When we think about the hills of Sardinia, we always imagine them covered in bushes, shrubs and evergreen trees. This is the Mediterranean scrub.
Refuge of wild animals, protector of hydrogeological balance and also a source of amulets, the Sardinian Mediterranean scrub is a fascinating world.
“Mediterranean scrub” (maquis or macchia), refers to an ecosystem typical of the Mediterranean basin that includes shrubs and trees of medium height, with evergreen, small, leathery and shiny leaves. This is the vegetation of Sardinia. A vegetation which development has been influenced by the presence of the sea, by the climate with mild winters and dry summers, and also by isolation. In fact, in Sardinia there are plant species that cannot be found elsewhere, but also species with reduced dimensions compared to those on the continent.
In this regard, scholars affirm that there are 2700 native plant species in Sardinia, placing the region in second place in Italy for the largest number of species. Furthermore, Sardinia shares some of these endemisms with Sicily, but also with Corsica, the Balearics and other areas of the western Mediterranean. This is due to the fact that until just under 30 million years ago the island was part of the European continent. Subsequently, it broke away, moving 400 km further south and rotating 90 degrees.
Different forms of Mediterranean scrub
At first glance, one might think that the Mediterranean scrub is a homogeneous element.
Instead, it includes:
- higher plants with an arboreal appearance, which do not exceed 4 m in height. The most representative species are Holm oak, Cork, Strawberry tree, Fillirea, Wild Olive, Lentisk, Juniper;
- lower plants, usually shrubby or bushy plants, between 50-80 cm and 2 m in height. Some examples are Euphorbia, Broom, Cistus, Rosemary, Myrtle.
Moreover, Sardinia has a varied landscape, due to the internal geographical features and the presence of human activities. This means that, while visiting the island you will notice differences in the vegetation depending on whether you are along the coast or in the hills, in grazing areas or in cities.
Typical plants of Sardinia
The Mediterranean scrub in Sardinia includes numerous trees, shrubs and herbs, such as:
Holm oak, Cork, Downy oak, Chestnut, Aleppo Pine and House Pine, Walnut, Strawberry Tree, Carob, Myrtle, Juniper, Broom, Lentisk, Viburnum, Wild Olive, Fillirea, Erica, Lavender, Wild Fennel, Helichrysum, Borage, Hypericum, Thyme, Cistus, Euphorbia, Rosemary, Oleander.
Among the endemic plant species of Sardinia are:
Anchusa crispa, various types of Aquilegia, Centaurea horrida, Mount Etna Broom, Lamyropsis microcephala, Oenanthe crocata, the Pompìa variety of lemon, Ribes Sardoum or Sardinian currant, Salvia desoleana.
The fauna of the Mediterranean scrub
In Sardinia the vegetation of the Mediterranean scrub gives shelter to a great variety of animals. In addition to the numerous bird species, it is worth mentioning mammals such as weasels, foxes, wild cats, wild rabbits, but also wild boar, mouflon and deer. The latter was slowly saved from extinction thanks to the creation of the WWF Oasis of Monte Arcosu in the 1980s.
Colors, scents and magic: the power of Sardinian plants
Exploring the natural heritage of Sardinia is a multi-sensorial experience, especially during the flowering season. In fact, it is during this period that the island turns into a riot of colors and fragrances. Wherever you go, plants and shrubs of the Mediterranean scrub show flowers of all shapes and shades. At the same time, the wind moves herbs and bushes that release aromas in air.
We can find some of these aromas in the typical cuisine, but also in cosmetic and medicine products. After all, the inhabitants of Sardinia are the first to recognize the healing properties of herbs. And not only! They use plants also as talismans against diseases and the evil eye.
An example of talisman are the Pungas. These are squares of fabric in which people put coins, Witten prayers, but also seeds, herbs and flowers. In the past Sardinian people used the Pungas to protect themselves from firearms or stabbings, damage to livestock or crops. Now they usually give them to women to protect them from abortions, infertility or spells.
Another example are the Herbs of St. John. Those who believe in their magical power follow a specific ritual, collecting them exclusively around June 24, the feast of St. John, at dawn or at the end of the afternoon after observing fasting and making sure not to bring negative feelings with them. This si an experience that, beyond the esoteric aspects, represents a true immersion in Sardinian nature and culture.
Do you want to live a holiday to discover the nature of Sardinia? Book a stay at Palazzo Doglio, Cagliari.