The County of Vila do Bispo is mainly integrated in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, revealing itself as a rare and genuine natural sanctuary. The low demographic pressure, the diversity of preserved habitats and its favourable climate are factors that lead to the occurrence of a huge number of species of flora exclusive in the Region and in Portugal. It is estimated that there are about 1000 species and subspecies of plants in this region. 40 of them are endemic to Portuguese mainland. Of these, it is estimated that 12 are unique to the Natural Park and 4 are confined to the area of Sagres-Cape Saint Vincent, for example our Gorse-of-Sagres (Ulex erinaceus).
It’s the end – or the beginning – of the world as we know it. North and northeasterly winds blow year-round, molding the scenery that seems poor, dry and deserted.
Walk through it… and a different reality is revealed. You find colour here and there, in the small flowers trying to attract polinatores, and a multitude of greens you were unaware of until you set foot on this landscape. Remarkably, there’s green here year-round, whether it’s wet or dry! Flower season and berry season enable plants to “travel” far afield, breeding and spreading; ensuring the species lives on.
Botanists and landscape gardners come from around the globe in search of one of the most beatiful examples of a Mediterranean garden. Although surrounded by the Atlantic, Sagres is one of the few spots in the world whose vegetation and climate are Mediterranean.
The shortage of water, the shallow soils and the sea salt blown in on the wind forced many species to adapt and change. To survive in these harsh conditions, species that would be trees elsewhere become bushes here. Thus, Cabo de S. Vicente is the place in Portugal with the largest number of endemic plants (plants which can be found nowhere else), hosting a unique biodiversity. Here you’ll find species that exist only in the Iberian Peninsula, in Portugal, in the Sudoeste Alentejano Natural Park, or even only in Sagres.
Many of the plants in this region benefit from birds to spread their seeds. This happens mainly in Autumn, when many species produce attractive berries which several birds feast on. Birds like the Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus), the Northern Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) or the Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) supplement their diet with wild berries and seeds.
One of the plants that bears fruit in Autumn is the mastic tree, whose berries start off red and then turn black. This aromatic species is widely used by humans, for instance to make chewing gum.
At first glance, this region may seem dry and poor in terms of plant-life, but its biodiversity is immense; it houses an incredible variety of plants, birds and insects that depend on each other.