Like flowers growing out of bread crust……..
So described it a friend of mine when he saw this photo when I took it in the Park tal-Majjistral (http://www.majjistral.org/majjistral-org/) on Malta a couple of springs ago. And indeed it does! Reminiscent of a freshly baked Maltese loaf with its cracked brown crust but with the unusual addition of patches of beautiful tiny flowers.
Nothing to do with bread however. Actually a very common scene from the Maltese coast during the spring. The bulk of the rainy season over, the shallow soil cover on a patch of rocky limestone garigue already cracking dry as the shallow water pool which previously flooded it after a rainstorm has evaporated. Leaving behind it large patches of an often ignored or unnoticed tiny flower which grows in carpets along the coast very close to the sea.
A plant which is very special owing to the fact that it is endemic to the Maltese Islands. Endemic means unique and therefore not found anywhere else on Earth. Something which can only be enjoyed here. The Maltese sea chamomile, Anthemis urvilleana, the bebuna tal-bahar. Its English name stems from its strong chamomile-like odour while its Maltese name simply translates into “sea daisy” owing to its preferred coastal location.
Endemicity is a fascinating phenomenon normally associated with islands: species which evolve independently and become unique due to isolation. Malta obviously has its fair share of endemic species too, but most are rare, scarce and threatened. Not so our humble bebuna tal-bahar! Clinging to the harshest of environments, growing out of the most impoverished patches of thin soil and yet thriving without fuss. And adding unique charm and colour to our spring floral spectrum through its simple beauty.