Wild flowers in Puglia

Last weekend we drove south to spend the weekend in Puglia, on the Gargano peninsula to be exact.  The sea was amazingly blue and it was so hot, the water was where I wanted to be.  On the map the Gargano is the spur on the boot of the Italian peninsula.  It is mostly a National Park and I’ve been told that in spring there are more varieties of orchids found here than anywhere else in Italy, some that are only found here.

While driving to visit some of the different towns we often stopped the car to enjoy the stunning views.  By the roadside were wild flowers that could obviously cope with the difficult conditions.

Right by the road I spotted this root;

Knurled and twisted root

what could it be?  The root of a tree? Cistus?

Following the roots to some green leaves…

the plant was much smaller than I had imagined it would be.

with the foliage and also a few flowers it was easy to identify as a Thyme, certainly the most tenacious thyme I have encountered.

At another stop I saw these beautiful flowers.

They also grow on cliffs, seemingly not to need and soil at all to survive.

From the buds that you can see, can you guess what plant it is?

Here’s a further clue.  We eat them in bud and in the fruit stage……

Here are all the stages; bud, flower and fruit

Did you guess? Yes, that’s correct.  This is the caper plant (Capparis spinosa).

The buds are picked and then either conserved in brine or under salt with no liquid which is the way I prefer to buy them as they have a more intense flavour, great on Pizza or in Spaghetti alla Putanesca.  The fruits (also conserved in brine) are often served along with olives for aperitivi.

I’ve tried to grow it in the garden but for a plant that seems to need so little to grow, it is very choosy and it is very difficult to encourage it to grow in a garden setting.

20 thoughts on “Wild flowers in Puglia

  1. What an amazing stem / root to the thyme, I suppose with clipping we never see ours growing like that and we tend to take cuttings when they start to get woody. Can remember walking in the mountains on Mediterranean holidays and the perfume around us all the time was of thyme and marjoram – wonderful!

    • Yes they look like Lonicera caprifolia; which means leaves that look like caper leaves. These Latin names always mean something quite simple when you can break it down. Christina

    • Visit in spring and you might see the orchids. There are two airports with low cost airlines, so its not difficult to get there. Prabably as quick for you as for me; for us it’s a long drive south! C

  2. I’ve always wanted to visit Puglia. It looks a beautiful, fascinating place and those trulli houses give the area a real sense of place. Thanks for feeding my wildflower obsession. I’m not content with British wildflowers!

  3. What a nice trip! I have always wondered where capers came from… and am glad to know. And I see it relation to the honeysuckle. Very interesting.

    I am sorry it is so miserable hot at your place! I look forward to seeing your flowers too when they re-awake for the autumn. Do I remember your summer dormancy not lasting as long last year because of the extra rain?

    • Yes, last year late August was slightly cooler and we had some rain, I don’t think it will happen this year. I am enjoying all the virtual gardens instead. Christina

  4. Hi Christina, I am in Amalfi (May 2013 in the rain!) and have been struggling to identify a wildflower that seemingly grows out of the rocks here. I had exhausted all contacts and have trawled though lots of Italian websites looking for clues, then thought of you and have logged on to find a contact address for you to ask for help. I am delighted to discover your wild flower post! Yes, thank you so much, it is Capparis spinosa.

    • I’m glad it was helpful. Sorry the weather is so bad this year, but it probably means that there are more wild flowers for you to see. Try to visit Ischia, there are two great gardens to see. Christina

  5. Time is not on our side for Ischia, we will have to come back! You are very lucky to live in such a beautiful country. We are planning to visit Ninfa though which I am very excited about.

    • You’ll love Ninfa, it is wonderful. I imagine the roses will be over by now, there is a very particular microclimate that means they flower very early, though with the cold weather this year, you might just be in luck. ENJOY! Christina

  6. Pingback: Italian Wildflowers – Capparis spinosa | Gardening Jules

  7. Hello Christina, I was just doing a little research because we are thinking of going to the Gargano peninsula in April ir May and I found this post from before I starred blogging. How lovely to find your description, it sounds wonderful. I am keen to go to see the amazing variety of orchids.

    • I guided for the Mediterranean Plant and Garden society last month. They are planning a trip to Argentario with a local guide to look at wild flowers in early May. Membership fee is £10 per year and they organize trips at cost price. You might be interested in joining, look them up. If not the Gargano should be perfect at that time of year. Richard wants to go bird watching in late December which I’m much less keen about as there won’t be any flowers at that time!

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