• The geological substratum and reliefs The geological substratum and reliefs

    The geological materials that compose the Tramuntana area cover a period spanning the end of the Palaeozoic Era (Carboniferous Period) and the lower Miocene, that is to say a period of time of between 240 and 15 million years. In general, the mountain range is made up of sedimentary rocks, predominantly Jurassic limestone (Secondary era), which give rise to [...]

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NATURAL LANDSCAPE

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Flora

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Climatic factors as a whole and the predominantly limy nature of the island´s soil condition the distribution of vegetation in the Tramuntana area and the altitude of plant communities. Their varied vegetation responds fundamentally to their climactic differences, since the higher parts are cold, windy and wet, whilst the lower parts are drier and warmer. In general terms the mountain range has four main plant communities:

  1. Firstly Balearic holm-oak woods (Cyclamini-Quercetum illicis): This is the wooded climax community that would occupy the greater part of the area had there been no human intervention. In the Tramuntana area, the location of these woods has been drastically reduced, due not only to the historic creation of farmland reclaimed from the woods, but also to the continued action of tree-felling and other forestry activities. There are two sub-groups of holm-oak woods: mountain woodland (Cyclamini-Quercetum illicis Pteridio rhamnesotum), and lowland and coastal woods (Cyclamini-Quercetum illicis tipicum). Currently the presence of holm oaks in the mountain range is confined to areas where the trees were used instead of being ploughed up, and consequently a large number of traditional features used as infrastructure in forestry work have been preserved there. These include charcoal-burning pits, limekilns, paths, and huts for hunting, all of which evoke the anthropic pressure the forest must have been subject to until the second half of the 20th century. This is due mainly to the fact that it was the main source of fuel – in the form of firewood and charcoal – for the island´s population. Apart from holm oaks themselves (Quercus ilex), the most representative species in holm-oak communities are the endemic Cyclamen balearicum, Rhamnus ludovici-salvatoris, Smilax aspera var. balearica and Rubia balearica.
  2. Wild-olive scrubland (Oleo-Ceratonion ass. Cneoro-ceratonietum) bears a high similarity to the Provençal macchia found on the European continent. This plant formation is typical of warm regions and it can mainly be found at lower altitudes of the Tramuntana area, where very dry conditions do not allow holm-oak woods to grow properly. These are areas with annual rainfall rates below 500 and 600 mm. Its capacity for colonization has enabled it to invade places formerly occupied by holm-oak woods after they were ploughed up. The wild olives (Olea europaea var. sylvestris) typical of this community are precisely those that have given rise to the expansion of genuine olive trees, that is their agricultural counterparts, the reproduction of which is achieved through grafting. The origins of the olive-tree grafting technique on Mallorca have been related to contact between the local Talayotic population and Punic-Ibizan merchants. As well as the wild olive mentioned above, other flora in this community includes an abundance of mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), and other species such as Cneorum tricoccon, Asparagus horridus, Asparagus albus, Clematis cirrhosa, Arisarum vulgare, Arum italicum, Rubia peregrina, Ephedra fragilis, Euphorbia dendroides and Calicotome spinosa.
  3. 3. Calcicole shrubland (Rosmarino-Ericion) includes two characteristic shrubs: rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Mediterranean heather (Erica multiflora). Its geographical distribution is not as widespread as that of wild-olive scrubland, and it is found in both coastal and mountainous areas. The association Loto tetraphylli-Ericetum multiflorae is found precisely in mountainous areas, optimally at an altitude of around 500 m, where there is a high percentage of Mauritanian vine-reed (Ampelodesmos mauritanica) and heather. The interesting native species Lotus tetraphyllus is also present. On steeper slopes, where percolation due to heavy rain reduces the limy nature of the soil, species with silicicole affinities appear, such as the thorny broom Calicotome spinosa (argelaga). Both in the case of this scrubland and Oleo-Ceratonion, the presence of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) cover has been recorded, a cosmopolitan Mediterranean species of no phytosociological significance. Whilst not considered an association per se, pine woods form their own entity on the Balearic Islands and are actually the most extensive tree formation found on them, due to their rapid growth rate and opportunism, since pine trees quickly colonize altered wooded areas. Both this community and that of wild-olive shrubland are the first to colonize abandoned olive groves in the Tramuntana Mountains, the most significant sign of which is precisely the advance of pine trees on mountain slopes that were formerly farmed.
  4. 4. Communities in the highest Balearic vegetation belt are those found near summits and mountain crags, grouped under the alliance Hypericion Balearici, which grows particularly on terrain where the strength of the wind or absence of soil – often caused by anthropic pressure exercised by years of livestock grazing – prevents the growth of other communities. These determining factors can occur at any altitude of the Tramuntana Mountains, but the current presence of Hypericion Balearici occurs above all in the highest sections of the mountains. It consists of a very low formation of compact bushes and thorny plants with rounded forms – cushion-type plants – with a discontinuous incidence and reduced surface cover. The specific composition of this community is highly original due to the profusion of native species, which account for 35% of its composition and up to more than 60% of its cover. They include Hypericum balearicum, which gives its name to the plant community, and the aforementioned thorny cushion plants Teucrium marum subsp. occidentale, Astragalus balearicus, Smilax aspera sups. Balearica or species typical of rocky walls, such as the shrubby horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis balearica.