In this relatively small area of southern Spain there is an enormous diversity of wild flowers. From March through to late June fields of red, yellow, purple and white flowers can be seen before the searing summer heat gradually changes the landscape. The vibrant range of green fields and colourful flowers gives way to glorious earthy hues, ranging from burnt umber, golden yellow and rich iron red to soft muted pink. The sun-parched landscape takes on another type of beauty, no less spectacular, as the extreme heat and bright sunlight act on the colourful soils.

 

On our doorstep here at Cortijo La Solana we are priviliged to have the El Torcal natural park, home to hundreds of different plant species, some of  which are unique and grow only in the reserve. The best known of these is the Linaria Anticaria, a beautiful flower with white petals. Among the other plant species found growing in the area are holm oak, cork oak, rowan, maple, hawthorn, sloe, buckthorn, blackberry, honeysuckle, wild lillies and roses, orchids (more than 30 species growing in the natural park), crocus, peonies, dog rose, pepperwort, ivies, ferns and mosses. On the hillside herbs such as lavender, rosemary, thyme and oregano are abundunt.

Of the wide variety of mammals that can be found in Andalucia many such as the wild boar are very shy or nocturnal and therefore unlikely to be seen. However in our corner of the countryside we regularly spot weasels, hares, foxes, and (on the high slopes of El Torcal) ibex, the wild mountain goat.

 

Much more likely to be seen are the many species of reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and other insects which make the area their home. With over 130 species of butterfly alone, Andalucia is a Lepidopterist's paradise. Many of the butterflies and moths seen in northern Europe have bred down here in Andalucia, and among the most spectacular are the swallowtails, Spanish festoons, cleopatras, speckled wood and the great peacock moth.

Of the many insects, among the most enchanting is the praying mantis. Noisy cicadas, crickets and grasshoppers can be heard everywhere and watching the Dung-beetle push around a piece of goat dung can be most amusing and captivating!

There are many types of amphibian including a variety of frogs, toads and newts. Lizards are widespread, ranging from bright green igaunas up to 1 metre in length down to common wall geckoes. With luck, in a few places you may spot the elusive chameleon.

Up to eight species of snake live in the area, but only one, the Latastes viper, is venomous. The largest is the Montpellier which can grow up to 2 metres in length, but the southern smooth snake and grass snake are the most common.