Everlasting beauty in Dwejra Bay

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Everlasting beauty in Dwejra Bay

Dwejra Bay on the island of Gozo in the Central Mediterranean.  A bay born out of the ancient collapse of a sea cave whose roof disappeared beneath the waves and whose sides survive as cliffs and the solitary Fungus Rock guarding the entrance.

A place of solitude and beauty where the land and the sea combine to form the perfect scene.  Sheer tough coralline limestone cliffs on one side, softer, golden globigerina limestone gently sloping to the water on the other.  Sedimentary rock made of the compressed, fossilised remains of billions of marine creatures which drifted to the bottom of the sea in an age of higher sea levels.  Until the waters receded and the new rock rose and became dry land.  Only to start gradually eroding back into the sea through the action of wind and water.

Dwejra survives as one of the least disturbed areas in the densely populated Maltese Islands.  A protected area, it is considered to be a natural heritage site of international scientific importance owing to its unique geology and botany.  It also hosts a number of rare, endemic plant species, foremost amongst which, the Maltese everlasting, examples of which are visible in the foreground of the picture.

An endemic plant is one which grows in a single place or area only.  Some endemics are common while others are very rare.  The Maltese everlasting – Helichrysum melitense – pertains to this latter category.  It is so rare that it is only to be found on the western cliffs of Gozo and nowhere else in the world.  Formerly present around the Zurrieq coast on mainland Malta it is now thought to be extinct there, surviving only on the Gozo cliffs and the tiny Fungus Rock Nature Reserve at the mouth of Dwejra Bay.

In line with its specificity to Gozo, its Maltese name is sempreviva ta’ Ghawdex and it was only described by botanists for the first time in 1980.  It is recognised as one of the rarest Maltese endemic plant species giving it a very special status.  The plant grows in shrubs which range in height between 20 and 60 centimetres.  Its leaves are covered in white hairs to protect the plant from sea spray and help it retain moisture in the arid Maltese summer.  Between April and June it produces a profusion of beautiful yellow flowers.

So I trust that you will excuse the pun in the title of today’s post, for not only is the beauty of the image and the location everlasting in its value but it is made even more special by the presence of the everlasting plant.  I have to confess that I am always humbled when in the presence of rare and endangered species, in awe at the opportunity of witnessing the last remaining specimens of what might have once been a thriving species.  Add a magically beautiful location such as Gozo’s Dwejra Bay and the picture is complete.

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