Native Plants of the Maltese Island

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 Maltese Everlasting   (Sempraviva)

Botanical Name:  Helichrysum melitense     Family: Compositae  Compositae 

This very rare plant is endemic to the Islands of Gozo and Comino and has become very rare in it's natural habitat. Some of these plants can still be found on the northern plains on the island of Gozo 

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Toadflax or Baby Snapdragon    (Papocci)

Botanic Name: Linaria pssuedolaxifora            Family:Scrophulariaceae 

The Maltese Toadflax (Linaria pseudolaxiflora) is the only specie found on the islands. This type of Scrophulariaceae is restricted to the Mediterranean region. 

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Maltese Spider-Orchid  ( Brimba Sewda )

Botanical Name:  Ophrys sphegodes     Family:Orchidaceae 
Subspecie:  melitensis 

One of two species of terrestrial orchids found on the Maltese islands. These small plants grow in grassy plains and are hard to notice before flowering. 

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                         Maltese Rock-Centaury     (Widnet Il-Bahar) 
                                          ( National plant of  Malta)

    Botanical Name:  Palaeocyanus crassifolius    Family: Asteraceć

Also knows as: Maltese Rock-Centuary. Maltese Knapweed or Maltese Centuary
Maltese name known as Widnet il-Bahar or Bjanka ta' l-Irdum   The genus Palaeocyanus, with its only species P. crassifolius, is endemic to the Maltese islands. It is of great scientific importance, as this species probably originated during the Tertiary period (66-1.6 million years ago), and is likely to be related to the ancestors of the genera Centaurea and Serratula. The Czech botanist Dostal created the genus Palaeocyanus in 1975, to accommodate this unique species. 

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Maltese Hyoseris    ( Zigland t'Ghawdex )

Botanical Name:  Hyoseris frutescens      Family:Compositae

A small plant with fleshy evergreen leaves and yellow flowers This plant is common on the island of Gozo while it is getting quite rare in Malta, the larger island. 

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Pyramidal Orchid 

Botanical Name: Anacamptis urvilleana      Family: orchidaceae 

It is known only from Malta Gozo and Comino. So it appears strictly exclusive to the Maltese Archipelago where it can represent an early differentiation of a primitive cytotype. A. urvilleana    adapts well in adverse habitats and particularly in Malta this orchid appears to grow either in grasslands and mature soils and also in the rocky habitats preferred by most Anacamptis.

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Liverwort     ( Hass il-Bir )

Botanical Name:    Petalophyllum ralfsii    Family:   Hepaticae

Mosses and liverworts are lower plants collectively called the bryophytes, many of which are often small, inconspicuous and difficult to identify.  Protected by the Berne's agreement, this tiny but beautiful moss consists of a thickened central midrib usually obscured by delicate folded "wings". The wings are only a single cell thick giving them a delicate, translucent appearance. It is found in moist valleys and wetlands.  It is thought to be perennial with new aerial growth arising each autumn from underground stems which survive the summer. . 

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The Maltese Cliff-Orache   (Bjanka ta' l-Irdum)

Botanical Name: Cremnophyton lanfrancoi       Family:Chenopodiaceae 

The Cliff-Orache is a unique plant endemic to the Maltese islands.   the specie Cremnophyton  ianfrancoi  (Brullo & Pavone) is found growing on high cliffsides both in Malta and in Gozo. 

This plant is actually a large shrub with succulent leaves which usually grows up to 1.5m high in the wild. It is locally rare, and is known to grow in a few coralline limestone cliffs like at Migra Ferha, Ghar Hasan and Fomm ir-Rih in Malta, patchily along the cliffs in the areas between Ta' Cenc and Rdum San Dimitri in Gozo, and on Hagret il-General (Fungus Rock). However, since the shrub grows on such sheer cliffs, the Maltese Cliff-Orache can easily be observed from land only in a few spots such as at Migra Ferha (Rabat, Malta) and Ta' Cenc (Gozo).

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Buzbiez - Fennel

                    Mediterranean Stonecrop      ( Sedum )

Botanical Name: Sedium sediforme       Family:    Crassulaceae

Member of the stonecrop, (Crassulaceae) genus that has over 600 species. Perennial. Fleshy greyish to green leaves, thick, borne in close spiralled rows, flowering greenish-white or yellowish in the beginning of summer. Grows on arid land, especially near sea cliffs. Frequent in Malta.

Buzbiez - Fennel

Buzbiez - Fennel

                        Common Fennel     (Buzbiez )

Botanical Name: Foeniculum vulgaris       Family:    Umbelliferae

Yellow bouquetish flowers, leaves feathery with multiple thread-like lobes. Grows on waysides, ditches, disturbed land, fallow ground and arid land. Widely cultivated as a culinary herb outside Malta, it grows wild on the Maltese Islands and its fruit, oblong, 4-10mm long, is liberally used for seasoning pork in a local dish, patata l-forn. Our elders believed that it conveyed longevity. It helped relieve digestive problems such as indigestion and nausea. Common in Malta.
     Strongly pungent perennial, forming large tufts growing up to 3metres. This plant is culinary and also  medicinal

                  Mediterranean Thyme        (Saghtar) 

Botanical Name: Coridothymus capitatus       Family:  Labiatae

Aromatic shrub, growing up to 50cm. Densely branched with erect or ascending stems. Flowers purplish, borne in clusters. Found on dry hills, heaths and garigue, it was ruthlessly cut at during Yuletide for embellishing cribs. Protected by Maltese law, its pollen helps in the production of the thyme honey, l-ghasel tax-xaghri, popular in the Mgarr and Mellieha region. Flowers between spring and summer. Common in Malta.

Saghtar - Wild Thyme

?????? - Wild Artichokes

              Wild Artichoke     ( Qaqocc tax-Xewk   ) 

Botanical Name: Coridothymus capitatus       Family:  Compositae

Perennial, stout and growing up to one metre. Leaves thick and toothed, edged with yellow spines. Flower heads violet-purple. Found on disturbed land, roadsides, clay and garigue. Grows from Portugal to Eastern Turkey, with the exception of Cyprus. Common in Malta.

?????? - Wild Artichokes

                 Maltese Spurge       ( Tenghud tax-Xaghri ) 

Botanical Name:  Euphorbia melitensis       Family:  Euphorbiaceae

There are over 1600 species in the spurge family, but this is endemic to Malta. Dense shrub, growing up to one metre, with yellowish flowers. Its liquid are irritant, similar to the chemical listed as litmus or girasol. Blossoms mostly in March. Grows in arid ground, where it is nearly dominant. Identified by Italian botanist Parlatore in 1846, it is different from the Euphorbia papillaris that grows on the Egadi Islands. Previously eaten by goats, it is now uprooted by bird trappers. Protected by Maltese law. Frequent.  This endemic plant is protected species in Malta and Gozo.  


Berwieq - branched asphodel

                   Branched Asphodel        ( Berwieq )  

Botanical Name:  Asphodelus aesitus       Family:  Juncaginaceae

Herbaceous perennial from the arrow-grass (Juncaginaceae) family. Grows up to one metre, thickened root, flowers white, 20-30mm, the petals with a pinkish-brown midvein. Found on rocky slopes, it flowers around January. It dominates the Maltese arid ground, areas that were subjected to heavy grazing since the asphodel is unpalatable to livestock. Grows though the Mediterranean region and the Canary Islands.

                            Borage      (  Fidloqqom ) 

Botanical Name:  Borago officinalis       Family:  Boraginaceae

Annual. Rough with many spinescent bristles, basal leaves oval. Flowers bright blue with a whitish centre, 20-25mm, star-shaped. Grows on fallow ground and on arid ground. Highly respected by Maltese elders and used in folk medicine, its flowers, when boiled, helped ease the wintry cough, whereas its boiled leaves, when drunk, helped relieve those with urinary problems. Thus the Maltese adage “Ghax jitfejjaq ma satax, dawwar wiccu ghall-burrax” [borago]. Common in Malta. -  Medicinal  Plant

              Double-Flowered Cape Sorrel      (  Ingliza Sewda ) 

Botanical Name:  Oxalis pes-caprae       Family:   Oxalidaceae

Member of the Oxalidaceae family, originally native of South Africa. Not to be mistaken to the invasive and very frequent Haxixa Ingliza, the Cape Sorrel, it is double-petalled, and yellowish flowers that are at times lined red. Grows on garigue. Frequent.

Zaghfran tal-Blat - Sand Crocus

                       Sand  Crocus      (Zaghfran tal-blat)      

Botanical Name:  Romulea melitensis     Family:    Iridaceae

Bulb growing purplish-lilac flowers with yellow throat, 7-10mm. Found in coastal habitats, bare sandy or grassy, marshy ground. In Malta it grows on garigue. Flowers between February and April. The Zaghfran tal-Blat Malti, the Maltese sand-crocus is endemic to Malta, but is deeper violet, has slender leaves and prefers damp habitats.
   ( endemic -   rare )


Bezzul il-Baqar - Blue Stonecrop

                 Blue Stonecrop       (  Bezzul il-Baqra )

Botanical Name:  Sedum caeruleum      Family:   Crassulaceae

Annual, slightly glandular and hairy in its upper parts, much branched, linear leaves, the plant growing only 6-7mm in height. Tinged with red, petals usually 7, stamens usually 14. Common on rocky strips, especially in arid areas. Ideal terrain are small dried up ponds, which it carpets. Flowers between March and June. Native to Algeria, Tunisia, Malta Corsica, Sicily and Sardinia.

  Gilbiena tas-Serp - Crimson Pea

                    Crimson Pea      (  Gilbiena tas-Serp )

Botanical Name:  Lathyrus clymenum    Family:  Leguminosae-Papilionoideae

Annual. Member of the pea family. Medium to tall, a clambering plant. Flowers crimson or purple-red with violet, 16-20mm. Pod brown, 30-70mm long. Grows on steppe, arable and dry land. Flowers between March and May, in the Western Mediterranean and Madeira, not found in Cyprus and rare in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is common on Malta, especially in Wied Qirda, Wied Incita and Wardija.

                        Crown Daisy     (  Lellux )

Botanical Name: Chrysanthemum coronarium   Family:  Compositaea

An  annual plant,  similar to the corn marigold (Chrysantemum segetum), it is slightly hairier and its dark leaves pinnately-lobed. Flower-heads 30-60mm, it is pale yellow, hence it other Maltese name Zofran, also used in Berber. Grows on cultivated or fallow ground, seashores and dry areas. Suffers indiscriminately with the ‘love-me, love-me not’ (thobbni, ma thobbnix) game. Flowers from December to June. Very common in Malta.

Xewk Abjad - Boar thistle

                   Barbary Iiris     ( Fjurdulis salvagg )

Botanical Name: Gynandriris sisyrinchium   Family:   Liliaceae

Cormous perennial. Usually one-leaved, often deep greened, 5-8mm often wider than the flower stem. Flowers 22-40mm, bluish-lilac, short lived, iris like, solid neck 20-30mm long. Grows on fallow ground, scrub and arid land. Flowering period is from February to May. The short-lived flowers open around midday and close in the evening. Common in Malta.

                      Mediterranean Heather        ( Erika )  

Botanical Name:  Erica multiflora     Family:  Ericaceae

From the 400 species of the Ericaceae family, that are mostly native to South Africa. Others grow in the Azores, this in the Western Mediterranean, from Portugal, North Africa up to Greece. Evergreen shrub, erect or ascending, very branched, rising up to one metre. Its leaves linear, the flowers pinkish, narrow bell-shaped, 5-7mm long, can be seen from November to April. Grows in thickets, rocky slopesand  seaside cliffs, where it is usually the dominant shrub. Frequent in Malta, including Wied il-Ghasel, Wied Babu and l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha. Less frequent in Gozo.

                      Red Campion       ( Lsien l-ghasfur )

Botanical Name:  Silene colorata       Family:   Sileneae
Annual. Leaves linear to oval-spatular shaped, flowers pink, 12-18mm, in lax clusters of 1-4 usually. Grows on fallow ground, roadsides and on arid ground. Flowers between November and June in Malta. Spread through the Mediterranean littoral. Previously named as Silene sericea. Common in Malta.

Xewk Abjad - Boar thistle

                       White Thistle       ( Xewk Abjad )

Botanical Name:  Galactites tomentosa      Family:   Compositaea 

Annual, at times growing to one metre, though often less. Leaves pinnately-lobed, toothed with white veins above. Flower heads on Malta remain white, whereas those on the continent turn to purple and lilac, solitary or in branched clusters. Found on dry ground, fallow land.   Flowers between April and July. Not found in the Eastern Mediterranean. Very Common.