Iberian Calcareous Mountain Rock and Cliff Communities

As is usually the case calcareous or base-rich rocks support the most abundant floras in Iberia. For example, one of the richest floras of Spain can be found on the Triassic and Jurassic limestone that make up the Serrania de Ronda in southeast Spain. Here the rocks and cliffs support a great variety of endemic species such as Linaria platycalyx (Scrophulariaceae), Narcissus rupicola subsp. pedunculatus (Amaryllidaceae), Ornithogalum reverchonii (Liliaceae), Omphalodes brassicifolia (Boraginaceae), Ptilostemon hispanicus, Senecio minutus (Asteraceae), Saxifraga boissieri and Saxifraga haenseleri (Saxifragaceae). Senecio minutus occurs on the summit ridge of El Pinar one of the heighest points on the range at 1654m.

Further east on the limestone terrain of the Sierra Tejeda and Sierra de Almijara, the south facing slopes, in particular are again rich in endemic species such as Echium albicans (Boraginaceae), Lavendula lanata (Lamiaceae), Linaria amoi (Scrophulariaceae) and Silene psammitis (Caryophyllaceae). Moving even further east to the Sierra Nevada, the highest mountain range in southwest Europe, reaching heights of about 3478 m, many more rock-loving endemics are encountered. Several of these, such as Arenaria nevadensis (Caryophyllaceae), Crocus nevadensis (Iridaceae), Eryngium glaciale, Meum nevadense (Apiaceae), Linaria glacialis (Scrophulariaceae), Ranunculus acetosellifolius (Ranunculaceae) and Saxifraga nevadensis (Saxifragaceae) are endemic to this mountain range. Even some of the summits are rich in endemics. Around the summit of Veleta, for example, endemic species such as Arenaria tetraquetra and Silene boryi (Caryophyllaceae), Erigeron frigidus (Asteraceae), Linaria aeruginea var. nevadensis (Scrophulariaceae), Lotus glareosus (Fabaceae), Plantago nivalis (Plantaginaceae) are common. These mountains also have magnificent scree slopes some of which are composed of slate and can be dark, forbidding looking places, but despite their barren appearance, they support a variety of interesting plants. Some of the endemic species of these scree slopes include Artemisia granatensis and Senecio boisseri (Asteraceae), Dianthus subacaulis subsp. brachyanthos (Caryophyllaceae) and Sempervivum nevadense (Crassulaceae).

One of the more interesting endemic plants found, for example, in the Sierra de Cazorla is the Tertiary relict Viola cazorlensis (Violaceae), but this is just one of many other endemic species found in these mountains. Again calcareous rocks predominate including Jurassic and Cretaceous limestones. Other endemics species of these rocky terrains include Campanula specularioides (Campanulaceae), Centaurea granatensis (Asteraceae), Cleonia lusitanica (Capparidaceae), Narcissus hedraeanthu, N. longispathus (Amaryllidaceae) and Linaria lilacina (Scrophulariaceae), and on some of the summit screes the endemic Pterocephalus spathularis (Dipsacaceae) forms extensive patches.  The Sierra Morena (Dark Mountains) is predominantly composed of slate and grewacke and is therefore likely to be less calcareous than some of the other sierras. Despite this the steep rocky slopes are again rich in endemic taxa such as Bufonia willkommiana, Dianthus crassipes and D. lusitanus (Caryophyllaceae), Digitalis purpureus subsp. mariana (Scrophulariaceae), Jasione crispa subsp. mariana (Campanulaceae) and Sideritis lacaitae (Lamiaceae).


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