The palm trees weren’t a surprise. Tall, slender Washintonias and shorter, sturdier date palms lining boulevards and sea front plazas fitted my mental image of Barcelona.
The variety of different palms in the parks on Montjuïc weren’t too surprising either but I wouldn’t have imagined them cascading, apparently wild, down the hillside towards the docks.
The trees at the Mirador de Montjuïc were another surprise. Contrasting with the neatly trimmed box pyramids the gnarled old ombú trees are characterful to extremes. The knobbly trunks of the ombú trees (Phytolacca dioica) seem to overflow towards the ground like melted candle wax and, for all the careful pruning of the city parks department, no two tree canopies are the same shape.
Left to grow freely these South American trees develop a wide spreading canopy casting deep shade, which explains their Catalan name of bella ombra. The free growing trees aren’t easy to photograph as the characterful branches and trunks are lost in shadow.
I certainly wasn’t expecting these trees, lurking in clusters on a roadside verge. Unlike the ombús, which are clearly firmly rooted, there’s something about the rounded, swollen trunks of the bottle trees which suggests they might wobble off to new pastures on a dark night.
The bottle trees (Ceiba insignis) seem to be semi-evergreen in the Barcelona climate. This week some were in full leaf, some were flowering while shedding their leaves and other leafless trees, were festooned with large, green, lemon shaped seed pods. A surprising tree.
(Click twice on any photo for a closer view)