We set sail from Barcelona in Catalonia, eastern Spain, for Mallorca on a tour with Gohagan Travel and the University of California Alumni Association. Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, four inhabited islands and some tiny ones, in the Mediterranean east of Spain. They are currently Spainish, but like much of the area, were once Phoenician, Carthaginian (Punic), Roman, and Moorish, Catalan, independent--at least--before becoming Spanish.
You'll see the spelling Majorca. Same place. The residents spell it Mallorca, so I will too.
|coast of Mallorca|
Located 160 miles from the coast of Spain, they have a mild, Mediterranean climate. None of the islands gets much rain, about 14" a year, comparable to Los Angeles. The summers are hot and rainless, though often humid due to the surrounding sea. Winters are cool and moist. Most winters the temperatures only drop to the middle 30's. Infrequently, frosts and snow occur even at sea level, keeping the island vegetation subtropical rather than tropical. Our guide remembered three frosts in his life (approximately 50 years). Those frosts, rare as they are, keep tropical plants from surviving in the Balearics.
Why is frost so important to the distribution of plants? Because it tears apart the plant's cells. When water freezes, it expands. Examples of damage from the expansion of water are the cracks in concrete sidewalks that develop in winter and the glass jar of lemonade or water that breaks in the freezer. Inside the cells of plants, expanding water breaks up the tissues, killing the cell. Only a minority of all the world's plants have evolved cells that resist freezing damage, so most plants die when the water in their cells freezes.
The mild climate makes the Balearic Islands a European vacation destination. My interest and photos feature the natural vegetation and history but there's a thriving tourist industry devoted to yachts and sandy beaches.
|Harbor, City of Palma, Mallorca|
|palms, Palma, Mallorca|
|palm with fruits, Palma, Mallorca|
|bay, Palma, Mallorca|
Started in the 13th century, the cathedral took several hundred years to build. In 1851 an earthquake knocked down the western doors. Those were replaced with the art of the time, so the cathedral is an interesting mix of styles.
|Cathedral of Santa Maria, Palma, Mallorca|
Bellver--the name means lovely view in Catalan--is a handsome piece of strong stonework, more complex than my photos indicate.
|Palma from Bellver Castle|
|plant growing from the fortress wall|
false yellowhead, Dittrichia viscosa (sunflower family, Asteraceae)
These next plants I cannot identify and it is harder to tell from the photos that they were growing on the castle wall, but they were.
Humans build great structures, but plants will retake the space, given just a few years undisturbed.
I thought Mallorca very interesting, from its botany to its history to the present role as an island resort.
Comments and corrections welcome.
Allen, B. M. A selection of wildflowers of southern Spain. Edciones Santana, Malaga Spain. 1993. print.
Consell de Mallorca Malorcan history http://www.mallorcamedieval.com/en/geo.htm (accessed 11/6/14)
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