The plants of the Alameda Gardens are a combination of native species and others brought in from abroad, often from former British territories like Australia and South Africa with which Gibraltar had maritime links at the time of the British Empire. Since 1991 many new species have been planted, some growing in Gibraltar for the first time.
Dragon Tree Dracaena draco
The dragon Tree comes from the Atlantic Islands of the Canaries, Madeira and Cape Verde. It is an unusual member of the lily family. The red resin which quickly crystalises was used medicinally and known as Dragon's Blood. The smooth grey bark is reminiscent of an elephant's hide. Its panicles of showy white flowers appear irregularly in summer and produce bright orange berry-like fruit in winter. The oldest dragon tree in the gardens is probably about 300 years old, though there are claims that they live upwards of 1000 years.
Stone pine Pinus pinea
This is a native of the Mediterranean where it favours sandy coastal locations. The pine nuts produced in the rounded cones are edible. Roasted and sugar-coated the "pinones" are a delicacy. The cones and nuts in the gardens are often eaten by frugivorous tree rats Rattus rattus frugivorous before they fall to the ground. The outer surface of the bark of this tree is divided into large reddish plates. Stone Pines are the tallest trees in the garden being about 200 years old. The Aleppo Pine Pinus halpensis is less common in the gardens. It has pointed cones, winged, inedible seeds and more finely marked bark than the Stone Pine. There is one large Canary Island Pine Pinus canariensis in the upper part of the garden.
Wild Olive Olea europaea
The most common tree in the Alameda, the wild olive, produces small white flowers in summer followed by the small black olives in winter. Too bitter for human consumption, it is a favourite food of wintering birds, including blackcaps. The wood is strong and hard wearing. This tree is the ancestor of the cultivated olive tree.
Nettle Tree Celtis australis
Related to the elms, this tree has nettle-shaped leaves that do not sting. Probably native to Gibraltar where it will have formed part of the ancient woodland that covered what is now the Town. A deciduous tree with bright green foliage in spring that turns darker as summer progresses. Its grey bark is smooth. There is a Nettle tree in the centre of the Lions Pond.
Australian Silk Oak Grevillea robusta
There is only one specimen of this tree in the gardens, on the lower southernmost area (Atlantic Island Bed). Its springtime flowering is spectacular with orange and red flowers producing copious amounts of nectar which attracts bees and birds.
Canary Island Date Palm Phoenix canariensis
The common palm of Gibraltar. A native of the Canary Islands. It has long fronds and orange, inedible dates.
Washingtonia Washingtonia filifera
Large, fan-leaved palms from the deserts of North America. One of the two large specimens in the Dell has retained its "petticoat" of old leaves.
Lord Howe Island Palm Howeia forsteriana
Two of these attractive palms grow in the Dell above the bridge. They were reputedly donated to the gardens as young plants by an elderly lady the day she was evacuated in 1941, during the Second World War.
Solitaire Palm Ptychosperma elegans
Slender feathered palms from Australia. Three fine specimens in the Open Air Theatre. Other species of palm are being added to the garden's collection.
Hibiscus Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Also known as "Rose of China", many attractive varieties of this tropical shrub grow in the gardens, notably in the Hibiscus Bed and in the Dell where there are a number of especially beautiful large-flowered forms. The Hibiscus bed also holds other species of Hibiscus, including the Swamp Mallow Hibiscus moscheutos and the Fringed Hibiscus Hibiscus schitzopetalus, as well as other members of the Hibiscus, or Mallow Family , the Malvaceae.
Bougainvillea Bougainvillea spp
Named after French explorer Louis de Bougainville, these showy scramblers come from tropical south America. Of the various varieties growing in the gardens, the purple and deep red are the most spectacular, especially during their main flowering period in summer. The colour is provided by modified leaves called bracts, while the white flowers are small and insignificant.
There are numerous members of this family in the gardens. The small bright blue flowers with yellow centres are Felicia from southern Africa. All-yellow daisies are Euryops, which are also south African. Also from that region are the grey-leaved squat Gazania and the shrubbier Arctotis (often with orange flowers). Rounded bushes with white flowers with yellow centres in early spring are the Canary Island daisies Chrysanthemum frutescens. A climbing daisy Montanoa schotti and a tree daisy Montanoa bipinnatifida, from Mexico, can also be seen.
Climbers, creepers and scramblers
A number of other climbers, creepers and scramblers are common in the gardens, often shaped into hedges. With bright orange tubular flowers is the Cape Honeysuckle Tecomaria capensis, from South Africa. Also South African is the pale blue flowered Leadwort Plumbago capensis. There is a Chinese Wisteria Wisteria sinensis over the upper fountain in the Dell, while on the bridge grow Bougainvillea, Lantana and Wisteria as well as Golden Chalice Solandra maxima and the Australian Native Wisteria Hardenbergia comptoniana. Scattered about the gardens are a number of honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, Jasmine Jasminum spp. and Jessamine (or "Dama de Noche") Cestrum nocturnum, with its intense scent of summer evenings.
Shrubs and bulbs
Some of the more obvious shrubs of the gardens include Oleanders Nerium oleander, with pink, white or yellowish flowers in summer, the Blue Butterfly Bush Buddleja davidii with pale blue flowers in late winter, and the native Shrubby Scorpion Vetch Coronilla valentina with sweet-scented bright yellow flowers in late winter and early spring. One traditional plant of the Alameda which has been re-planted in various areas is the Heliotrope or Heliotropium arborescens which has pale blue flowers and an overpowering cherry-pie scent. The Bugloss Echium spp. is another shrub with attractive blue flowers. In late summer the pink trumpets of the Bella Donna Lilies Amaryllis bella-donna appear from the dry ground. In winter and spring dark green clusters of leaves show instead. Agapanthus Agapanthus africans, with blue flowers and Antholyza aethiopicaa, with orange flowers are another two southern African bulbous plants of the Alameda.
Commonly known as geraniums, these plants, which mainly originate in South Africa do well in Gibraltar's climate. A number of cultivated varieties grow around the gardens, while true species can be seen in certain areas. These include the attractive Oak-leaved Pelargonium Pelargonium quercifolium and other species with scented leaves like P. tomentosum and P. fragrantissimum.
Several beds are dedicated to succulents from the dry regions of the world. Many plant families have developed some form of succulent habit. The best represented in The Alameda include:
Aloes, which are mainly southern African and have spikes of tubular, often red flowers. These are pollinated by sunbirds in Africa and also attract birds in Gibraltar to feed on their copious nectar. The most common is the Tree Aloe Aloe arborescens which flowers in winter.
Cacti are almost exclusively southern African and include the pad-like Opuntia, the columnar species like Cleistocactus jujuyensis, the cushion-like Echinocactus grusonii and the climbing species with large night-opening flowers like Hylacereus undatus candelabrum.
Euphorbias, or spurges have many forms, including ones, like Euphorbia candelabrum that resemble columnar cacti. Other forms to be seen on the main succulent bed are represented by, for example, Euphorbia stenoclada and E. milii hislopii. The small succulent bed near the Theatre is dedicated to plants of the Sonoran Desert in North America.
Gibraltar and Mediterranean plants
Wild plants are to be found in locations throughout the gardens, with some beds being particularly dedicated to them. Gibraltar plants to be seen include the Gibraltar Candytuft Iberis gibraltarica, the Gibraltar Restharrow Ononis natrix and the very rare Gibraltar Campion Silene tomentosa. The Mediterranean Bed in particular has typical species including lavenders and Cistus sun roses, as well as leguminous shrubs and bulbous or rhizomatous plants like the Paper-white Narcissus Narcissus papyraceus Giant Squill Scilla peruviana and asphodels Asphodelus spp.
Some of the other beds are dedicated to the plants of California, Australia, South Africa and the Canary Islands, regions with a climate similar to Gibraltar's. The Family Beds display plants according to selected plant families.