Tag Archives: Socotra

Early morning descent

Early morning descent

This is my last day on Socotra, and my early morning descent from my 2 days on top of Socotra in the Haghier mountains. During the descent I found so many beautiful events of nature that I wished I had a week here. Up here in the clouds Socotra holds a treasure like no other […]

Haghier mountains

Haghier mountains, Socotra

This cow looks out of place high up in the Haghier mountains, but hunger drives it higher and higher until there is nowhere to go. Without the cattle and goats, the naked ground would have been full of perennials and grasses. Now that the soil is not protected it will erode and seeds will have […]

Hypericum balfourii

Hypericum balfourii

Socotra is the only place on earth I have encountered hypericum trees! The Haghier mountains of socotra is home to many species of hypericum, but this one reigns supreme. I didn’t have time to look into the regeneration of this particular species, but the hypericums are in general left alone by the goats and cattle […]

Haghier mountains, Socotra

Haghier mountains, Socotra

If it weren’t for the Dragon blood trees (Dracaena cinnabari) this could easily be taken for a high-altitude location perhaps in Eurasia. Judging by the height and density of the vegetation you can tell there is far less water reaching the ground here than on the higher elevations where the vegetation rises to trees and […]

Haghier mountains, Socotra

Haghier mountains, Socotra

A Dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) surrounded by diverse, dense and lush vegetation. These mountains rise to above 1500 meters above sea level and are often hidden in dense clouds. This moisture is constantly accumulating on the landscape and everything growing there. Without these mountains there would be rain only during the monsoons, which can […]

Haghier mountains, Socotra

Haghier mountains, Socotra

The vegetation in the Haghier mountains is dense and very diverse, with many species existing only on Socotra. All of this is possible because these mountains are rainmakers. Rising to above 1500 meters above sea level they are often hidden in dense clouds. Clouds mean moisture, and this moisture is constantly accumulating on the landscape […]

Socotra startrails

I will never forget the 2 days I had on top of Socotra in the Haghier mountains. This is the highest of them all – Skant – looking west. At this time there’s no Milkyway in the west, so the stars are just tiny dots on the sky. Some green airglow is seen here, though. […]

Haghier mountains, Socotra

Haghier mountains, Socotra

Socotra is a geologially diverse island, with coastal plains and sand dunes, limestone plateau with deep caves and gorges and the granite Haghier mountains. Here the clouds are moving in on the higher peak in the background, and before you know it you will stand in thick and cold fog, or even rain. The Haghier […]

Socotra's montane forest

Socotra’s montane forest

Socotra is known for its hot and dry climate with sand dunes and dragon blood trees, but the island also has a forest! The Haghier mountains of the interior receive enough rain to sustain a dense and evergreen montane forest. The dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) also thrives at these elevations, giving the forest a […]

Fringed Rue (Ruta chalepensis) UV

No special patterns appear in UV for this flower!

Fringed Rue (Ruta chalepensis)

Fringed Rue (Ruta chalepensis)

I only found this species in one specific location on Skant (or Skand) – the highest point on all of Socotra – and was grateful it was in bloom. Elevation: 1480 meters.

Fringed Rue (Ruta chalepensis)

Fringed Rue (Ruta chalepensis)

I only found this species in one specific location on Skant (or Skand) – the highest point on all of Socotra. Elevation: 1480 meters.

Spiniluma discolor

Spiniluma discolor

On the highest peaks of Socotra you’ll find magnificent deciduous trees like this one. Some were finished shedding leaves whilst others were in yellows or reds like the temperate autumns. Endemic.

Libinhania sphaerocephala UV

Very dull in UV compared to the many color variations in visible light. Endemic.

Libinhania sphaerocephala

Libinhania sphaerocephala

Close to the top of Socotra, Skant (or Skand) I found some healthy plants of this species under some trees, which was a relief as all the previous I saw on the way up here were either drooping from lack of water or were browsed by goats. Endemic.

Libinhania sphaerocephala

Libinhania sphaerocephala

Close to the top of Socotra, Skant (or Skand) I found some healthy plants of this species under some trees, which was a relief as all the previous I saw on the way up here were either drooping from lack of water or were browsed by goats. Endemic.

Socotra Zoned-Furrow Bee (Patellapis flavovittata)

Socotra Zoned-Furrow Bee (Patellapis flavovittata)

With just two days on the highest parts of Socotra’s Haghier mountains – Skant – I did not have much time to photograph insects in addition to the flora. But this bee entered during a photo session with this Trichodesma microcalyx. Talk about luck, as his is a very rare treat! Both are endemic which […]

Oldenlandia balfourii

Oldenlandia balfourii

This plant is so small that it’s very easy to miss! On the field below the weather station of Skant I found many of them growing under trees. Endemic.

Oldenlandia balfourii UV

The yellow center of the flower is dark in UV, and the white petals are also quite dark. In UV this small flower appears prominent against the greyness of the background seen here. Endemic.

Oldenlandia balfourii

Oldenlandia balfourii

This plant has such tiny flowers so they are very easy to miss! On the field below the weather station of Skant I found many of them growing under trees. Endemic.

Spiniluma discolor

Spiniluma discolor

On the highest peaks of Socotra you’ll find magnificent deciduous trees like this one. Some were finished shedding leaves whilst others were in yellows or reds like the temperate autumns. I was definitely entering their very last moments before the season of rest, so this is perhaps more a developing fruit than that of a […]

Trichodesma microcalyx

Trichodesma microcalyx

The smaller plants on top of Socotra were still in good condition, and thus I found flowers in excellent condition compared to the drooping or even dried ones further down the slopes. Had I come a week or so later, even the plants up here would have been drooping, so I was very grateful! Even […]

Trichodesma microcalyx

Trichodesma microcalyx

The smaller plants on top of Socotra were still in good condition, and thus I found flowers in excellent condition compared to the drooping or even dried ones further down the slopes. Had I come a week or so later, even the plants up here would have been drooping, so I was very grateful! Even […]

Searsia thyrsiflora UV

Searsia thyrsiflora UV

Not particularly colorful in visible light and even less so in UV – all dark as it is.

Searsia thyrsiflora

Searsia thyrsiflora

I found many of this species on top of Socotra – Skant (or Skand), but few with good flowers as it was nearing the end of the season. Endemic.

Searsia thyrsiflora

Searsia thyrsiflora

I found many of this species on top of Socotra – Skant (or Skand), but few with good flowers as it was nearing the end of the season. Endemic.

Pulicaria lanata UV

Dark center opposed to the all-yellow appearance in visible light – a typical Asteraceae! Endemic.

Pulicaria lanata

Pulicaria lanata

The wooly leaves makes this plant easy to identify year round. Endemic.

Pulicaria lanata

Pulicaria lanata

As I was getting closer to the highest of the Haghier (or Haggeher) mountains – Skant (or Skand) – I noticed this plant with wooly leaves, but none with flowers, or at least none with fresh flowers. On the very top of Socotra, on Skant, I did find some that still not past blooming. Again […]

Thamnosma socotrana

Thamnosma socotrana

A most peculiar plant! I only found this plant with fresh flowers, but unfortunately not with open flowers yet. I found it in very steep terrain close to the top of Skant (Skand). Here the goats seemed to have been unable to destroy the vegetation, so it was exceptionally dense and varied.

African Boxwood (Myrsine africana)

African Boxwood (Myrsine africana)

A most peculiar inflorescence, but with with very attractive color! I found only two plants with this stage of flowering and fresh leaves seen here – all other were passed bloom. Again the top of Socotra – Skant (or Skand) was the very last range for the season, as on lower altitudes the dry season […]

African Boxwood (Myrsine africana)

African Boxwood (Myrsine africana)

A most peculiar inflorescence, but with with very attractive color! I found only two plants with this stage of flowering – all other were passed bloom. Again the top of Socotra – Skant (or Skand) was the very last range for the season, as on lower altitudes the dry season was well underway.

Thamnosma socotrana

Thamnosma socotrana

A most peculiar plant! I only found this plant with fresh flowers, but unfortunately not with open flowers yet. I found it in very steep terrain close to the top of Skant (Skand). Here the goats seemed to have been unable to destroy the vegetation, so it was exceptionally dense and varied.

Thamnosma socotrana

Thamnosma socotrana

A most peculiar plant! I only found this plant with fresh flowers, but unfortunately not with open flowers yet. I found it in very steep terrain close to the top of Skant (Skand). Here the goats seemed to have been unable to destroy the vegetation, so it was exceptionally dense and varied.

Libinhania rosulata – as a tree!

Contrary to available literature, this is not necessary a cushion plant, unless goats get to them. I found this specimen of epic proportions on a sheer cliff – unacessible to the goats. It was like a tree – perhaps many hundreds of years old. This is a typical example of how goats have transformed many […]

Hypericum scopulorum

Hypericum scopulorum

Never in my entire life have I seen hypericum grow as dense and tall shrubs as on top of Socotra (Skant)! I was mesmerized by the abundance of plants and flowers, and also relieved that goats leave at least this species alone. Endemic.

Hypericum scopulorum

Hypericum scopulorum

Never in my entire life have I seen hypericum grow as dense and tall shrubs as on top of Socotra (Skant)! I was mesmerized by the abundance of plants and flowers, and also relieved that goats leave at least this species alone. Endemic.

Hypericum scopulorum UV

Hypericum scopulorum UV

Hypericums are beautiful in UV light, as they are not uniformly colored, and this species is no exception. This species forms impenetrable thickets dotted with flowers, that seem pruned by an expert, but neither goat nor human have anything to to with this amazing growth! Endemic.

Convolvulus sarmentosus UV

Yet another Convolvulaceae with identical color in UV light! I have yet to encounter one, no matter ho many different colors in visible light, that is not the same in UV!

Convolvulus sarmentosus

Convolvulus sarmentosus

Resembles Convolvulus sarmentosus, but its petals are rounded outwards opposed to this one which are flattened and pointing inwards at the mid-nerve of the petals. Also grows on lower elevations than this (1500 meters elevation), but few are intact as they are eaten by goats and cows. A very small plant, but that I think […]

Convolvulus sarmentosus

Convolvulus sarmentosus

Resembles Convolvulus sarmentosus, but its petals are rounded outwards opposed to this one which are flattened and pointing inwards at the mid-nerve of the petals.

Libinhania rosulata UV

The tiny flowers are dark in UV light compared to the mellow cream in visible light. Endemic.

Micromeria remota

Micromeria remota

I wish I had a week on top of Socotra as there are so incredibly many magnificent plants species and many grow only on socotra! This was the only specimen I could find on Skant (Skand), but with more days I’m certain I would have found magnificent speciemens if I could have climbed where goats […]

Micromeria remota

Micromeria remota

I wish I had a week on top of Socotra as there are so incredibly many magnificent plants species and many grow only on socotra! This was the only specimen I could find on Skant (Skand), but with more days I’m certain I would have found magnificent speciemens if I could have climbed where goats […]

Helichrysum rosulatum

Libinhania rosulata

With or without flowers, I find this plant really beautiful as it spreads out over the rocks of Socotras highest peaks. This was one of very few with inflorescences – on the very highest mountain of Socotra – Skant. Endemic.

Helichrysum rosulatum

Libinhania rosulata

As the island of Socotra is basically one big goat farm, there are very few plants that are not consumed, or at least stunted by their grazing. Several plant species are venomous while others emit sticky or foul tasting juice. This species has no such defense and is eaten by goats. Thus I was looking […]

Skant dawn, Socotra

Skant dawn, Socotra

In this panorama you can see a clearing, which is an old structure of unknown origin. For generations this structure has been used by Socotris, and I too have camped there and had my meals by the wall. You can see the smoke from the campfire. What’s unusual is that the tiny house (on the […]

Skant at night, Socotra

A starry sky seen from the highest parts of Socotra, an amazing end to an amazing day. I wish I had many more nights in the Haghier (also called Haggeher or Hajhir) mountains of Socotra. At least I was in luck this night, as I could see the stars for a bit before the clouds […]

Campfire on top of Socotra

Campfire on top of Socotra

On top of Socotra, at 1500 meters above sea level, you are open to the elements, which often is fog and mist, which makes it very cold after sunset. This evening was a mix of clouds moving in and clear and dark skies, yet it was very cold, and a campfire made all the difference! […]

Skant twilight, Socotra

Skant twilight, Socotra

What can I say – Socotra has touched me like few places on Earth – I’m spellbound! On this island you’ll experience diversity and uniqueness on so many levels! When driving, trekking, sitting, on your back gazing upon the Milkyway, swimming in the crystal clear ocean, or in a stream seeping out from the countless […]

Top of Socotra

Top of Socotra

Before I came to Socotra I didn’t know much about the mountains of the interior of the island, and thus made a mistake in assigning one day here. First and foremost I didn’t know it took so many hours to walk to the top, my understanding was that it was a mere 2 hour walk, […]

Top of Socotra

Top of Socotra

Standing on the highest point of Socotra is magical and so vastly different than the arid and extremely hot lower elevations by the coast. Few visitors venture up here as it’s an arduous trek that often ends up in deep fog, no visibility and very cool temperatures. Socotra is on of the most incredible places […]

Skant sunset, Socotra

Skant sunset, Socotra

Skant is the highest point of the Haghier mountains of Socotra – more than 1500 meters high! This is the last leg of my 14 day Socotra journey, and how lucky I was! During the first week of my visit all of the Haghier mountains was shrouded in thick clouds, and now I’m on top […]

Coelocarpum haggierensis

Coelocarpum haggierensis

This species grows to the size of small trees, and this one is just a few meters from the highest point of Socotra – Skant (or Skand). Endemic

Coelocarpum haggierensis UV

No surprise in color distribution in UV light compared to visible light for this species – brighter center compared to the darker outer. Endemic.

Coelocarpum haggierensis

Coelocarpum haggierensis

This species grows to the size of small trees, and this one is just a few meters from the highest point of Socotra – Skant (or Skand). Endemic.

Hypericum balfourii UV

The flowers of this giant of hypericums are dark in center in UV, compared to the all-yellow in visible light. Endemic.

Haghier mountains, Socotra

Haghier mountains, Socotra

At the highest elevations of Socotra you’ll surprisingly find an evergreen montane forest! You’ll also find the dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari). They thrive here but don’t reach the same size as on the lower, hotter and drier elevations. Unfortunately the dragons are threatened by the goats here also, but where they cannot reach there’s […]

Haghier mountains, Socotra

Haghier mountains, Socotra

The mountains of Socotra’s interior are also called Haggeher or Hajhir mountains, and rise to more than 1500 meters above sea level. Many months a year the mountains are hidden in the clouds. Clouds mean water, and water means life. More than a meter of water reaches the ground her per year. All this water […]

Hypericum balfourii

Hypericum balfourii

When I suddenly stood in front of a hypericum tree, my heart jumped an extra beat and I jumped towards it in awe to make sure I did not hallucinate! This plant is close to 3 meters tall and is not only endangered due to it’s endemism and very limited range but must be of […]

Hypericum balfourii

Hypericum balfourii

When I suddenly stood in front of a hypericum tree, my heart jumped an extra beat and I jumped towards it in awe to make sure I did not hallucinate! This plant is close to 3 meters tall and is not only endangered due to it’s endemism and very limited range but must be of […]

Bicyclus anynana socotrana

Bicyclus anynana socotrana

A bird has likely tried to eat it, and thus a part of the hind wing was lost. This was only one of the species I encountered, so this imperfect specimen must do.

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum)

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum)

This is the iconic and endemic bottle tree, or desert rose of Socotra – Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum. When you find one in bloom like this one you simply cannot resist taking a closer look. It is an amazing sight to see the lushness and bright colors in a landscape of dryness – it’s like […]

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum) UV

What’s interesting with this landscape view of the bottle tree, is that the flowers appear same color in UV as the lichen on the rocks! Endemic.

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum)

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum)

Many species of plants on Socotra have evolved seed pods like this, and I don’t know why this is a design preferable here, as the content is dispersed by wind in any case.

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum)

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum)

This species is endemic to Socotra, meaning it grows only on this island! They come in so many shapes and sizes and sometimes resembles works of art – with or without flowers. Despite this it was not easy to find a specimen with a great shape and with flowers, as either I found amazing shapes […]

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum)

Socotra bottle tree (Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum)

Besides the Dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari), the Socotra bottle tree is the most iconic of the endemic plant species on the island. They can be seen in most vegetative stages, ranging from withering foliage, dormant to full regrowth or flowering. Due to Socotra’s diverse geology, there are countless microclimates around the island, providing favourable […]

Caralluma socotrana

Caralluma socotrana

During my 14 day stay on Socotra I only found this plant with a seed pod. And in what an exquisite state! The pod has just opened, and the seeds are yet to be dispersed by the wind. Timing is everything, but I think luck is a great part as well.

Dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari)

Dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari)

A forest of dragon blood trees can only be found on Socotra, as this species exists nowhere else! Firhmin Forest is a spectacular sight and the dragon blood tree is just one of so many species that exist only on this island. Although Firhmin appears like a healthy forest, you quickly notice there is no […]

Firhmin Forest, Socotra

Firhmin Forest, Socotra

A forest of dragon blood trees (Dracaena cinnabari) can only be found on Socotra, as this species exists nowhere else! Although Firhmin appears like a healthy forest, you quickly notice there is no regeneration. Under each of these trees there should be a number of seedlings from many species of plants growing in the shade […]

Lavandula nimmoi

Lavandula nimmoi

To find Lavender on Socotra was not expected, and my mindset was on this being an invasive or at least non-endemic species. But endemic it is! Again most were completely eaten by goats, but I managed to find one that was partly intact, at least one of inflorescences. Endemic.

Lavandula nimmoi

Lavandula nimmoi

To find Lavender on Socotra was not expected, and my mindset was on this being an invasive or at least non-endemic species. But endemic it is! Again most were completely eaten by goats, but I managed to find one that was partly intact, at least one of inflorescences. Endemic.

Lavandula nimmoi UV

Appears much duller in UV compared to visible light. Endemic.

Socotra starling (Onychognathus frater)

Socotra starling (Onychognathus frater)

This is the only confirmed photograph of both sexes of the endemic species I got during my visit, as this is a couple (both sexes look the same, opposed to the Somali starling (Onychognathus blythii) where the female has a grey upper body), and I heard their mellow one-note vocalization, which resembles that of the […]

Kalanchoe farinacea UV

Very interesting in UV, as the flowers have more variations in color than in visible light in which it appears uniformly orange.. Endemic.

This individual was looking for insects is between the withering foliage, likely spiders.

Socotra sparrow (Passer insularis)

In the Firhmin Forest I encountered this Socotra sparrow looking for insects in between the withering foliage, likely spiders. On the beach of Shuab of west Socotra I had the most amazing backdrop and light and I got some amazing photographs of the Somali starling and the Egyptian vulture. This location was also brimming with […]

Socotra sparrow (Passer insularis)

Socotra sparrow (Passer insularis)

This sparrow is searching for anything edible and seems to be focused on insects as there are no fruits or seeds to be found on the ground as the goats have eaten everything that would normally be bearing seeds now. All that is available are shrubs and trees inedible to the goats. This is shot […]

Socotra starling (Onychognathus frater)

Socotra starling (Onychognathus frater)

A Socotra starling landing in the canopy of a dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) where large amounts of fruits await. Firhmin Forest is a forest of dragon blood trees, and within it a reliable source of fruits. From the ground it’s hard to see any fruits in the canopy, but from a bird’s perspective there […]

Socotra starling (Onychognathus frater)

Socotra starling (Onychognathus frater)

A Socotra starling enjoying a mouthful of dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) fruit. Firhmin Forest is a forest of dragon blood trees, and within it a reliable source of fruits. From the ground it’s hard to see any fruits in the canopy, but from a bird’s perspective there are several clusters of fruits. Just in […]

Somali starling (Onychognathus blythii)

Somali starling (Onychognathus blythii)

This is the male Somali starling – all-black opposed to the female. He’s observing me from the branches of the endemic dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) that provides ample food during fruiting season, which is now coming to and end. The fruit is toxic to goats and I suppose many other species that have not […]

Dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari)

The unmistakable silhouette of the most famous of all plant species on Socotra. I stayed here for two nights, and what an amazing place – a forest of dragon blood trees! It’s like being in Jurassic park without the dinosaurs!

Dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari)

Dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari)

Socotra’s most iconic plant and not found anywhere else in the world. The densest populations of the dragon blood tree is found in the higher elevations of the Haghier (Hageher or Hajhir) mountains and the surrounding limestone plateaus. They face challenges on several fronts. Change in climate resulting in unstable amount of mist and rain […]

Heliotropium nigricans

Heliotropium nigricans

All specimens of this species were heavily grazed by goats, so I was very happy to find this plant which had one intact and healthy flower. Endemic.

Heliotropium nigricans

Heliotropium nigricans

All specimens of this species were heavily grazed by goats, so I was very happy to find this plant which had intact and healthy growth. Endemic.

Heliotropium nigricans UV

White in visible light but quite dark in UV, and stands out in an otherwise dull/grey background in UV.

Dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) UV

Visiting Socotra is like going back to another time and even to another planet entirely. When visiting the only dragonblood tree forest on the island, you are surrounded by trees so unlike anything alive on Earth today, that you simply cannot wonder if you’ve gone back to prehistoric times. To emphasize the weirdness of the […]

Tamarix nilotica

Tamarix nilotica

An incredible plant growing to small trees here in Stera of south Socotra. Earlier this morning I saw “bleeding” on the trunks and branches of these plants, and realized it was water. I thought it was moisture caught during the night. It was as salt as it gets! These plants stand tall and strong here […]

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

Although Stera is beautiful in the soft evening light, it’s equally wonderful during the time before the sun makes it too hot. Add some clouds to dapple the light on the dunes, and it’s something you’ll remember for a long time. Sand, sun, wind, sea – such is Stera! PS: do you see the approaching […]

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

Yet another gorgeous Socotra vista! It’s a windswept place, and the dunes are here because of it. It was windy when I was here, and you can see the sand blowing off the top of the dune, making the edge look out of focus. This is nothing compared to the monsoon winds in the summer […]

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

The sand dunes of Stera is on the southern coast of Socotra. It looks peaceful and inviting here, but come the southwestern monsoon, and huge waves and relentless winds batter this part of Socotra between June and September. Even though this is shot in early February, the heat is unbearably most of the day. Fortunately […]

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

An amazing vista – the mountains as a hard and uninviting backdrop to the soft and mellow dunes of Stera. The tree (Tamarix nilotica) seems out of place here in the middle of a desert, but it is at home and gets to water through very deep and long roots. It can extract the moisture […]

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

Only when you have a known size in a landscape will truly see the scale, as is the case here with the photographer and the tripod.

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

A lonely bush (Tamarix nilotica) and a lonely human in a vastness of sand! Socotra has many areas of desert-like dunes, but Stera is perhaps the one most resembling a true desert, as in many places you you don’t see the end of the sand, but walk to the top of one of the dunes […]

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

Although many plants species are very well suited for life here in the Stera dunes, some one way or another perish, and end up like a skeleton seen here – sand-blasted and dry as bone.

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

This is from the south of Socotra, and when in between the dunes you only see the sky and the sand, you’d think this is not from an island but a huge desert. I was mesmerized by the scenery! No matter where I turned my head I was in awe. In the back the sheer […]

Stera, Socotra

Stera, Socotra

Yet another shot from my stay in the sand dunes of the south of Socotra. A short while ago I was on the plateau seen in the distant – totally different landscape. Here we’re setting up camp for the night, protected from the wind. There are no tracks in the sand from this vantage point, […]