bupleurum spinosum flowers

The convergent evolution to cushion growth-form is nicely demonstrated by the species of another family, the family of Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae): Ptilotrichum spinosum.

Ptilotrchum spinosum

Reading the names of these species both ending with spinosum, the latin word for thorny, another convergence stands out. In fact many species in this environment are characterized by spinescence.

Thorns always come in handy if grazing animals are numerous, as a matter of fact animals will choose to eat something that does not wound their mouth.A closer look to Ptilotrichum spinosum

During a walk on these slopes you will meet several horses, sheeps and goats looking for food among  the thorny shrubs that seem to be well defended.

horse grazing in Sierra Nevada grasslands

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