An island of flowers – Part 4: Madeira Botanical garden

Reached by a short drive from the centre of Funchal, the Jardim Botanico, located 300m above sea level is a relatively recent botanic garden (opened in 1960), but full of surprises. We start our visit by the spectacular Succulents zone, with the orange flower heads of Aloe striata and red ones of Aloe plicatilis :


As everywhere in Madeira, there are fantastic views of the sea, this time through the tall stems of true cacti (Cactaceae – Cereus peruvianus for example) and false cacti (such as Euphorbia ingens):


The succulent garden features numerous South-African groundcovers such as the  daisy-like Glottiphyllum depressum or the prostrate and vicious-looking Euphorbia grandicornis.

Glottiphyllum fragransEuphorbia grandicornis

Going down from the succulent garden, we find a palheira (traditional triangular-shaped Madeiran cottage), surrounded by frangipani trees:


The next garden is a assemblage of elaborate topiary shapes,  reminding the visitor of famous Italian gardens. Note also the primitive conifer Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island Pine) in the foreground – they are everywhere on Madeira:


There’s also an impressive collection of cycads:


Going back up the slope on the other side of the garden, there’s a display of agricultural plants that can be grown on Madeira, from mulberries and olives to mangoes and avocados:


Possibly the most famous view of Madeira’s botanical garden is the red and green floral carpet offering a panorama of the South Coast of Madeira:


Of course, it is still a botanic garden, with many interesting plants to discover. Two purple ones here: the Central American borage relative Wigandia caracasana and the African Ginger Bush Tetradenia riparia:

Wigandia close-up


For those interested in science, the garden has a tiny natural history museum, with impressive displays of fossil wood found on the island (trunks of Erica platycodon subsp. maderincola and Apollonias barbujana) and herbarium specimens (a pretty one of the Canary Islands endemic fern Asplenium aureum):


Nested on one edge of the garden, the “Lover’s cave” provides shade and shelter, as well as offering yet another great view over Funchal:


And I can only conclude with a picture of the emblematic Madeira Cranesbill (Geranium maderense), a plant which is Critically Endangered in the wild according to the IUCN (because of Madeira’s intensive urbanisation), but very popular with gardeners, even in the UK:

Geranium maderense


Next time, a very different place, the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens


  1. It never occurred to me that G maderense might be rare in the wild, it sheds so much seed! A truly lovely plant – but that Euphorbia looked interesting.

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