Laurel forest, also called Laurissilva, is a type of subtropical forest found in areas with high humidity and relatively stable, mild temperatures. The forest is characterized by broadleaf tree species with evergreen, glossy and elongated leaves, known as “laurophyll” or “lauroid”. Plants from the laurel family (Lauraceae) may or may not be present, depending on the location.
Laurel forests are found in the islands of Macaronesia in the eastern Atlantic, in particular the Azores, Madeira Islands, and Canary Islands from 400 to 1200 metres elevation. Trees of the genera Apollonias(Lauraceae), Ocotea (Lauraceae), Persea (Lauraceae), Clethra (Clethraceae), Dracaena (Ruscaceae), and Picconia (Oleaceae) are characteristic.
The Madeira Islands laurel forest was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.
The Laurel Wood is a forest formation that features a large biological diversity, with a high percentage of unique species of Macaronesia and Madeira. It is par excellence, the original natural forest of Madeira, consists predominantly of trees and evergreen shrubs with dark green, flat leaves.
It has an origin dating back to the Miocene and Pliocene period of the Tertiary period, some 20 million years ago. At that time, covered vast areas in southern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin that have been regressing over time eventually disappear, more specifically at the beginning of the Quaternary due to glaciations in Europe caused a gradual cooling and due to climate change in North Africa that made this most arid region.
It is considered a relic of the Tertiary harboring living things that exist from this period and others that have evolved since then to the present day and its name, Laurel, results from the combination of two terms of Latin laurus and silva mean, respectively, and laurel forest . It is a forest zone in which the most dominant trees belong to the family Lauraceae.
In Madeira Island approximately covers an area of 15,000 hectares (20%) and is located primarily on the north coast, the 300 to 1300m above sea level, and on the south coast persists in some areas of difficult access, 700 to 1200 meters
It is mostly included in the area of the Natural Park of Madeira, which was created in 1982 having as a main objective the protection of this valuable Natural Heritage.