Spain is a European country with a varied climate and landscape with a wide variety of stunning trees (and a host of amazing native animals). The following article will explore 11 incredible trees native to Spain.
But first, where is Spain, and what are its island territories?
Where Is Spain?
Mainland Espana is located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian peninsula below France, opposite Italy, and above Africa.
Its territory also includes 11 inhabited islands, which are popular tourist destinations for Europeans.
These 11 islands in the Atlantic Ocean include:
- Gran Canaria
- La Palma
- La Gomera
- El Hierro
You’ll also find the following Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean :
Spain’s mainland and island territories have varied climates, with three main climates across the regions. Spain’s climate is warm and dry, semi-arid (dry, infrequent rain), and oceanic (humid, cool winters). Spain’s climate is more tropical in some areas close to Africa.
These different climates mean lots of amazing trees! Spain has 17,804 million trees and the largest range of plant species in Europe. Experts think 284 million extra trees grow yearly in Spain!
Here are just 11 of the incredible tree species native to Spain.
This evergreen conifer is commonly known as the European silver fir. It’s a tall tree that can top out at 164 feet tall and has a huge straight trunk with white markings, which can be as wide as a whopping six-meter diameter.
It has flat needles and grows in a triangular shape. Sounds familiar? You’ll most likely recognize it because it’s also the tree used for Christmas trees.
Abies alba grows in the mountainous areas of Spain between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. It’s often found in the Pyrenean mountain range, which supports wildlife, including tortrix moth caterpillars.
The carob tree is an evergreen flowering tree in the Fabaceae legume family. It’s a popular tree cultivated for its edible pods and pleasing foliage. It’s one of the incredible trees native to Spain and the Mediterranean, where it prefers to grow in open fields.
This handsome fruiter can reach 50 feet tall, with a rounded crown of eight-inch-long pinnate leaves. It blooms in fall and takes a year to produce the long, dark brown snake-like carob pods.
The pods are used to make flour and gum and are used as an ingredient in animal feed. Carob pods are sometimes called St John’s bread.
This sweet chestnut tree is a common sight across Europe and is often called Spanish chestnut as a nod to its origins.
It’s a deciduous member of the Fagaceae family (its leaves fall off in winter), and its chestnut seeds have long been a food source for humans and mammals.
Sweet chestnut trees can reach 115 feet tall with a seven-foot trunk diameter. Their leaves are serrated and shiny and can reach 24 inches long. Its seed is encased in a spiky padded ball that splits open to reveal a dark brown shiny chestnut in the fall.
In Spain, it’s often found in the north of the peninsula and Gran Canaria or Tenerife. One particularly long-lived Castanea sativa is over 2000 years old. It’s the hundred Horse Chestnut located in Sicily. It has a 59-foot trunk diameter!
Fagus Sylcatica (European beech) is a deciduous tree with a straight trunk and branches that can reach 130 feet high.
Its leaves are green, but they turn rich, crunchy mid-bronze in the fall. In Spain, leaves often remain on the tree all winter, only falling when new growth pushes them off. In spring, dangling catkins emerge, providing essential early nectar for pollinators. The tree also provides beech nuts, which animals eat.
This tree is rare in its native Spain but can be found in the Cantabrian mountain range and the Pyrenees.
The strawberry tree is a popular ornamental and fruiting tree native to Spain and various areas of Europe, including the western coast of Ireland. But don’t be fooled. It doesn’t produce actual strawberries but a similar-looking edible cylindrical-rounded red berry.
Arbutus unedo is found in Spain’s mixed forests and reaches about 22 feet tall. Its leaves are bright green on top but dull beneath, and although it’s native to Spain, it’s considered invasive in the Canary Islands.
Commonly known as Mountain Elm, this gorgeous tree grows in Spain’s Catalan Pyrenees, the Basque Country, Arago, Asturias, and Galicia.
It’s a 130 feet tree with a straight clear trunk, a rounded crown, and dense, drooping green leaves that emerge in early spring. Its flowers are red-purple and grow in small clusters along twigs. They are small but loved by pollinators.
Dutch elm disease has wiped out most mountain elms across Europe. The disease arrived in Spain during the 1980s, and as a result, few of these trees remain. The white-letter streak butterfly, whose caterpillars exclusively ate elm leaves, is also a rare sight.
Efforts are underway to preserve what elm trees remain.
Acer opalus is one of the few maples native to Spain. Although it’s commonly called the Italian maple, this attractive tree is native to many European countries.
It can reach heights of 60 feet with a one-meter diameter gray-pink trunk. It has shiny green palm-shaped leaves that turn a rich shade of orange during fall.
Acer opalus grows on the eastern half of mainland Spain and northern Mallorca, but it’s a very popular ornamental tree grown in gardens too.
This is a fairly small evergreen conifer native to the Mediterranean regions, better known as the Aleppo pine or the Jerusalem pine. It grows in the low altitudes of the eastern peninsula and the Balearic Islands, which have cooler winters and less frequent rainfall.
Pinus halepensis reaches 60-70 feet tall and has a slender trunk that rarely exceeds 24 inches in diameter. It has an unusual and irregular pattern of needles and slim brown cones in the fall and winter.
Aleppo pine is a tough tree important to northern Africa’s timber trade. Due to its beauty, it is often the subject of Paul Cezanne’s paintings.
Nerium oleander is considered native to Spain, but experts aren’t entirely sure, so it’s classified as native to the Mediterranean basin.
Oleander grows in stream beds to soak up winter rainfall to cope with summer drought. It’s a beautiful tree with large, fragrant pink, white, or red flowers that bloom in summer with long pale green foliage on gray-brown peeling bark. If you’ve visited Spain, you’ll have seen oleander growing in cultivated parks because it’s very popular.
Historically, oleander bark was considered an antidote to snake bites, but oleander is toxic to humans.
This common tree is native to Spain (and most of Europe). It’s considered a living fossil because it belongs to a group of trees established during the Jurassic era 140 million years ago.
These evergreen trees grow to 65 feet tall and have a four-meter diameter trunk. It’s a tree that can survive hundreds of years and is often planted in European cemeteries. In its native Spain, it grows 2600 feet above sea level in the mountainous northern peninsula and into Mallorca.
Lastly, let’s not forget about native Spanish olive trees!
Olea europaea is the European olive tree. It’s an evergreen squat tree that reaches a maximum of 50 feet in height but less than half that height in cultivation. It has white feathery flowers that grow on old wood and mature into small green drupe fruits that we know as delicious olives.
European olive trees have been cultivated for their fruits and oils since Roman times. They like limestone fields and coastal climates, preferring quite poor soil and hot, dry weather. They are particularly drought resistant and can live for centuries.
Some olive groves in northeastern Spain are considered over 2,000 years old; that’s as old as Julius Caesar!
- Animals in Spain
- The Flag of Spain: History, Meaning and Symbolism
- Imperial Eagle: National Bird of Spain
The photo featured at the top of this post is © jessicahyde/Shutterstock.com
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- Climate Change Post, Available here: https://www.climatechangepost.com/spain/biodiversity/
- Legislación consolidada, Available here: https://www.boe.es/eli/es/rd/2013/08/02/630/con
- National Galleries Scotland, Available here: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/17490