Buçaco Forest

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Buçaco Forest
Fonte Fria Bussaco Forest.png
The Fonte Fria (Cold Fountain) in Buçaco Forest is a cascading water stairway built in the 1880s.
Map showing the location of Buçaco Forest
Map showing the location of Buçaco Forest
Map of Portugal with a red dot representing the location of Buçaco Forest
LocationLuso, Mealhada, Aveiro, Centro, Portugal
Coordinates40°22′37″N 8°21′55″W / 40.377077°N 8.36533°W / 40.377077; -8.36533Coordinates: 40°22′37″N 8°21′55″W / 40.377077°N 8.36533°W / 40.377077; -8.36533
Elevation547 m (1,795 ft)

Buçaco Forest (Portuguese: Mata Nacional do Buçaco) is an ancient, walled arboretum in the Centro region of Portugal and home to one of the finest dendrological collections in Europe. The forest measures 1450 meters by 950 meters and covers an area of 105 hectares; the perimeter wall is approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) in circumference and punctuated by a series of gates, one of which bears the text of 17th-century papal bulls forbidding women to enter and threatening to excommunicate anyone harming the trees. More than 250 tree and shrub species grow in the forest, including huge centenarians and exotics introduced by Portuguese mariners during the Age of Discovery. In 2004 Portugal submitted Buçaco Forest to UNESCO's tentative list of World Heritage Sites.

Many of the forest's trees have been discussed in popular and academic literature. In 1634, for example, a Portuguese scholar authored a collection of poems that mentioned Buçaco's cypresses; in 1768 an English botanist provoked a 200-year-long debate by claiming one of the forest's cypress varieties originated in Goa; in the late 1990s wine writer Hugh Johnson visited the arboretum and described a Tasmanian mountain ash as "surely Europe's most magnificent"; more recently, historian and arborist Thomas Pakenham included one of the forest's bunya pines in his book, Remarkable Trees of the World.

Buçaco Forest was once home to Discalced Carmelites: the monks built a convent, small chapels and the encircling walls, and tended the arboretum until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1834. At the end of the 19th century much of the convent was demolished to make way for an extravagant neo-Manueline palace. The palace was conceived as a retreat for the Portuguese royal family, but after the Lisbon Regicide and subsequent coup d'état it was converted to a luxury hotel, the Buçaco Palace.

Geography and climate[edit]

Buçaco Forest is situated on the northwestern tip of the Serra do Buçaco in Portugal's Centro region. It covers an area of 105 hectares and is enclosed by a perimeter wall just over 5 kilometers in circumference.[1] Dimensions are 1450 meters by 950 meters; elevation ranges from 190 meters to 547 meters; a prevailing microclimate is characterized by mild temperatures, frequent morning fog and precipitation almost double the regional average.[2] The nearest urban centre is Coimbra, an ancient university city and former capital of Portugal; the nearest parish is Luso, a spa town renowned for its mineral waters.[3]

History[edit]

Portas de Coimbra (Coimbra Gate)

Buçaco Forest was first settled in the 6th century by friars from a nearby Benedictine monastery; five hundred years later the Bishops of Coimbra took possession of the forest and in 1628 donated it to the Order of Discalced Carmelites.[4] The Carmelite monks promptly built a convent, perimeter walls and the first of the forest's ten gates, Portas de Coimbra (Coimbra Gate).[5] Two papal bulls were issued during this period: the first, dated 1622, prohibited women from entering the forest; the second, dated 1643, threatened to excommunicate anyone found harming the trees. The text of both bulls is engraved on stone tablets affixed to the outer wall of Portas de Coimbra.[6] At the end of the 17th century small chapels representing the Stations of the Cross were built along the Via Sacra, a steep, winding path that leads from the convent to the forest's highest point, Cruz Alta.[7] The length of the path and distances between chapels were carefully measured to depict Christ's journey from the Mount of Olives to Calvary.[8]

In September 1810 the tranquility was shattered by the Battle of Bussaco: the future Duke of Wellington, commanding an Anglo-Portuguese army of more than 56,000 men, maintained a defensive position on the Serra do Buçaco and succeeded in checking General Massena's advance into Portugal.[9] Wellington stayed at the convent in Buçaco Forest during the days preceding the battle; an olive tree to which he tethered his horse still stands and is labelled "Wellington's olive tree".[10]

Soon after the abolition of religious orders in 1834, ownership and management of the forest was transferred to the Administração Geral das Matas do Reino.[11] A period of change ensued: the forest's area was expanded from 90 to 105 hectares; neglected buildings were restored and new, exotic tree species introduced; a staircase leading up to the convent was remodeled into the Fonte Fria (Cold Fountain), a cascading water stairway and one of the forest's most notable architectural features.[12] In 1888 much of the convent was demolished to allow construction of a sumptuous neo-Manueline palace. The palace was conceived as a retreat for the Portuguese royal family, but after the Lisbon Regicide and subsequent coup d'état it was converted to a luxury hotel, the Buçaco Palace.[13]

In 2004 Portugal submitted Buçaco Forest to UNESCO's tentative list of World Heritage Sites.[14] The UNESCO website describes the forest as "the archetype of an eighteenth-century romantic landscape", adding that it "boasts a remarkable botanical and scenic heritage" and is a place of "rare and outstanding beauty".[15] José Saramago, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, declared, "Buçaco forest demands a whole vocabulary which, once spoken, tells us that there's still everything left to say. You don't describe Buçaco forest. The best thing is to lose yourself in it.".[16] In 2009 the forest's present governing body, Fundação Mata do Buçaco, was established to manage, conserve, revitalize and exploit the forest.[17] A year later the European Union's LIFE programme subsidized an initiative aimed at preserving the oldest segment of the forest and controlling threats posed by invasive, non-indigenous species.[18] The project is known as BRIGHT (Bussaco's Recovery from Invasions Generating Habitat Threats) and scheduled to run until 2016.[17]

Flora[edit]

Valley of the Ferns, Buçaco Forest
The Vale dos Fetos (Valley of the Ferns) is a small, damp area of the forest planted with giant tree ferns. Seeds for one of the species, Dicksonia antarctica, were sourced from nurseries in France and Belgium during the late 19th century.[6]

Buçaco Forest has one of the finest dendrological collections in Europe.[19] More than 250 tree and shrub species grow in the forest, including towering centenarians and exotics introduced by Portuguese navigators during the age of exploration.[20] The forest comprises four distinct landscapes: the arboretum, which forms about 80% of the forest's area; the Floresta Relíquia (Forest Relic), a small, ancient woodland characterized by laurel, mock privet and species of oak; the Pinhal do Marquês, an area of about 13 hectares dominated by maritime pines; and the late 19th-century hotel gardens and Vale dos Fetos (Valley of the Ferns).[21] The arboretum's early history is not known, but chronicles kept by the Carmelites indicate that afforestation may have begun long before they founded their convent in 1628.[22]

The forest's most abundant tree is the Mexican cypress, a species also known as the Bucaco Cedar or Cedar of Goa.[23] The tree was first mentioned by Portuguese scholar Bernarda de Lacerda in her Soledades de Buçaco, a collection of poems published in 1634.[24] In 1768 English botanist Philip Miller provoked a 200-year-long debate after claiming the tree had been introduced to Portugal from Goa.[25] Miller's claim was formally rebutted in 1993 when a paper published by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy reclassified the species as a native of Mexico.[26] Ten years later further research into the tree's origins was undertaken using DNA tests: results showed that while the Mexican cypress is more likely to have been introduced to the forest from Mexico than India, the supporting data is "not very strong".[27]

A map issued by the Fundação Mata do Buçaco lists 86 "remarkable trees" in the forest, one of which is a Tasmanian mountain ash growing near the hotel.[28] English wine writer Hugh Johnson commented on the tree in his book Hugh Johnson in the Garden, opining that it is "surely Europe's most magnificent".[29] In 2010 a researcher from Australia's Currency Creek Arboretum measured the tree during a field trip and concluded that it had the largest diameter of any eucalypt he and his team had examined in Portugal.[30] Other notable specimens listed on the map include the olive tree to which Wellington tied his horse, a bunya pine featured in Thomas Pakenham's 2002 tome, Remarkable Trees of the World, and fine examples of cedar, ginkgo and sequoia.[31]

Buçaco Forest's camellias were discussed in a paper presented at the 2014 Pontevedra International Camellia Congress. The paper, Buçaco and Villar d'Allen: A Story of the Camelliomania in Portugal, described the introduction of 30 cultivars to the forest from a garden in Porto in 1894.[32] Camellias were very popular in Europe during the 19th century, inspiring gardeners, wealthy collectors and the novel, La Dame aux Camélias.[33]

Fauna[edit]

A PhD thesis published in 2011, Vertebrate Diversity in the Bussaco Mountain and Surrounding Areas, documented research undertaken in the Serra do Buçaco and identified 56 species of mammals, birds, bats and amphibians found in Buçaco Forest.[34]

Windstorm Gong[edit]

On 19 January 2013 a cyclone named Windstorm Gong struck Portugal, causing widespread disruption. Almost 1 million homes were left without electricity; thousands of trees were brought down and hundreds of greenhouses destroyed.[35] Portugal's Público newspaper reported extensive damage to Buçaco Forest, including the loss of a cypress known as Cedro de São José, a much-loved tree believed to have been planted in 1644.[36] A press release issued by the forest's governing body 2 years later summarized the aftermath: more than 40% of the forest was seriously affected by the storm; religious buildings dating back to the days of the Carmelites suffered structural damage; of the forest's 86 remarkable trees, 10 were felled and 6 critically harmed. The press release also discussed ongoing rehabilitation and reforestation, the inauguration of a bridge across a small stream (the bridge was constructed from a cypress brought down in the storm), and the formation of a private sector partnership to produce furniture from fallen trees.[37]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Matos (2011), p. 32; Simões (2012), p. 102.
  2. ^ Forest Park of the Discalced Carmelites, Bucaco (UNESCO World Heritage Centre); Matos (2011), pp. 32–33, 37, 49; Conheça a Mata (Fundação Mata do Buçaco).
  3. ^ Ellingham, Fisher and Kenyon (2002), pp. 207–208, 227.
  4. ^ Simões (2012), p. 102; Conheça a Mata (Fundação Mata do Buçaco).
  5. ^ Documentação a Mata Nacional do Bussaco (DRAP Centro).
  6. ^ a b Conheça a Mata (Fundação Mata do Buçaco).
  7. ^ Conheça a Mata (Fundação Mata do Buçaco); Ellingham, Fisher and Kenyon (2002), p. 226.
  8. ^ Conheça a Mata (Fundação Mata do Buçaco); Borges (2011), pp. 197–198.
  9. ^ Chambers (1910), pp. 8–9; Horward (1989), p. 49.
  10. ^ Chambers (1910), p. 176; Denby (1998), p. 246; Hignett (1999).
  11. ^ Documentação a Mata Nacional do Bussaco (DRAP Centro).
  12. ^ Documentação a Mata Nacional do Bussaco (DRAP Centro); Matos (2011), p. 32; Conheça a Mata (Fundação Mata do Buçaco); Gothein (2014), pp. 385–386.
  13. ^ Denby (1998), pp. 246–248.
  14. ^ Portugal: Properties Submitted on the Tentative List (UNESCO World Heritage Centre).
  15. ^ Forest Park of the Discalced Carmelites, Bucaco (UNESCO World Heritage Centre).
  16. ^ Saramango (2002), p. 172.
  17. ^ a b Presentation of the Project (Mato do Buçaco BRIGHT).
  18. ^ BRIGHT (European Union).
  19. ^ Matos (2011), p. 32.
  20. ^ Matos (2011), p. 32; Forest Park of the Discalced Carmelites, Bucaco (UNESCO World Heritage Centre); Mansourian, Rossi and Vallauri (2013), p. 52.
  21. ^ Matos (2011), pp. 32–33; Fact sheet (Mata Nacional do Buçaco).
  22. ^ Vilmorin (1907), p. 53.
  23. ^ Matos (2011), p. 32; Forest Park of the Discalced Carmelites, Bucaco (UNESCO World Heritage Centre); Masters (1895), pp. 1–11; Farjon (1993), p. 81.
  24. ^ Masters (1895), p. 3.
  25. ^ Masters (1895), pp. 7–10; Farjon (1993), pp. 81–84.
  26. ^ Farjon (1993), pp. 81–84.
  27. ^ Rushforth, Adams, Zhong and Pandey (2003), pp. 18, 22–23.
  28. ^ Árvores Notáveis (Map of Remarkable Trees).
  29. ^ Johnson (2009), p. 113.
  30. ^ Nicolle (2011).
  31. ^ Hignett (1999); Pakenham (2002), pp. 126–127; Denby (1998), p. 246.
  32. ^ Cordeiro, Paz and Sales (2014).
  33. ^ Bartholomew (1986), p. 4; Cordeiro, Paz and Sales (2014); Conheça a Mata (Fundação Mata do Buçaco).
  34. ^ Matos (2011), pp. 125–129, 131–133, 136.
  35. ^ Liberato (2014), pp. 16, 25–26.
  36. ^ Portocarrero (2013).
  37. ^ 19 de Janeiro: 2 Anos Depois do Ciclone GONG (Press Release).

Sources[edit]

PhD theses

  • Matos, Milena Marina Amaral dos Santos (2011). Vertebrate Diversity in the Bussaco Mountain and Surrounding Areas (PhD). Portugal: Universidade de Aveiro. Archived from the original on 30 March 2016.
  • Simões, Paula Marisa Nunes (2012). The Recreational Use Value of a National Forest (PhD). Portugal: Universidade de Coimbra. Archived from the original on 28 July 2015.

Books

Journals, conference papers and reports

Newsletters and newspapers

Press releases, fact sheets and maps

Websites

External links[edit]