Reddening vines on an October evening, Bendafé, 2012
October is not a good month for flowers. We see the tail end of the species which flower a little earlier (like Dittrichia viscosa in September), a few species which flower to some extent at almost any time of year, and a few genuine autumn flowerers. The two we illustrate are very common and conspicuous all over the region at this season.
(western Iberian snapdragon)
The garden snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) is a plant of northeastern Spain, which has been spread all over Europe and the world as the well-known garden ornamental, in many cultivated varieties. It is also widely naturalized. A. linkianum is a similar plant and, indeed, when we first found it growing on walls in our garden, the best identification we could find was that it was an escaped garden snapdragon. However, with the recent publication of the relevant volume of Flora iberica, we discovered its true identity. This species is endemic to the western zone of the Peninsula, from the Lisbon area right up to Galicia. It is very common, and its conspicuous pink flowers can be seen at almost all seasons. It typically grows on old walls, in great bushy clumps, and characteristically (compared with the garden snapdragon) produces long scrambling flowering shoots, which may emerge at the top of other plants and shrubs.
Just as common as the previous plant is S. aspera, a pernicious scrambling weed. Large parts of our future garden, and of the uncultivated plot below it, were covered with this horrible plant. It is unusual in being a climbing monocot, a little similar to black bryony (Tamus communis) but with the additional feature of having spiny stems and leaves. It can’t be handled except with gloves. It forms perennial underground rhizomes which go on sending up new shoots for years. The leaves are sometimes variegated, sometimes plain green, and they are held vertically, points downwards. The shoots climb up whatever shrubs or low trees they can get hold of, using tendrils and spines, and then grow out over the top of them, smothering them completely like ivy. In the end the whole lot collapses into an impenetrable spiny mound, which takes hours to break up and destroy. Nevertheless….. in the autumn, the plant produces delicate little flowers, followed by pretty red berries. It is even cultivated as a garden plant!