Spotlight on Maltese Endemic Flora
Spotlight on Maltese Endemic Flora
Malta might be regarded as a tiny island in the heart of the Mediterranean with little to no biodiversity, but it is home to a diverse and unique range of endemic flora. These plants, found nowhere else in the world, have adapted to the island’s harsh climate and rocky terrain, creating a unique and beautiful landscape that is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of nature.
Maltese Rock-Centaury (Cheirolophus crassifolius)
One of the most striking examples of Maltese endemic flora is the Maltese Rock-Centaury (Cheirolophus crassifolius) or Widnet il-Baħar, a low-growing herbaceous perennial from the Daisy family, which was declared Malta’s national plant in 1971. It produces beautiful pink-purple flowers that bloom in the summer, attracting a variety of pollinators. This plant is a survivor, growing in the harsh rocky terrain of the Maltese islands, where it must endure strong winds, salt spray, and extreme temperatures. It grows as a shrub up to 50 cm tall, with spatula-shaped leaves that are generally smooth. The flowering period takes place between Mai and Juli. The Maltese Rock-Centaury is a symbol of resilience, and its bright flowers are a reminder of the beauty that can be found in the most unlikely of places. Due to its limited distribution and vulnerability to habitat destruction, the Maltese Rock-Centaury is considered a critically endangered species and is protected under Maltese law.
Maltese Sea Lavender (Limonium melitense)
The Maltese Sea Lavender (Limonium melitense) is a hardy, salt-tolerant species that grows in the rocky coastal areas of Malta and Gozo. Its delicate lilac flowers bloom in the summer months, creating a beautiful contrast against the rugged coastal landscape. Sea lavender is an excellent choice for gardeners looking to generate vibrant, long-lasting colours in hot or dry areas. The Maltese Sea Lavender is a testament to the adaptability of nature.
Maltese Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)
The Maltese islands are also home to a range of endemic orchids, including the Maltese Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and the Maltese Spider Orchid (Ophrys melitensis). These delicate and intricate flowers bloom in the spring months, adding a splash of colour to the island’s rocky terrain. The Maltese Pyramidal Orchid is particularly striking, with its pyramid-shaped flower spikes that can grow up to 50 centimetres tall. It’s characterised by its ornate flowers, which resemble a spider and are pollinated by male insects who are deceived by their scent and appearance.
Sea Squill (Drimia pancration)
One of the rarest species found on the Maltese islands is the Sea Squill, ‘għansar’ in Maltese (Drimia pancration). It is a bulbous plant that typically grows in rocky areas and sandy soils along the coast. From the bulb emerges a tall, thick stem that can grow up to one meter in height. The stem is topped with a large inflorescence, which consists of a cluster of small, fragrant, white or pinkish flowers that bloom in the late summer or early autumn. As with many other plant species, Sea Squill is also threatened by habitat loss and over-collection, and its populations have declined in some areas. The Maltese Islands’ Squill is a reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting these unique and fragile species for future generations. This particular plant may be referred to as subendemic, as there is a rather extensive range in the central Mediterranean.
The Maltese endemic flora is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of nature and a reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our natural world. These plants, found nowhere else in the world, are a unique and beautiful part of the Maltese landscape, and a symbol of the island’s rich cultural and environmental heritage.