29 Mar 2016 4824 47PortoBay Hotels & Resorts
The forests have over 85% humidity levels, with constant mists and fogs hanging over them, producing abundant sources of water used for drinking, irrigation and creating electricity for the whole island.
Laurissilva Forest: Natural World Heritage !!
Madeira has a unique botanical relic, a forest that covers twenty percent of the island and was classified by Unesco as a Natural World Heritage site in 1999. Spread across 15,000 hectares, most of which is part of the protected Madeira Natural Park, one sees trees dating back thousands of years. Called laurissilva, the latin term laurus for laurel and silva for forest, the earliest of these forests date back twenty million years to Continental Europe where they became extinct during the ice age in the Quaternary Period. These laurel forests are found today only in the region known as Macaronesia which includes the Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands and Cape Verde, but it is in Madeira that the largest and the best-preserved forests exist.
The laurissilva, which used to cover most of the island, can now be found on the northern coast at an altitude of 300-1300 meters, especially well preserved in the deep valleys of Caldeirão Verde, Caldeirão do Inferno and Fajã da Nogueira. Along the southern coast, the forest reaches from 700-1200 meters and the remaining clusters are in Madalena do Mar, Ribeira de Santa Luzia and Funduras in Machico.
The forests are home to numerous trees belonging to the Lauraceae family such as the laurel, Laurus azorica, Madeira laurel, Ocotea foetens, Canary laurel, Apollonias barbujana, Madeira mahogany, Persea indica and the was myrtle, Myrica faia. Other trees include the lily-of-the-valley tree, Clethra arborea, the picconia, Picconia excelsia and the rare Madeira cheesewood, Pittosporum coriaceum.
The Madeira laurel pigeon, Columba trocaz, exists only there. This pigeon feeds on fruits from the forest and total about 7000. They can be recognized by their white striped tail feathers. The Madeiran firecrest, Regulus ignicapillus madeirensis, the smallest bird on the island and the chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs madeirensis, also live here.
The levada cannals allow one to reach deep into the remote glistening rocks. Take us back thousands of years . ..
Text from "Madeira, The Book”, Cristina Leitão