Għajn Tuffieħa, Malta

Preserving and reintroducing native plant species

On the Maltese islands, Carmen Chetcuti is famed for her green fingers as she propagates native trees and shrubs as part of a project related to the ecological restoration of degraded habitats. This project is centred around the GAIA Foundation’s tree and plant nursery, in which some very rare species are grown from seeds or cuttings. Carmen is also a true expert on natural remedies, how to prepare them and what they treat.

Prior to human colonisation of Malta and its islands, much of the country was covered by Sclerophyll forest, typical to the Mediterranean region. However, the arrival of humans led to widespread logging, which began to clear the forests, and livestock grazing, which prevented them from regrowing.

Malta’s remaining forests are today threatened by the introduction of non-native species, in particular Acacias and the Giant reed. They are a threat to the natural vegetation as they do not form part of the Maltese ecosystem, and can displace native species.

To combat this, the nursery was originally set up in 1999 at a disused sewage treatment plant at Għajn Tuffieħa with the aim of propagating native Maltese trees, shrubs and grasses. The nursery has gained experience in the propagation and cultivation of several rare and threatened plant species, some of which are endemic to the islands. The tree nursery provides plants for reforestation and habitat restoration projects, as well as for private gardens and parks.

Among the trees and shrubs in the nursery one can find what Carmen believes to be the most important plant that she cultivates: Esparto grass. This grass is normally planted on the sea shores, especially on the clay slopes surrounding the nursery. These slopes, like most of the coastal areas of Malta, are prone to erosion, and this grass helps retain the soil structure and in doing so keeps the Maltese coastline together.

“This is a long process, but I enjoy doing it step by step. Every species has its rhythm and process. I consider these plants and trees to be my babies and as they grow they restore this place to how it used to be in the past, in order for future generations to enjoy it as well.”CARMEN CHETCUTI

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!