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Laurissilva of Madeira: An In-Depth Look

Discovering the Laurissilva of Madeira Island

The Laurissilva of Madeira Island is a unique botanical relic, with origins dating back around 20 million years. At that time, this forest covered a vast area in southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Due to various glaciations in Europe at the beginning of the Quaternary period, the “laurisilva” disappeared from much of Europe.

Walking on a Levada in Laurissilva of Madeira
Walking on a Levada inside Laurissilva

Furthermore, the term “Laurisilva” comes from two Latin words: Laurus (Laurel) and Silva (Forest). In fact, this forest has been classified by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage site since 1999.

Today, the Laurisilva Forest can be found in the region commonly known as “Macaronesia”; including the archipelagos of the Azores, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, and Madeira Island. However, the Laurissilva of Madeira Island is the best-preserved forest among them. Subsequently, this unique forest maintains about 85% humidity levels; producing abundant water sources used by the people of Madeira for drinking, irrigation, and generating clean electricity for the entire island.

The Laurisilva Forest of Madeira

The Laurisilva of Madeira Island can be found today on the northern coast at an altitude of 300-1300 meters and along the southern coast at an altitude of 700-1200 meters. Therefore, this marvelous forest is home to numerous trees belonging to the Lauraceae family, such as the Laurel, Lily of the Valley tree, Persea indica, and the Madeira Mahogany.

Laurissilva Forest

Flora and Fauna

One of the notable fauna in the Laurisilva is the Trocaz pigeon, an endemic species found only in Madeira Island. Subsequently, this bird is closely associated with the Laurissilva forest and is limited to areas of native forest in mountainous north-facing regions and a few isolated sites on south-facing slopes. In the same way, other birds, such as the Madeiran Firecrest (the smallest bird on the island and one of the smallest in Europe) and the colorful Chaffinch, also inhabit the Laurissilva of Madeira.

Madeiran Chaffinch

Curiosities About the Laurissilva of Madeira Island

  • Extensive Coverage: The Laurissilva of Madeira covers 20% of the island (15,000 hectares), most of which is part of the protected Madeira Natural Park.
  • Fern Species: Madeira Island hosts about 70 species of fern, with the common Bracken strongly represented and the much rarer Kidneyleaved Fern also present.
  • Rainfall Requirement: Laurel forests thrive in wet locations and need a moderate amount of rainfall, about 1500 mm a year, to survive.
  • Levada Walks: The best way to explore the Laurel forest is by visiting one of the famous Madeira Levada walks. Undoubtedly, these untouched experiences, full of evergreens, waterfalls, lakes, and streams, take us back thousands of years.
  • Endemic Plants: About 149 of the 760 plant species growing wild in Madeira are endemic, meaning they grow only on Madeira and nowhere else in the world.
  • Spectacular Views: The “Levada do Caldeirão Verde” and “Levada do Rei” in the northern part of Madeira Island provide spectacular views of the Laurel forest.
  • Madeira Orchid: One of the most beautiful plants found in the Laurisilva forest is the Madeira Orchid (Dactylorhiza foliosa). Yes, Madeira has its own orchid!

Exploring the Laurissilva of Madeira

The Laurissilva of Madeira offers a captivating glimpse into an ancient and verdant world. Its lush greenery, diverse flora, and unique fauna make it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. Whether you’re hiking along the levadas, admiring the towering trees, or spotting the colorful birdlife, the Laurissilva forest is a testament to Madeira’s rich natural heritage. With this in mind, come and explore this incredible forest, and step back into a time when laurel forests covered much of Europe.

Hello,

My name is Jhonathan Rodrigues, and I have been successfully operating my travel business on Madeira Island for the past 15 years. Originally from Venezuela, I quickly developed a deep affection and fall in love for Madeira Island. 

At Madeira Adventure Kingdom, our mission is to showcase the finest experiences Madeira has to offer. I look forward to providing you with an exceptional journey. Enjoy your adventure with us!

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