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Wild Barcelona Christmas Colour
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Photos by Lucy Brzoska
Wild Barcelona Christmas colour 2
Mixed trees in Collserola
As autumn turns to winter, there’s a palette of colours in Collserola.
It’s at this time of year that the variety of trees is most visible, especially in the area between Vallvidrera and Sant Pere Màrtir: the bright broccoli-green of umbrella pines, the darker green of evergreen holm oak, the silvery olives and the yellow-brown of deciduous oaks, which are in no hurry to shed their leaves.
There’s also colour below the canopy. Autumn rain has brought out orange lichens and emerald-green moss on the rocks. Russet-red russula fungus pushes aside the thick layer of pine needles. Robins spill their song among the bushes: the most approachable are probably migrants from northern Europe. You might also glimpse the coral-red bill of a Pekin robin, an exotic species that’s become established in the dense vegetation of Collserola’s understorey. Or the orange crown of a diminutive firecrest, mixed up with an assorted band of tits, roving from tree to tree. They’re too busy scouring for food to care if you watch them, needing to forage every moment of the day just to make it through the next night.
The darkest recesses of the woods are lit up by glossy butcher’s broom, a reminder of the Christmas season ahead. Its smooth red berries perch in the middle of leaf-like cladodes—water-saving structures that are very practical in the long drought periods of a Mediterranean climate. Its branches would be bundled together into a broom for butchers to sweep their blocks, hence the English common name.
In Catalan, the plant is known as the cirerer de Betlem—Bethlehem’s cherry tree—alluding to its use for decorating Nativity scenes. The sharp points of the cladodes, and vivid green and scarlet colours are reminiscent of another festive plant, as reflected by the Spanish name, acebo pequeño—the small holly.
Nick Lloyd and Lucy Brzoska write for www.iberianature.com and run nature tours in Barcelona.
First published in December 2009