Mediterranean Biome at the Eden Project

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

This was why I came to Europe. I waited 15 years to see all the world’s mediterranean climate regions, within one Biome at Eden. 

The mediterranean biome is characterized by evergreen or drought deciduous shrublands. The chaparral of southern California is echoed in the old world Mediterranean maquis, the Chilean matorral, South African fynbos and the Australian Kwongan heathland. Due to the limited extent and isolation (almost island-like), of each area of mediterranean biome, there is frequently a high degree of endemism in the flora and fauna. From Southern California Research Learning Center (whose map is on my sidebar)

The climate is mediterranean, when the summers are long and hot, and the winters are cold and wet. Found on the Western shores of continents, due to cold offshore ocean currents. Anyone who has tried to swim off Camps Bay knows all about the cold Benguela Current. Annuals and bulbs must aestivate (ice cubes swirling). Other plants must find other ways to survive, defying drought and infertile sandy soil. Grey (lavender) or waxy (succulent) leaves, often with fragrant oils (thyme, mint, buchu) or TEETH to deter someone in search of Lunch! Wildfire is always a waiting threat. Because the First World comes first, the climate is called Mediterranean. Since plant geographers allocate South Africa’s fynbos one of the world’s six plant kingdoms, perhaps we should say the Mediterranean Basin experiences a South African fynbos climate!

Driftwood sculpture by Heather Jansch
Driftwood sculpture by Heather Jansch

Heather Jansch driftwood sculpture of a pig.

Oranges, peaches, grapes and wine, olives and their oil, figs, culinary herbs, aromatic oils, gluten-free millet, sesame seeds – Imagine your menu without the Med contribution, you wouldn’t be hungry, but … Did you know that lemon verbena comes from the Med area of Chile and Argentina? A hint of South America in my garden.

As a child I remember driving to Riversdale, and that wonderful smell of knoffel buchu as we approached the town. Knoffel means garlic, and if you brush up against it, you will smell of garlic buchu for the rest of the day! In California – chaparral is vegetation resulting from generations of controlled burning by Native Americans. The Maquis, the French Resistance in the Second World War, were named for the vegetation in which they hid. In Europe traditional mountain terraces are being abandoned, as young people reject the hardships of their farming grandparents.

Eden Project explains fynbos
Eden Project explains fynbos

The Cape Floral Kingdom of South Africa – known as fynbos, with its proteas, ericas, restios and bulbs. Namaqualand, with its spectacular display of spring flowers, coming after the winter rain. Clanwilliam's flower church

‘The whole Mediterranean – 
the sculptures, the palms, the gold beads, the bearded heroes, the wine, the ideas, the ships, the moonlight, the winged gorgons, the bronze men, the philosophers 
– all of it seems to rise in the sour, pungent taste 
of these black olives between the teeth. 
A taste older than meat, older than wine. 
A taste as old as cold water.’ 
Prospero’s Cell. Lawrence Durrell. 1945 - as quoted at Eden 

Background info from the 2009/2010 Guide to the Eden Project

We went to Cornwall and the Rainforest Biome

A pig at Eden
A pig at Eden

Chile is the most exotic of the mediterranean regions to me. We might explore the Chilean arboretum on a hectare of land by the edge of the Eden pit. Araucaria (the sacred tree of the Pehuenche people of Southern Chile and Argentina), Fuchsia, Lobelia, Geum, Gunnera, Escallonia and Berberis. Chile is cut off from the rest of South America by the Andes, the longest range of mountains in the world, on its east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

(Originally published on Elephant's Eye) where Tatyana said - 'I imagined my food without the Med contribution and got sick! Let me go get some wine and grapes to recover'. Tanya's Garden 2009/06 Driftwood we began blogging together, and this iconic post is my window on her world, thru her Russian eyes.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer 
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red. 
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  1. I loved our one visit to the Med in italy....we loved it so much we would love to move to Italy...maybe someday but I will settle for another visit. Maybe I love the Med so much that explains why I am drawn to S. Africa, Chile, CA and other Med areas. I cannot imagine my life without olive oil especially!

  2. I like the quote by Lawrence Durrell. People have been growing olives, like grapes for wine, for thousands of years. If you send your mind back far enough you can taste time.
    I have never read L. Durrell even though we have his Quartet in the house.

  3. Oh no, I cannot imagine life without the Mediterranean foods and beverages. It wouldn't really be worth it. ;) Life is too short. Lucky you to live in such a place!

  4. Thanks for reposting this; Eden is a great place to visit. I'm hoping to vist the Barcelona Botanic Garden this year that also has areas with plnts from all the different Mediterranean climate zones.

    1. We have an inherited Fuchsia waiting for us in the False Bay garden. I'll add a lemon verbena to keep it company in my Chile corner.

  5. Just imagine telling the Europeans that they now have a South African Fynbos climate. Great though that the Cape Floral Kingdom is one of the official biomes of the world.