Beneficial wildflowers at Quinta do Tedo

Let me welcome daughter Odile to her first Quinta do Tedo blog post! With a degree in biology, she is passionate about nature and a huge + for our active outdoors wine tourism, thank you Odilette! 

Demarcated in 1756, Douro Valley is the world’s oldest wine region (even older than Burgundy, sorry Froggies!). Man has played an important role in shaping this once untouched landscape into a fertile UNESCO World Heritage Site where some of the best wine and the only true Porto in the world is produced.

However, man is not alone to thank for the high quality of agricultural products that come out of this region. Spring wildflowers bring the steep cliffs, wild and rocky shrub lands, stone-terraced vineyards and olive orchards, and century-old Quintas lining the snake-like Douro River to life in hues of green, red, yellow, white and purple. Besides being beautiful, wildflowers also play an important role in the agricultural productivity of Douro Valley, especially in the vineyards.

During my afternoon walks along the Tedo river and through Quinta do Tedo’s 15.5 hectares of terraced vineyards and olive orchards, I’ve identified and photographed a few of these colorful and diverse plants. Some are just beautiful while others promote resilience and flexibility in the vineyard ecosystem.

For example, honeysuckle and gum rockrose within a 50 meter radius of our vineyards, attract good “auxiliary fauna” (such as ladybugs) which prey on bad, disease-carrying pests (such as the berry moth, which decreases yield and can cause grey mold in vineyards ). Wild lavender is a natural pest repellent (and the national flower of Portugal!) Lupine, vetch and other leguminous (pea family) plants absorb and turn atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form, ammonia, which is stored in the soil and can be used by other plants.

These important plants thrive naturally in Douro Valley’s schist soils and Mediterranean climate, increasing biodiversity, soil nutrients and water retention, and decreasing erosion and pests in the vineyards. They are in-part to thank for Quinta do Tedo’s consistently high-quality and delicious Portos, Douro DOC red wines and olive oil.

Beneficial for our vineyards or for aesthetic pleasure, I share with you recently-taken photos of the color explosion at our estate:

 Gum rockrose ( Cistus ladanifer ) resembles a fried egg and has sticky leaves that produce an aromatic resin, “labdanum”, which is harvested for perfume production.

Gum rockrose (Cistus ladanifer) resembles a fried egg and has sticky leaves that produce an aromatic resin, “labdanum”, which is harvested for perfume production.

 5 subspecies of  Lavendula pedunculata  grow in Portugal, and attract good “auxiliary fauna”, such as butterflies and bees, that ward off pests.

5 subspecies of Lavendula pedunculata grow in Portugal, and attract good “auxiliary fauna”, such as butterflies and bees, that ward off pests.

 The villous deadly carrot ( Thapsia villosa ) can grow up to two meters, and is used by fisherman to stun fish. It also contains chemical compounds which scientists believe can treat neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

The villous deadly carrot (Thapsia villosa) can grow up to two meters, and is used by fisherman to stun fish. It also contains chemical compounds which scientists believe can treat neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

 Wall pennywort ( Umbilicus rupestris ) grows out of crevices in the stone walls that support Quinta do Tedo’s terraced vineyards. Its navel-shaped leaves (hence the name) are edible!

Wall pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris) grows out of crevices in the stone walls that support Quinta do Tedo’s terraced vineyards. Its navel-shaped leaves (hence the name) are edible!

 European yellow lupine ( Lupinus luteus ) is a “nitrogen-fixing” soil enricher and a relative of  Lupinus albus , whose seeds have been harvested for over 3000 years by Mediterranean peoples and eaten as a protein- and fiber-rich snack called “tremoços” in Portugal.

European yellow lupine (Lupinus luteus) is a “nitrogen-fixing” soil enricher and a relative of Lupinus albus, whose seeds have been harvested for over 3000 years by Mediterranean peoples and eaten as a protein- and fiber-rich snack called “tremoços” in Portugal.

 Purple viper's-bugloss ( Echium plantagineum ) is a ying-yang sort of plant - its seeds contain oil with high levels of fatty acids used in nutritional supplements, but its leaves contain poisonous alkaloids that can cause liver damage.

Purple viper's-bugloss (Echium plantagineum) is a ying-yang sort of plant - its seeds contain oil with high levels of fatty acids used in nutritional supplements, but its leaves contain poisonous alkaloids that can cause liver damage.

  Antirrhinum bellidifolium , a member of the snapdragon genus, is one of the “model organisms” Darwin and Mendel used in the 1800s to study genetic inheritance and mutations. It has been cultivated since Roman times for its attractive, bilaterally-symmetrical flowers.

Antirrhinum bellidifolium, a member of the snapdragon genus, is one of the “model organisms” Darwin and Mendel used in the 1800s to study genetic inheritance and mutations. It has been cultivated since Roman times for its attractive, bilaterally-symmetrical flowers.

 Honeysuckle ( Lonicera etrusca ) attracts many beneficial pollinators with its beautiful smell and appearance. The English used to plant it outside their houses to ward off evil spirits and bury it under their pillows to induce sweet dreams.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera etrusca) attracts many beneficial pollinators with its beautiful smell and appearance. The English used to plant it outside their houses to ward off evil spirits and bury it under their pillows to induce sweet dreams.

 Foxglove ( Digitalis purpurea ), while incredibly poisonous, was one of the first plants used in pharmaceutical medicine to treat heart disease since the 18th century. It has since been largely replaced as its therapeutic and lethal doses are so close. Scientists recently announced its potential as a cure for breast and prostate cancers as it contains compounds that reduce the spread of tumor cells.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), while incredibly poisonous, was one of the first plants used in pharmaceutical medicine to treat heart disease since the 18th century. It has since been largely replaced as its therapeutic and lethal doses are so close. Scientists recently announced its potential as a cure for breast and prostate cancers as it contains compounds that reduce the spread of tumor cells.

  Sesamiodes purpurascens  contains glucosinolates, compounds rich in sulphur and nitrogen, which control soil-borne plant pests, such as nematodes (microscopic worms that feed on vineyard roots).

Sesamiodes purpurascens contains glucosinolates, compounds rich in sulphur and nitrogen, which control soil-borne plant pests, such as nematodes (microscopic worms that feed on vineyard roots).

 Wild marigold ( Calendula arvensis ) grows in abundance and is a medicinal herb used to treat skin inflammations. Add its edible petals to your salads for a tasty bit of color!

Wild marigold (Calendula arvensis) grows in abundance and is a medicinal herb used to treat skin inflammations. Add its edible petals to your salads for a tasty bit of color!

 Red poppy ( Papaver rhoeas ) seeds, which can lay dormant in the soil for 80+ years, germinate with disturbance. Such was the case in the First World War, when soldiers churned up (and many died in) battlefields that would bloom into seas of red poppies. Dye extracted from poppy petals is used in textiles (and sometimes to add color to wine!)

Red poppy (Papaver rhoeas) seeds, which can lay dormant in the soil for 80+ years, germinate with disturbance. Such was the case in the First World War, when soldiers churned up (and many died in) battlefields that would bloom into seas of red poppies. Dye extracted from poppy petals is used in textiles (and sometimes to add color to wine!)