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Photos & text

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Photos & texts by Sabina Burrascano is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Italy License.
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Thirsty beings

In the middle of autumn rains I would like to recall the memories of the One of the view you can get in Cabo de Gatawarmest and driest place I have ever visited.

Cabo de Gata in the province of Almeria (Andalucia), is a natural park that deserves your visit because it fills your eyes with a subdesertic landscape that you rarely have the chance see in Europe.

The few roads that cross this area are a bit scary, not only because of the steep slopes under you, but also for the twisted shapes of the volcanic cliffs, and in general for the remoteness of the area…never get around without a bottle of water in Cabo de Gata!

Concerning photosynthetic beings, it is rather evident that life here is not so easy and only the most tenacious species dare to live in this region that, besides being very dry, was exploited as much as possible for agriculture and farming.

Being tenacious is the first quality of what the spanish call ‘esparto’, its latin name is in fact Stipa tenacissima.Stipa tenacissima dominating the slopes behind Playa de los muertos

This species occurs in steppic vegetation of central and southern Spain, as well as in the Balearic Islands and northern Africa. A bread basket made of Stipa tenacissima leaves

Its tenacity is not only about its resistance to drought, in deed this species indicates areas that were subjected to frequent disturbances. Its leaves, thin and resistant are used to produce ropes, soles and baskets. Obviously I did not resist the temptation to keep my bread in a tiny and simple ‘esparto’ basket.

‘Esparto’ is not the only survivor in this area, one of its mates is the ‘cornicabra’ that is Periploca laevigata.

Its common name in spanish refers to the fruits that resemble goat horns. This species is rarer than the mentioned Stipa, in fact it occurs only in the province of Almeria, and in few islands: Sicily, Crete, and Canary islands.

Periploca laevigata fruits

dear friends or fighters?

Right next to the Periploca you can see one of the few green things you will have the chance to see in Cabo de Gata in August: ‘el palmito’ or Chamaerops humilis. Its distribution in the west Mediterranean is not as limited as the one of the Periploca, however it reaches only slightly higher latitudes than its mate does, in fact the northern-most site where Chamaerops humilis grows spontaneously is the Côte d’Azur, near Saint-Tropez.

The fact that this two plants are growing so close together shows how they are competing for a small patch of relatively deep soil, if compared to the rest of the slope, however being so close can also help them to keep some moisture among their branches in order to lose water less rapidly. In this case it seems that extreme conditions promoted a love-hate relationship.

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