Green Veil: Madeira bushfire aftermath

Green Veil: Madeira bushfire aftermath

It was just after mid-October when we received a WhatsApp call from Maria, who looks after our house in our absence. What she told us was frightening: our village, Fajã da Ovelha, was on fire. When I speak about Fajã da Ovelha as a village, I have to add that a village in Madeira is, more often than not, a scattering of houses with a lot of greenery between them. For those who don’t know Madeira (yet): greenery in Madeira means a mix of Laurel trees, pine trees, eucalyptus, gorse and reeds, among many other species.

Madeira’s geography makes fire fighting complicated. Steep, narrow, inaccessible valleys, and only one fire fighting helicopter. Throw in the balance the Eucalyptus’ name in Australia (Firewood) and an extremely dry and hot summer and you have the perfect recipe for a bush fire. This happens quite often in Madeira, like in Spain and continental Portugal, but usually, the affected areas are limited. Not so this year. More than half of the territory of Calheta, the council in which Fajã da Ovelha is located, burnt down this time. I have written about it in an earlier article, and it is time to move on.

brave Belladonna

Our arrival back home in Fajã da Ovelha late October, left us both relieved and shocked. Relieved, because the house and garden were perfectly okay, except maybe one small orange tree which had scorched leaves. Shocked, because our once so beautiful view was now a blackened valley. But we were soon encouraged by some early signs that nature was not dead at all. On one of our first days here, we drove to a sad black burnt-down valley and saw one pink blot in the middle of all the sadness. It was a belladonna lily, that flowers before making leaves, and you can imagine the effect it had. I had to make a picture of this.

amazing nature

Nature in Madeira never stops to amaze us. We knew from reports about the aftermath of bushfires in Australia that a fire is not just a bad thing. Nature gets a good cleaning and suddenly, there is room for new species. Soon, nature starts spreading a green veil over the damage. Today, the last day of the year 2023, we look around us in wonder, as we see how much Mother Nature has silently achieved in so little time.

First, a small meadow just below our house, completely black after the fire, suddenly started to sport new grass after only three weeks.

In other areas of the valley, new reeds have spring from the old roots, which were obviously still alive. Ferns and brackens simply moved their new spring leaves forward.

Black eucalyptus trees now sport green leaves everywhere. And even the scorched Anona trees are making new spring leaves ahead of time. High up in the mountains, whole areas were burnt down. But even there, large green patches are appearing again. Agapanthus are hurrying to have their new leaves ready for next spring! Just look at the images, they show what words really can’t express.

And so, when the clocks strike midnight in a few hours, we can close the frightening and then reassuring last chapter of 2023. If all goes well, tomorrow I will post my traditional New Year’s wishes, with a video of the always spectacular fireworks of Funchal. Have a good end of 2023!

A special thanks to Ellen Laluan for making and sending the images made just after the fires.


By Peter Groen

Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1949. He has a history in PR and copywriting. Now, part time resident of the Island of Madeira of over 10 years, he writes about Madeira, its culture, its overwhelming nature, its food and drink, and about everything concerning travel to and on this beautiful island.


  1. Hello,thankyou for you e mail. Fabulous firework display. Visited just before Christmas to see the lights. Spectacular.

    1. Yes, they went all-out again this year. Loved it too! Of course, it´s always way over-the-top but let´s be honest… Funchal would not be Funchal without it. And the firework display this year was more spectacular than ever!

  2. Nature is wonderful. All of the burnt ashes act as fertilizer to new growth and you can see the results in the photographs.

    A Happy New Year to one and all

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