The flora in the Tablas de Daimiel is adapted to certain conditions, an extreme climate, peaty and loamy soils and seasonal saline waters.
All these factors mean that this wetland is home to a variety of plant formations, ranging from Mediterranean woodland, the river's own vegetation, salt marshes, riverside woodland, tamarisk groves and areas with extensive masegar groves, reed beds and algae meadows, which give special value to this protected area.
These plant formations, given their level of conservation, have been declared a habitat of special protection according to Law 9/1999 for their natural and scenic interest.
The environment of the tablas has been changing over the last 50 years, due to the agricultural and economic development of the region. This development has affected the flora in various ways, including the following:
The ploughing of riverbanks for agricultural purposes, the canalisation of rivers and the lowering of groundwater levels in aquifers. All these actions destroyed and degraded the banks of the river Gigüela and the river Guadiana, leaving few enclaves with sufficiently represented plant formations.
The following is a description of some of the most representative species of the Tablas de Daimiel National Park, where more than 300 different species of plants have been recorded.
In the Guadiana River there are some redoubts of riverside woodland consisting of willow (Salix fragilis), black poplar (Populus nygra), white poplar (Populus alba), associated with brambles and other plants that form enclosed groves of great beauty in the vicinity of the watermills.
In the northern area at the foot of the sierras of Villarrubia de los ojos, and on the banks of the River Gigüela, there is still a representation of the Mediterranean forest that occupied these areas until the beginning of the last century, with scrubland and large centenary holm oaks.
A wide expanse of pastureland with holm oak (Quercus ilex subspecies ballota) and pastures of grasses and wild legumes, annual pastures that are used for grazing sheep (Manchegan sheep).
Aquatic algae (Charas spp.). These are plants that take root in the river bed and form submerged meadows that cover the bottoms of the boards, and are easily observed from the "footbridges".
Aquatic algae, locally called "ovas", of high ecological value, which serve as food for various animal species (especially ducks). These plants are good indicators of water quality, being especially vulnerable to pollution and eutrophication.
The most common species are Chara hispida, Chara vulgaris and Chara canescens, usually associated with other aquatic plants such as Ceratophyllum submersum, Potamogetum pectinatus, Ranunculus trichophyllus (locally called "Manzanilla"), and Veronica (Anagallis-aquatica).
Chewing gum (Cladium mariscus). It is perhaps the most representative species of the fluvial tables, it develops in peaty soils. It withstands the temporary desiccation of the summer months well, but not the long periods of drought, being more demanding in terms of water quality and water level.
It is characterised by its elongated leaves with serrated edges, it can reach a height of several metres and its inflorescence is spike-shaped.
The typical formation is the "Masegar", of which a small representation can be seen on the park's visitable itineraries.
The well-preserved masegars were enriched with other plants such as Carex hispida, Carex riparia, Shoenus nigricans, and Juncus maritimus. These formations are important for the nesting of many species of birds (Purple Heron, Moustached Heron, Unicoloured Sandgrouse).
Nowadays it is one of the few places where there are still extensive masegares, and it can be said that it is the largest in Spain. The masegares are "Priority Habitat" of the directive 92/43/CEE.
Bulrush: (Thypa dominguensis, Thypa latifolia). Easily identifiable by its ribbon-shaped leaves and cigar-shaped inflorescences, it is found forming irregular patches of vegetation in seasonal water areas, together with other species normally associated with reeds.
The bulrush is a species widely used in vegetable handicrafts, with its fibre being used to make various utensils and tools, such as mats, screens and baskets.
Reed: (Pragmites australis). This species is easily identifiable by its tall stems and duster-shaped inflorescence. Originally its distribution in the wetland was limited to shallower areas or areas with occasional flooding, but nowadays, due to the park's water problems, its distribution has increased, affecting other plants such as the shrinking Masiega. This invasive species is currently being controlled by various methods.
Limonium (limonium spp). A species typical of saline areas with short periods of waterlogging, several species can be observed in the park (L.dichotomum, L.costae, L.longebracteatum), some of which are endemic. They flower in mid-summer and when the flowers dry out, it is the base of the flowers, which resembles a white flower, that lasts.
Taray (Tamarix gallica, Tamarix canariensis). The tamarisk is a representative species of the tamaricaceae family, and due to the harsh conditions of salinity and periods of flooding, it is the only tree species found in the wetland.
A deciduous tree whose leaves turn reddish in autumn, its trunk acquires whimsical shapes over time, the Taray is found forming peripheral forests on the banks of the islands and riverbanks, located in areas that may occasionally be waterlogged, a clear example being the forest of the Isla del Pan, with large centenary specimens.
Calamino: (Salsola vermiculata). A woody shrub, which usually grows on clay and loamy soils with a high nitrogen content, this chenopodiacea usually covers the surface of the islands and non-flooded shores, normally accompanied by Limonio and other halonitrophilous scrub. It is a special habitat for species such as rabbits and foxes. The Calamino is a very common species in the park, it is found forming extensive "calaminar", the calaminar of the Isla del Pan is very representative.
Chestnut tree (Scirpus maritimus). A cyperacea, very common in the interior of the park, it appears in spring covering the shallow boards, its stems and rhizomes serve as food and a nesting place for many animal species.
Salicaria (Lathyrium salicaria), an annual species associated with masegares and reed beds, with characteristic pink flowers that appear at the end of the summer, adding a touch of colour to the wetland.
Marshmallow (Althanea oficinales):
A species typical of wetlands, with large, silky leaves and malvaceous flowers. Its roots were formerly used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes.
Text prepared by: Darío Rodríguez