Monday, February 22, 2010


On the news tonight we saw film footage of the terrible devastation and loss of life in Funchal, on the island of Madeira. It is sad that many will learn of this island only because of the torrential rain, which over a period of a few hours brought a wall of water and mud down the verdant hillsides. I'm sure that the flash flood swept away these plants growing along the sides of this storm drain.
On our recent cruise across the Atlantic from Southampton to Miami, Madeira was our last port of call, before heading out across the Atlantic ocean. We docked in the capital, Funchal, on a beautiful, sunny November morning. Here I am standing on the dock side by the ship! Just kidding. Can you imagine setting sail across the Atlantic in this little wooden ship?

This is the second time we have visited the island and we knew exactly how we were going to spend the day. We walked into town and picked up a public bus which goes up the hill to the Jardim Botanico da Madeira.

In 1891 the Reid family built their home, Quinoto do Bom Sucesso, on this piece of land on the hilltop high above the city of Funchal. It was later acquired by the government and opened to the public as a botanical garden in 1960. Besides being a research institute and seed bank the gardens showcase many of the over 900 endemic species from the surrounding group of islands.

The rich volcanic soils and sub tropical climate account for the lush growth.

The hillsides have been terraced using available lava rock to form retaining walls and pathways.

In the more shaded upper levels water is channeled into pools which support ferns and other water loving plants. There is a marked contrast between these upper terraces and the lower, more sun filled terraces.

As a lover of cactus and agaves it was very easy for me to feel at home here.

These cactus, agaves and aloe have adapted well to their new home. Many of them were sending out their blooms. It was only when we visited California this January that I realized just what a spectacle those blooms would be when they flowered.

Below the cactus garden an area of topiary reminiscent of our trip to Levens Hall in Cumbria.

On our previous visit I failed to identify this gorgeous vine in full flower along one of the walkways. This time I made a point of getting the name.

Solandra maxima is a native of Mexico. We also saw this plant blooming in San Diego this winter.

We spent several hours in the gardens enjoying the plants and stopping for a cup of coffee on a wonderful terrace overlooking the ocean we were about to cross. We took the bus back down the hill, walked through the town and the city park overlooking the port. A wonderful day in Funchal.


  1. What a glorious trip! I'm so jealous - I am sure those gardens are spectacular in person, but your photos were wonderful. Those agaves are really something else.

  2. How beautiful. You go to the most interesting places.

    Thanks for sharing your journeys with us, again.

  3. The pic with the cactus, agaves and aloe together is gorgeous. I have several aloe arborescens but no sign of blooms-I wonder how many years they take to bloom. I too did not know how spectacular aloe blooms could be until I saw blooming aloes in California.

  4. family and I made the crossing on another of RC ships and also stopped at same location. Matter of fact we have very similar picture. Can you identify to me by name the plant that you have pictured with your ship in the background...the one with the beautiful orange/red flowering stalks. Hope that you get this post and reply back. Regards, RAP

  5. It is an aloe. don't know the particular variety but they are common in Ca.