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Nº 136 – The 200 Plants of Portugal’s Southwestern Coast.

Saturday the 15th of October 2022.

Today I would like to tell you about a book that is well worth reading, published in both Portuguese and English. This is in fact a publication that remains very topical today. The two authors offer up the 200 most important plants forming part of the natural world of Portugal‘s southwestern coast, so readers can get to know them, and have left this work for all eternity. Comprising 256 pages, this book forms an indispensable part of a sustainable life. It‘s like the salt in the soup and self-published, in the way everything that’s good in Portugal emerges somehow on people’s own initiative at some point from home. And the book even made it into a second edition. Now if that isn’t a good sign? And maybe it might reach more editions even? It would be well deserved. The book could become required reading for biology class in all schools, promoted by the Ministry of Education …

One of the two authors is Ana Luisa Simões, and we‘d started discussing their book with of a summer’s evening in Aljezur, the day before she was to fly to the Azores, for several hiking tours there, and unfortunately things were left at that. Somehow we never managed to take up our conversation about the book that I’d wanted to finish discussing with her. I do know that she is back living somewhere near Aljezur, but to me it seems she never returned from that summer. So it happens that I still have this lonesome valuable book lying on my desk, a book I know hardly anything about, apart from what’s written within, together with a short dedication. And if I don’t even know where this book is available, who can I recommend it to for purchase? However, I still have the phone number and email address of the author, which I’ll pass on to you at the end of this article. Do give it a try yourself, you might have more luck than I did. For I want nothing more than make this important plant ID book available to all readers of ECO123. The question that arises is this one: Where, esteemed Ana Luisa, may one purchase your book?

While the work, entitled „200 Plants of the Southwestern Alentejo and the Vicentina Coast“ may no longer be box-fresh, it remains a handy format, and what’s inside is eminently valuable and immortal, for being true, just like love. It’s a plant identification book with many photos which you should carry with you in any hike in nature, an essential with potential. It belongs into any backpack, alongside the sandwich, the banana, the orange, the apple, the water bottle, the hiking map, the fizzy electrolyte tablet and the towel.

 

This book, in my humble opinion, should have been available at least 30 years ago. Because only those knowing the value of nature know how to protect it. That it only found its way to us three years ago, even though it was already finished in 2015, is more of a stupid coincidence, as often happens in Portugal. This reminds me of two people who want to meet but cannot find each other in the right place nor the right time. They keep missing each other and are shipwrecked on the rocks of reality. The authors wanted to show that they are not only good hikers but also good writers, as Ana Simões told me: to write a book. Together with Ana Cabrita she has made a fine job of it. Remember how Fernando Pessoa never received the Nobel Prize for Literature because you couldn’t get hold of his books and couldn’t even be sure that he existed, or whether he was only an invention by a different person, not quite awake yet, still in dreamland, or whether he had maybe appeared in a different person’s dream. A mirage?

The content of this book is useful during any excursion along the western coast. The later you get hold of the book the higher the chance of the flower, the shrub, the plant being extinct. Written right in the period of species extinction, possibly soon all the pretty photographs and descriptions of the 200 plants of the „Costa Vicentina“ will be consigned to the past. In which case the book will be handy at a later date as a history book for those we have put into this world without considering what we are passing on to the next generation and the one after that. There will come a point in time where plants are a thing of the past, as the overheating of the earth makes any thoughts of a future redundant. But there are rock crevices and other niches where plants can and will survive.

Now, if we’re making plans in our head … Darling, what will the weather be like tomorrow? Shall we go for a hike before it’s too late? Will we have water? Where will we find something to eat? At least we’ll still have this book by Ana Luisa Simões and Ana Carla Cabrita, as a history book about yesterday when there were still plants growing along the western coast and elsewhere, and where you could still wander around on foot between Porto Covo and Milfontes, Aljezur and the southwestern cape of Europe in nature without being eaten alive by the sun and crumble into dust. Very readable indeed. Anything missing? A map of the region would be helpful for all readers. Maybe some plants will survive humankind. We can hope. Ah, the price? You’re looking at around 22 euros…

 

The book may be ordered by phone (+351 913 857 406) or by email (simoes.alc@gmail.com). Possibly the book might still be available at the  tourist information office or in the „Moagem“ restaurant in Aljezur, or by emailing 200plantassw@gmail.com. The wonderful travel bookshop Palavra de Viajante in Lisbon (www.palavra-de-viajante.pt) definitely has it in stock and can post it to you. Palavra de Viajante, Rua São Bento, 34, 1200-819 Lisboa, Portugal T: (+351) 213950328 – M: (+351) 913700577

 

Uwe Heitkamp (62)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123. Translations Dina Adão, John Elliot, Ruth Correia, Patrícia Lara, Kathleen Becker
Photos:200plantassw

 

 

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