Laurisilva Forests once covered a large portion of the ancient Earth. Today Madeira and Azores account for some 80% of what remains. These ancient Laurel forest are a sub-tropical forest with high humidity and stable, mild temperatures. The forest is rich in evergreens and broad leaf trees with glossy leaves known as "laurophyll" or "lauroid." Isolation protected and preserved the Azores’ Laurisilva Forest.
The Laurisilva Forest dates from the Tertiary period some 65 million years ago and lasted more than 63 million years, until 1.8 million years ago. It began to disappear from the Mediterranean basin about 10,000 years ago as the climate changed.
The Laurisilva is found primarily at an altitude between 900 and 4,200 feet and protects a wide variety of rare flora and fauna including the rare Priolo bullfinch. The Laurisilva Forest laurel tree is conical tree that can grow as high as 60 ft. tall. Today, the Laurus azorica is only found in the archipelago of the Azores.
The Azores’ Laurisilva Forest are called a “Cloud Forest,” because of the dense moisture from the Atlantic is precipitated as warm moist air masses forced upwards by the terrain, which cools the air to the dew point. The moisture in the air condenses as rain or mist, creating a habitat with cool, moist conditions in the air and soil. The Laurisilva Forest climate is damp and mild, with a temperature moderated by the proximity of the ocean.