Madeira Island - The Island of Surprises and Smiles
Information and News for Visitors
English | PortuguĂŞs | Deutsch

Chapter 1: Introduction

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
The very name of Madeira (or island of timber, as the word signifies) brings to the minds of most people a suggestion of luxuriant vegetation flourish­ing in a damp, enervating climate. Such, indeed, was my own mental picture of Madeira before my first visit to the island. I expected to find every garden with the aspect of a fernery, moisture dripping everywhere, and the hills clothed with the remains of the primeval forests. The latter might possibly still have existed had it not been for the zeal of the discoverers of the island in making use of their discovery from a utilitarian point of view, and cutting clearings for the cultivation of the rich and fertile land. In order to clear the ground of the forests, which we are told clothed the island to its very shores, the drastic measure of setting fire to it was resorted to: hence the destruction (as old historians assert that the fire raged for over two years) of all the forests on the south side of the island.

Some feeling of disappointment entered my mind when I first looked on the Bay of Funchal. As compared to the wooded appearance the north of the island presents, the south side, viewed from the sea, appears to have much less vegetation. Large stretches of pine woods, it is true, have been replanted, and though they are used for timber, and are felled before they attain any great size, regulations exist which oblige any person who cuts down a tree to plant another in its place. Though I should imagine it is more than doubtful whether this regulation is carried out to the letter, the plantations are replanted, or the stock of timber would otherwise soon become exhausted. The fact that the south side of any island is naturally the most suited for cultivation has also led to the destruction of the woods, and on approaching the island it is very soon seen that every available inch of ground is cultivated in some form or another. The cultivation may take the form of some cared-for garden, where trees, shrubs, and creepers from the tropics may be flourishing side by side with more familiar vegeta­tion, or may merely be the little terraced patch of ground surrounding the humblest cottage, where the harvest of the crop — be it sugar-cane, batata (sweet potato), or yam — is eagerly looked forward to, in order to eke out the very slender means of its habitants.










© Copyright 2007 by The Madeira Island Web Site

[an error occurred while processing this directive]