Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Kenneth R. Robertson



The island of Madeira lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 300 miles west of the north African coast. I have been there twice to study some of the really neat plants that are endemic (i.e., found no where else) to the island. Below are a few images from Madeira. It is a great place to visit, and the staff of the Museu Municipal do Funchal were exceptional helpful for my research. The Museu is building a new marine biological research station and a major new aquarium, both near the seashore in Funchal, the capital of Madeira. The island is perhaps best known for its Madeira wine.


  • Plants of the endemic Aeonium glandulosum growing on a cliff
  • Plants of an endemic genus of the rose family (Rosaceae) Chamaemeles coriacea (yellow arrow) growing just below the top of a cliff. This is the plant I went to study, and I found out that they are nearly impossible to reach!
  • The same plants of Chamaemeles coriacea (blue arrow) seen from the top of a cliff. The common name, "Box-of-the-Rocks" or "Buxo da Rocha" is most appropriate, for the shining evergreen leaves are reminiscent of boxwood (Buxus) and the plants occur on the basaltic rock faces and ledges of cliffs and ravine walls. The prickly pear cactus pads are Opuntia tuna, which was introduced to Madeira from Jamaica and is now a real pest
  • The flowers of Chamaemeles coriacea, the leaves are evergreen
  • The endemic Sorbus maderensis, Madeira Mountain Ash
  • Bare, lichen-covered branches of Sorbus maderensis in winter, with the endemic bilberry, Vaccinium padifolium below
  • The genus Musschia (Campanulaceae) is endemic to Madeira and has two species. Musschia aurea, which grows at on sea cliffs at lower elevations. At higher elevations in crevices of rock faces in the laurel forest grows Musschia wollastonii, with its unusual reddish brown flowers.
  • Two members of the carrot family family found in Madeira are unusual in that they have woody stems 1 to 1.5 meters tall. On the left isMonizia edulis, known as the "carrot tree" which is endemic to Madeira. On the right is Melanoselenium decipiens, called "black parsley", which also occurs in the Azore Islands.
  • The Folhado (Lily-of-the-Valley Tree) Clethra arborea is endemic to Madeira and is a frequent in the "Clethra-Laurel" forest found in the central part of the island
  • The shrubby Sow Thistle, Sonchus fruticosus is endemic to Madeira. This photograph was taken in the Botanical Garden in Funchal 
  • Another species of Sow Thistle, Sonchus ustulatus subsp. maderensis is also endemic. This photograph was taken in the botanical gardens in Funchal 
  • The north shore of the island has very steep slopes that plunge down to the sea, and waterfalls are common. The coastal road can be seen along the cliff, and it passes through a tunnel under the waterfall. This photograph was taken near Seixal
  • There are also numerous deep ravines on the north shore
  • Madeira is very mountainous. While only 35 miles long and 13 miles wide, the highest mountain is nearly 6,000 feet (1810 meters) tall, and the interior of the island is very rugged. 
  • Madeira is often called "The Garden Island" because of its numerous beautiful gardens. Here is the garden at the famous Reid's Hotel in Funchal.


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