Thursday, April 11, 2013

Flowers in March in the Cantabrian Mountains, Part 1


The end of winter in Asturias: flowers already blooming in the Cantabrian Mountains.

In march we managed to escape a few days to Asturias to enjoy its softer sea-climate, where we found many blooming plants. We were able to photograph at least 40 different species of which some are really common and others quiet rare. A small collection of flowers we found is shown in this post, while the others will be adressed in following posts.


While we descended the cold and snowy mountain pass in search of the relative warmth of Asturias, suddenly the first flowers appeared along the roadside. It was the early flowering primrose (Primula vulgaris), which English name means "first rose", although it´s not a rose at all.

Compared to the other primroses, the Primula vulgaris has a relatively short stem. The five petals are of a pale yellow colour with a dark yellow center and there is only one flower per stem.

Also the cowslip (Primula veris) was already present. This plant has longer stalks than its cousin the primrose and its flowers are dark yellow. This species is very common in the southern part of the Cantabrian Mountains, but in March they are certainly not yet in bloom.

Some of the natural connections between the northern and the southern Cantabrian Mountains consist of enormous gorges. To travel from Riaño to Cangas de Onis you have to descend through 20 km long canyon of the "Desfiladero los Beyos", with its over a 1000 meter high cliffs. Near the end of this gorge the roadsides were filled with flowers, among others addersmeat (Stellaria holostea) which can be confused with mouse-ear chickweed.

Also the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) didn´t lack in this wealth of flowers, in the photo they are right between some addersmeat.

The dandelion is one of the few flowers which had already been spotted in the province of León, on the southern part of the Cantabrian Mountains.

The stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) is a flowering plant in the buttercup family. The flower consists only of green sepals, sometimes with a purple/red/brownish edge. The plant has a stem with leaves, in contrast to the somewhat similar green hellebore. It is very noticeable that the plant is poisonous, because in heavily grazed pastures it towers above the short grass.

The sepals form together a spherical and almost closed flower, much in contrast which the green hellebore (see following photos). The stinking hellebore doesn´t really stink, only a little when the leaves are crushed.

The green hellebore (Helleborus viridis), which also belongs to he buttercup family, is possibly only native to the Pyrenees and the cantabrian Mountains. It has also leaves coming from the ground (the photo shows 2 leaves at the bottom right) and the flowers open much further than those of the stinking hellebore.

Detail of the wide open flower of the green hellebore. There are lots of stamens.

The wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is another plant in the buttercup family. It consists of a stem with three leaves and on top a white flower. Because they also increase by means of rhizomes they often grow in dense clusters, although here this was not the case.

The tuberous comfrey (Symphytum tuberosum) belongs to the Boraginaceae family. It has a beneficial effect on the healing of wounds, which is likely due to the substance allantoin. Internal consumption is discouraged because of possible liver damage.

Detail of the flower of the tuberous comfrey. The style is reaching out of the flower.

The Latin name for daisy is Bellis perennis, which means "remaining beauty". This is a very common flower that is especially frequent on grassland tamped by cattle.

When the flower is closed, due to bad weather or in the mornibg, then the white/pink/reddish colour of the underside of the petals is good visible.

The Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) grows often in (scattered) groups because the seeds are too heavy to spread very far.

Detail of the Spanish bluebell.

Also the rapeseed (Brassica napus) was already in full bloom, especially along roads and trails. Rapeseed oil can be extracted from the seeds and it is actually the third largest source of vegetable oil in the world.

Detail of the flower of the rapeseed.


  1. Came to see the bluebell you posted on Google and found a flower i have never seen before, the hellebore. Very nice!

  2. Hello Lori, I´m glad you liked it.There are so many beautiful plants we don´t know about.

  3. Love the pictures - and Cantabria.