Cistus albidus - Grey-leaved Cistus

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Malvales - Family: Cistaceae

Cistus albidus, Grey-leaved Cistus, closeup of flower

Don't be mislead: the scientific species name albidus refers to the whitish leaves of this lovely cistus.

Identification

Cistus albidus grows up to 1.5m in height, although most plants are little more than half this height. The hairy pale grey-green leaves are oblong to elliptical and have three prominent veins. The flowers are 4 to 6 cm across and have five purplish-pink petals backed by five sepals.

The leaves of cistus plants are very tough. The flowers, by comparison, seem very fragile and have wafer-thin, crumpled looking petals: they are nontheless beautiful for that, and it is easy to see why cistus is considered such a well-loved addition to northern European gardens.

Habitat

In the UK these shrubs are much-loved garden plants, but it is in the Mediterranean region that they really come into their own: vast tracts of hillsides (particularly in Portugal and Spain) are smothered with various species of these members of the Rockrose family.

Grey-leaved Cistus near the coast, Algarve, Portugal

Blooming times

Grey-leaved Cistus produces flowers from March to June and can be found in maquis, garrigue, open woodland, on steep slopes and rocky ground. Some of the other cistus species to be found in the Mediterranean include Cistus ladanifer (Gum Cistus), and Cistus salviifoloius (Sage-leaved Cistus).

Flowers of Cistus albidus

Related species

Cistus shrubs are frequently parasitised by an interesting plant - Cytinus hypocistis. From mid April onwards a quick look around the roots of cistus shrubs could reveal the presence of this interesting 'passenger'.

The specimens shown here were photographed in the Algarve, Portugal, in April.


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