Learn How to Identify Different Kinds of Vegetation in the Province of Málaga
We must be aware of the need to protect this extraordinary biodiversity for future generations
The Province of Málaga is one of the areas with the most interesting and varied geological features in the peninsula. Due to this characteristic and a good climate, there are many different kinds of landscapes with rivers, rather mountainous terrain or a wonderful coast, where vegetation plays a very important role.
There is a great pleasure in spotting and identifying trees and bushes while going along paths, ways and roads in these beautiful surroundings. Moreover, considering the current climate crisis, it is convenient to raise awareness of the rich natural resources in order to ensure their future protection.
The following are the main kinds of vegetation:
Cork Oak Groves (Quercus suber)
These trees are rather well preserved due to their use in cork production. They can be found in areas where the rainfall is higher than 500 mm and on acid soil. Main woods are at an altitude between 200 and 800 metres above sea level. The highest point where they grow is the Sierra Tejeda (Canillas de Albaida) at an altitude of 1300 MASL. They are placed, above all, in the south-western area of the province, mainly in the mountains in Cortes de la Frontera, the Genal Valley, Montejaque, Bornoque-Moratán (Istán, Monda and Tolox). They can also be found in the eastern part of the province (Almogía, Málaga Mountains and Canillas de Albaida).
Holm Oak Forest (Quercus rotundifolia)
Today, there are only some of these groves which are changed by human actions for the matters of farming, livestock and for wood. This is the second-densest forest in the area. These groves can be found up to 1300 MASL, and some trees up to even 1500 MASL. This species can easily adapt and most of its groves are in the mountains in the Guadiaro Valley, some of them in the meadows of Ronda Plateau and the surrounding mountains, as well as in Lagunillas High Plateau in Antequerra and in Archidona.
There are four native species in Málaga: The Pyrenean pine (Pinus nigra ssp. salzmannii), maritime pine (P. pinaster), stone pine (P. pinea) and the Aleppo pine (P. halepensis). These trees have been used a lot for a reafforestation, so there is a wide range of them in this area. They have already created perfect conditions for growing other species, above all, those from the Quercus genus. Today, thanks to the selviculture practice followed in these forests, there has been change in main species, like it happened in Málaga Mountains, and the Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama mountains.
Maritime pine forests are present from the sea level to 1700 MASL in the Almijara Mountains, and above all in peridotite rocks mountains, such as the Real, Bermeja, Palmitera, Parda de Tolox, Aguas and Igualeja Mountains. Aleppo pine forests grow from the sea level to 1200 MASL, above all, in Tolox and Yunquerra mountains, as well as in the Alcaparaín, Mijas, Almijara Mountains and in the area of Gobantes (Antequera), Málaga Mountains and the Marín Stream Ravine (in Archidona).
The reafforestation has particularly favoured this species. Stone pine forests can mainly be found in Marbella, although there are some important groves of them in Teba, Antequera, Ronda, the Tolox, Málaga and Mijas Mountains. Pyrenean pines can be occasionally found at high altitude in the Sierra de Tejeda.
Beside these four species, there are other pine trees, although not as present as the previous ones, such as the Scots pine (P. sylvestris), Monterey pine (P. radiata) and the the Canary Island pine (P. canariensis).
Spanish Fir Forests (Abies pinsapo)
These can be found on northward slopes between 1000 and 1800 MASL on varied kinds of soils and in areas where the rainfall is higher than 1000 mm a year. Today, there are two large woods and several small ones as well as scattered trees in the southwestern part of the province. The largest Spanish fir woods are on chalky soil in the Sierra de las Nieves, and on peridotite rocks in the Sierra Bermeja. There are no Spanish fir forests along the Great Málaga Path, although there are some of these trees beside the path along stage 23, from El Burgo to Ronda, close to Lifa Mountain Pass.
Bushes and Thicket
Large surface of the province is covered in scrubland with shrub and thicket, above all, kermes oak forests (Quercus coccifera), which mainly grows on chalky land, and rockroses (basically on dry acid soils).
Other important kinds of vegetation here are the Phoenicean juniper forests, which form dense woods with prickly juniper (J. oxycedrus), European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) and mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus), which can be found on sandy shore, above all, in Marbella, but also in dry areas in chalky mountains, such as Huma and at the source of the River Verde in Istán. There are also juniper forests in high mountains, like at the tops of the Tejeda and Almijara mountains and in the Sierra de la Nieves, where small shrubs Juniperus communis and Juniperus sabina grow.
Riverbank Woods and Thicket
Other kinds of vegetation are those that live around rivers (in riparian areas), although they cover smaller surfaces: gallery forests, which grow around rivers and wetland (with genera like Populus, Ulmus, Salix, Fraxinus and Alnus), oleander groves (Nerium oleander) and tamarisk shrubs (Tamarix sp.).
Eucalyptus (Eucaliptus sp.) forests are non-native vegetation which grows around rivers and, occasionally, forms the only forests on the riverbanks and fertile plains that have a great value for nature.
Besides natural vegetation, there is also to mention farmland due to its considerable expanse. According to the kind of crops, this vegetation can be divided in herbaceous and woody plants.
The first group are cereals and leguminous plant on unirrigated land, which cover a large surface in the area of Antequera. Wide areas of woody plants, above all, olive groves, and some vineyards, spread over Antequera Hollow. In the Guadalhorce Valley and La Axarquía, woody plants grow on irrigated land: citrus fruit trees in the former area, and subtropical trees in the latter one.