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Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle - issue 1, pp 6-7 (Jan 1975)
Andorra has never held the high regard of botanists for its mountain flowers because there are few limestone areas, and also because the very intensive sheep grazing over the centuries has eaten out most of the flower plants. Even mountains like Casamanya, 2709 metres high, are grassy right to the top and you can see sheep looking down on you, as you toil up the last slopes to the summit. Even so, the hay meadows in early June put on a wonderful flower display - the Val d'Incles is particularly good. All the Pyrenean endemics are there and a very great variety of alpine plants, but in the Pyrenees, you do not usually get whole mountainsides ablaze with gentians and croci as you do in the Alps.
The first Andorran flower stamps design came out in February 1948, issued by the Spanish bureau, with three values showing the Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum). Inevitably controversy arose between philatelic and botanical interest. It was generally held that the edelweiss did not grow in Andorra but unconfirmed records said that it had been found there. An innkeeper remembered a German visitor bringing in an armful but later said that the flowers might have been "grandalla", a local name for narcissus. The question is still unresolved. Edelweiss does grow at Garvanie but it is not really a Pyrenean flower. If it does occur elsewhere it is very rare. I have looked for it in Andorra and also in the Encantados immediately to the west of Andorra and this is much richer flower country than Andorra, but with no success.
The Spanish bureau were also responsible for the second flower issue released in June 1996. Four values were issued:- 50 cents (Narcissus pseudo-narcissus); 1 peseta (Dianthus carophyllus); 5 pesetas (Narcissus poeticus); 10 pesetas (Heleborus coni). The first is the common Lent Lily, which grows profusely in the English Lake District. The choice of Dianthus was singularly inapt. Many varieties of Pink grow in the Pyrenees but not "caryophyllus" which is the parent of the carnation and is found on sun baked cliffs in Corsica. Narcissus poeticus is the Pheasant Eye Narcissus and at least this is to be found in Andorra! Heleborus coni produced the biggest "howler" of the lot, as there is no hellebore of this variety and never has been. In addition the flower depicted is not a hellebore at all, but a pulsatilla. Gibbons list this now as Anemone Pulsatilla, which is the Pasque flower found on the Downs in England, but the picture is obviously Pulsatilla Vernalis, which is a lovely high alpine.
In 1964 the French bureau entered the field by offering flowers on their Postage Due stamps and I will deal with these later. On July 7th 1973 the French Bureau issued three well designed flower stamps by Madame Pierrette Lambert. The values were 30c, 50c and 90c and they represented Paradisea liliastrum (the St Bruno's Lily), Aquilegia pyrenaica (the Pyrenean Columbine) and Dianthus Neglectus (the Mountain Pink). The first is pure white, sweetly scented, and is found in the Alps and Apennines as well as the Pyrenees. The columbine is a Pyrenean endemic, but curiously enough has been found in Angus, Scotland - presumably a garden escape. The Dianthus is not so easy to define exactly and the French name given to it could apply to other varieties of Pink. It looks like "neglectus" which occurs in the eastern Pyrenees, the south western Alps and eastern Alps, but is fairly rare everywhere. It is one of the few pinks to prefer an acid soil.
The latest flower issue of April 6th 1974, again designed by Madame Lambert, takes no chances with identification. The three values 45c, 65c and 90c are labelled simply "Iris", "Tabac" and "Narcisse". The tobacco flower shown is not Nicotiana alata, the plant usually grown as an annual in our gardens. It is probably the flower of the commercial tobacco plants grown at Sant Julia de Loria. No problem arises with the Narcissus which is clearly the pheasant eye narcissus, but the iris is a bit more difficult. So many types of iris exist but few grow in the Pyrenees. Every autumn, bulb growers sell thousands of iris bulbs of three kinds: - Dutch; Spanish and English, and it seems probable that the Iris depicted is of the bulb type. The Dutch and Spanish varieties flower a few weeks before the English; they are rather smaller and the flower is rather longer vertically. My view is that we are dealing with the English Iris, which comes from Northern Spain and flowers in July. It likes a damp soil and I have found it near Soto de Sajambre in the Picos de Europa. Its Latin name is Xiphioides and it is called English because the first bulbs, origin unknown, were imported and introduced to commerce through Bristol.
The French Bureau has issued seven varieties so far: two in June 1964, three in April 1965 and the other two in 1971. The designs are small and not easy to identify but the 15c of 1964 is probably the Pyrenean Poppy (Papaver suaveolens) and the 30c is the alpine forget-me-not (Myosotis alpertus), but Yvert describes the poppy as the common corn poppy. The three flowers of 1965 are no easier. Scott says the 5c is Centaury, which it obviously is not, but Yvert and Zumstein, in their respective languages, go for Centaurea instead of Centaurium and I think they are right. This is Centaurea scabiosa (the Greater Knapweed) and under the glass the netted swelling under the actual flower head is clearly seen. The 10c is obviously the Spring gentian (Gentiana Verna), although one might have expected the Pyrenean gentian. The 50c is a clover and probably the commonest, Trifolium Pratense (the Red Clover). The 1971 flowers are even more oddly coloured than their predecessors but the 20c is said to be the Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and I do not quarrel with this. The 40c depicts an aquilegia (Columbine) but surely no wild aquilegia is ever quite so exotic or so vividly coloured as this one! Perhaps it is a garden hybrid.
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