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Plants on our path

When we go for a walk in the countryside we are far from understanding the value of the magnificent plants that live in the soil. Over and beyond their beauty, they can accompany us on our life’s journey, protecting our health and healing the body and mind at times of recuperation.

Each year, more than 2,000 new plants are discovered. They are used in medicine, food, the environment, clothing, biofuels and the making of poisons. At present there are about 5,500 plants used for human consumption. A short four-kilometre walk in the heart of Monchique with the specialist in wild plants Fernanda Botelho and Monchique Passeios na Serra, a company offering guided walks in the surrounding hills, revealed a little more about some of the local flora and its medicinal and culinary uses.

Herb-robert, dandelion, nettle, dock leaves, oregano, flax and clover all live together side by side. They are medicinal herbs, accessible to anyone, to be made into tea, eaten raw, or used in other forms. At a time when doctors recommend blood thinners so much, it is good to know that white willow (because it contains salicylates, the source of salicylic acid, the main compound of Aspirin), Ginkgo Biloba or garlic can also be our allies. Just like plantain or mallow, which “are able to protect the walls of the stomach and intestine because they contain a lot of mucilage”.

The wealth of uses is enormous. The flowers and seeds from white charlock and mustard can be eaten. Nasturtiums, vetches and the flowers of the leafy camellias that you see all over Monchique “are delicious in salads.” Fumitory, for example, is appropriate “for people with diabetes”. The seeds of lupins “are highly recommended for gout or for lowering cholesterol”. And what can we say about mint and its anti-parasitic properties? Or the surprising taste of ferns, the consumption of which should be limited because of the traces of cyanide that they contain?

As we rest beneath the cork oaks, next to a mantle of flowering white flax, Fernanda gazes at our surroundings. “Three months of uninterrupted rain have brought out the most amazing plants that I did not even know existed in Portugal. Seeds can sleep for 10 years in the soil and when they find the ideal conditions, they spring magically from the earth!”.

Montessori and Waldorf educated, Fernanda spent many years in England and learned a lot about plants on various training courses, notably at the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine, but it is from her grandparents that she has learned the oldest teachings. Today, plants are part of her life. “I do not take medicines and I only put on my skin things that I am able to eat,” she says, adding her belief that “sometimes all it takes is a few small steps to change your lifestyle. It is our health which is at stake”

Dicionário botânico de um passeio por Monchique

PERCURSO: Descansa Pernas – Viador – Tanque do Povo – Fonte da Mata Porcas – Mata Porcas – Cerro do Toiro – Bica Boa – Descansa Pernas


• Acácia (Acacia longifolia) – Acacia

• Alecrim (Rosmarinus officinalis) – Rosemary

• Alfavaca-de-cobra (Parietária officinalis) – Wall pellitory

• Alteia (Althaea officinalis) – Mallow

• Amor de hortelão (Galium apparine) – Cleevers

• Arruda (Ruta sp) – Rue

• Aroeira-mansa (Schinus terebinthifolius) – Christmas berry wilelaiki

• Borragem (Borago officinalis) – Borage

• Calêndula silvestre (Calendula arvensis) – Calendula

• Camélia japónica (Camellia japonica) – Japanese camellia

• Capuchinha ou “bico-de-papagaio” (Tropaeolum majus) – Nasturtium

• Carqueja (Pterospartum tridentatum) – Carqueja

• Castanheiro (Castanea sativa) – Chestnut tree

• Celidónia ou Erva-do-Betadine (Chelidonium majus) – Celandine

• Cenoura-brava (Daucus carota) – Wild carrot

• Crisântemo (Chrysanthemum) – Crysanthemum

• Dedaleira (Digitalis purpúrea) – Foxglove

• Dente-de-leão (Taraxacum officinale) – Dandelion

• Eucalipto (Eucalyptus sp) – Eucalyptus

• Erva-cidreira (Melissa oficinallis) – Lemon balm

• Erva-leiteira (Euphorbia helioscopia) – Sun spurge

• Erva-das-sete-sangrias (Glandora próstata)
– Scrambling gromwell

• Erva-de-São Roberto (Geranium robertianum) – Herb-Robert

• Ervilhaca (Vicia sativa) – Vetch

• Esteva (Cistus ladanifer) – Gum cistus

• Feto-comum (Pteridium aquilinum) – Eagle Fern

• Fumária (Fumaria officinalis) – Fumitory


• Gladíolo silvestre ou “calça-de-cuco” (Gladiolus communis) – Cornflag

• Labaça (Rumex sp) – Docks

• Lavanda (Lavandula sp) – Lavender

• Língua-de-ovelha (Plantago lanceolata) – Narrowleaf plantain

• Linho-bravo (Linum bienne Miller) – Pale flax

• Louro (Laurus nobilis) – Bay laurel

• Lupino (Lupinus) – Drew’s Silky Lupine

• Malva silvestre (Malva sylvestris) – High Mallow

• Malvaísco (Althaea officinalis) – Marsh Mallow

• Margarida (Bellis perennis) – Daisy

• Mentrasto (Mentha suaveolens) – Wild mint

• Mostarda (Sinapis alba) – White mustard

• Morrião (Anagallis arvensis) – Pimpernel

• Morugem (Stellaria media) – Chickweed

• Nêveda ou calaminta (Nepeta cataria) – Catnip

• Nogueira-comum (Juglans regia) – Walnut

• Olaia (Cercis siliquastrum) – Judas-tree

• Orégão (Origanum vulgare) – Oregano

• Papoila (Common poppy) – Papaver rhoeas

• Perpétua-das-areias (Helichrysum stoechas) – Curry Plant

• Poejo (Mentha pulegium) – Pennyroyal

• Ranunculus (Ranunculus) – Buttercups

• Rosmaninho (Lavandula) – Wild lavender

• Sabugueiro (Sambucus nigra) – Elder

• Salgueiro-branco (Salix-alba) – White willow

• Salvia (Salvia officinalis) – Common Sage

• Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) – Cotton lavender

• Saramago (Raphanus raphanistrum) – Wild radish

• Silene (Silene niceensis) – Silene

• Silva (Rubus) – Blackberry

• Soagem (Echium plantagineum) – Purple viper’s bugloss

• Sobreiro (Quercus suber) – Cork oak

• Trevo (Trifolium repens) – White clover

• Trovisco (Daphne gnidium) – Spurge flax

• Umbigos de Vénus (Umbelicus rupestres) – Navelwort

• Urtiga (Urtica urens) – Nettle

Dina Adão

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