The Spanish Pyrenees are a paradise for wildflower lovers. If you’ve ever visited the area in the summer, you’ll surely agree. One doesn’t have to go far from civilization to find them, but the greatest bounty is definitely available to those who venture out into the mountains to walk, hike or climb–(mountain biking isn’t an appropriate mode of travel to observe flowers since you’re usually going too fast)!
As a wildflower viewing destination, the area is well-known worldwide. Japan’s Junko Tabei, the first woman to summit Mt. Everest and a lover of wildflowers who has travelled the world’s great mountain ranges, says that she had never seen anything like the rich variety and abundance of flowers as on her visit to the Spanish Pyrenees. Many species are unique and such is the variety (with around 160 endemic species) that the Pyrenees are often referred to as the Flower Garden of Europe. Of all the areas within the range, the Central Pyrenees are where the greatest variety is to be found.
In late May and early June as the snow recedes, elegant pink snowbells and pyrenean buttercups are some of the first to emerge. Swathes of wild daffodils dotted with blue gentians, cowslips, oxslips, burnt tip orchids and carpets of pink and yellow elder-flower orchids. The bright yellows of marsh marigolds and globeflowers can be seen near mountain streams, along with purple large-flowered butterworts, delicate pink birds-eye primroses and a incredible array of moisture loving orchids. In open areas, one can see the feathery Pyrenean asphodel, along with impressive St Bruno, St Bernard and martagon lillies in shadier spots.
Two endemics especially worthy of note are the Ramonda, often in shady crevices; and, the striking Saxifraga longifolia in the limestone rocks and crags both of which are unique to the Pyrenees. In June the rare Lady’s Slipper flowers in certain valleys.
By July two more uniquely Pyrenean species emerge in meadows all over the range: the intense blue flowers and prickly silver leaves of the Pyrenean Blue Thistle and the large, elegant and purple Pyrenean Iris. Great yellow gentians and false helleborines come into flower. Delicate spring squills, cross gentians, dark red helleborine and Edelweiss continue to be present throughout this month.
Even as late as August and September, some flowers are still appearing for the first time such as the prominent blue and yellow monkshoods, the deep purple cups of the autumn crocus, and the stemless Carline Thistle.