Plants of Italy

Italy supports a predominantly Mediterranean plant life; trees of Italy include cork wood, ilex and pine, in addition to many herbs such as rosemary, lavender and thyme.

Italy is surrounded by ocean on three sides and, as a consequence, has more than 8000 kilometers of coastline; the northern border of Italy is met by France, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia. Italy also includes the islands of Sicily and Sardinia; in addition to the long stretches of coastline, much of Italy’s land is covered in mountains, resulting in a predominant Mediterranean plant life.

Trees of Italy

The main evergreen trees to be found in Italy are pine, ilex and cork wood. The ilex is also known as the evergreen, holly or Holm oak and should not be confused with the holly tree.The ilex is the most common of these three trees, followed by the cork wood and various species of pine.

The Italian Ilex or Holm Oak

There are some ancient, virgin ilex (Quercus ilex) and oak forests found in the Italian regions of Calabria, Tuscany, Umbria and Sardinia; the older trees can grow up to 15 meters high and have vast canopies. However, due to intervention of humans, most ilex forests are now smaller and less dense. The ilex tree has leathery evergreen leaves and a black-colored bark. In the spring, the ilex produces catkins of flowers; the ilex is of the plant family Fagaceae.

Cork Wood of Italy

On the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia, it may be possible to find virgin cork forests but, due to the popularity of the cork wood tree, it is now more commonly found in forests of ilex and other oak trees. The cork wood tree is of the plant family Leitneriaceae and is sometimes described more as a shrub than a tree; the wood from the cork wood tree is very popular in the wood industry.

Pine Forests of Italy

There are reported to be over 100 species of pine trees in the world; in Italy, it is possible to find the Aleppo pine tree (Pinus halepensis), the maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) and the domestic or umbrella pine (due to the flat, long shape of the tree branches).

The Aleppo pine is the hardiest of the Italian pine trees; the maritime pine is commonly found growing inland. In Tuscany, it is common to find the umbrella pine. Pine trees are of the plant family Pinaceae and pine forests are native to the cooler climate of the northern hemisphere.

Macchia of Italy

Much of Italy is covered by macchia, a description of many sorts of vegetation from two to six meters in height; macchia includes common herbs such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Other types of macchia include shrubs such as juniper, broom, heather and gorse.

Common Plant Imports of Italy

Due to the diversity of Italy’s history, ancient plant imports such as olive (Olea europaea) and cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) trees are common throughout Italy, particularly in southern Italy. Olive trees are found in many of Italy’s olive groves, a common sight in the Mediterranean region; it is also not uncommon to see cypress and pine forests interspersed between the olive groves and vineyards of the Italian countryside.

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