Graellsia isabellaeThe invertebrates are the group having a species highest number in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park. Its high diversity and adaptability to the environment climatic conditions -low temperatures, high snowfall and rainfall, strong winds and high solar radiation - shorten its biological cycle. These extreme variables have led to fundamentally different adaptive strategies in insects, from singular shapes and reduced sizes to the most diverse range of colors, such as the ornamentation of coleopteran elytra or the striking chromatism of butterflies.

In the National Park, spring and summer are time par excellence for a show: a period when insect larvae, after spending winter under the ground, snow and ice, emerge in their adult stages. This metamorphosis process all insects share, causes an explosion of life and triggers a race against time to ensure descent in years to come.

Within this invertebrate fauna, the group having a greatest biodiversity is the one of arthropods, headed by the insect class. However, there are other less abundant but very interesting groups, such as molluscs and crustaceans, mainly ln the National Park wetlands.

Among the molluscs are Pisidium casertanum, characteristic in Peñalara Massif wetlands and National Park water streams. It is a bivalve about 4-5 mm long and under 4 mm width. It proliferates in lentic habitats loamy areas, and it has a cosmopolitan distribution throughout Europe.

Crustaceans, a class of arthropods, are typical of the National Park quiet waters ecosystems. They are usually small invertebrates including, among others, species from Daphnia, Ceriodaphnia, Alona, and Chidorus genera. Perhaps one of the most striking crustaceans is Chirocephalus diaphanus, an anostracean about 37 mm long with a Palearctic distribution. In the National Park, it is distributed in temporary lake systems having oligotrophic waters, and it comes to survive to over 2,100 m heights. Their populations appear in summer, when the snowpack is removed from the mountain wetlands. It is monocyclic, so its eggs need a period of drying prior to hatching.

As mentioned, the largest and most representative group the one from the insects. It is globally estimated that 70% to 80% of living beings are insects. Currently 900,000 insects species are known worldwide. For the Sierra de Guadarrama, the species range estimated number is 15,000 to 20,000 insects, ie, 1.65% of the world total and 35.5% of the insects in the Iberian Peninsula.

{tab Lepidoptera}

Lepidoptera belong to the most striking, showy, and best studied order in the Sierra de Guadarrama. There are 124 rhopalocerae (day butterflies) species of, from 224 classified in the Iberian Peninsula, that is to say, 55% of the Iberian species are distributed in the Sierra de Guadarrama.

EThe presence of the Apollo butterfly, Parnassius Apollo, is noticeable. It belongs to the Papilionidae family; its size is variable: 60 to 75 mm, and the colorful stands out in his white wings of 4 red ocelli, surounded in black. Its distribution in the National Park of the Sierra de Guadarrama is limited to mountainous areas, on alpine slope meadows, and bogs and sunny humid zones. There exist several isolated populations in the Iberian peninsula mountainous zones, being known more than 20 subspecies. In the Sierra de Guadarrama, the escalerai and wyatti subspecies have been mentioned. Its main nutritious plant is Sedum. With regard to its protection level, it is classified as extinction risk status at the Community of Madrid level, and it is mentioned in the Habitats Directive Annex IV, in Berne Convention Annex II, and the List of Wild Species under Special Protection Regime.

The harlequin butterfly, Zerinthya ruminina, is a papilonidous, living in the National Park boundaries areas under 1,500 m height. It is a medium size (50 mm) butterfly, very characteristic for its multicolored winged (yellow, black and red); it is little demanding in terms of habitat, although it is limited to oak trees area, where it is nutritious plant, Aristolochia, is available. It is classified as special interest status at the community of Madrid level.

Another very particular butterfly is the dusky large blue, Phengaris nausithous, living in the Sierra de Guadarrama Valley of El Paula area. It is a small size species from Lycaenida family, being limited to 4 localities in the Iberian Peninsula. It is classified as vulnerable status in the National Catalog, as well as the Habitats Directive Annexes II and IV, and the Berne Convention Annex II.

Other butterflies very significant in the Sierra de Guadarrama, both for their history as for their singularity and fragility are the heterocerae -or night butterflies-. Specially, the Spanish moon moth (Graellsia isabelae), a large size saturnid, which reaches 10 cm in wingspan. It was described and discovered in the Sierra de Guadarrama by Mariano de la Paz Graells, in year 1848.  Although initially named Saturnia isabelae in honor to Queen Isabel II, it was later discovered that it belonged to another different genus, denominating Graellsia, in honor to Dr. Graells. He discovered not only this lepidopteran, but he also described several species of coleopterans. The so called "Graellsia” in the mountains environments, has wings with a semi-transparent clear greenish coloration, with chestnut stripes that mark its veins, very practical when concealing in Pinus sylvestris forests. It is classified as special interest at the Community of Madrid level, and it is included in the Wild Species List under Special Protection Regime, the Habitats Directive Annexes II and IV, and Berne Convention Annex II. Although a small population exists in the Alps, it is thought that it was introduced, reason why it is considered an Iberian Peninsula endemism.

By size, the great peacock moth (Saturnia pyri) is another great heterocean. It reaches 130 mm and is considered the largest lepidopteran in Europe. Its forewings and hind wings are ocher to grayish, with reddish tones zigzagging lines, and they have four very marked ocher, brown, ocher and black ocelli. Its larva is of great size reaching until 10 cm length. It is distributed throughout Europe.  In the Sierra de Guadarrama has been located in Miraflores, Rascafría and Cercedilla areas. Its regression in the community of Madrid zone has led to the classification as special interest status.

Other butterflies classified as vulnerable status at the Community of Madrid level are Nymphalis antiopa, Ocnogyna latreillei and Euphydryas aurinia. The latter is even included in the List of Wild Species in Protection Regime and both the Habitats Directive and Berne Convention Annex II. Plebicula nivescens is another rhopaloceran classified as sensitive to habitat alteration status at the Community of Madrid level. It is a Spanish mountain endemism. The subspecies estevita is the one that inhabits in the Guadarrama Mountain range of and is a local endemism.

{tab Coleoptera}

Coleoptera is the most diverse order of insects. There are more than 10,000 species in Spain, among the 350,000 ones described worldwide. In the Sierra de Guadarrama their number is still to be determined, although only four families (Carabidae, Chrysomelidae, Staphylinidae and Curculionidae) agglutinate more than 1,100 species. Extrapolating, it could be estimated that some 2,500 coleopteran species are distributed in the Sierra de Guadarrama.

The carabid Calathus vuillefroyi is endemic to the Sierra de Guadarrama. It is black coloured and sized about 15 mm, and it lives in the National Park areas above 1,900 m having low moisture, with abundant boulders and creeping juniper. It is classified as sensitive to habitat alteration status at the Community of Madrid level.

Several other endemic carabids are Nebria vuillefroyi, Leistus constrictus, Ocydromus carpetanum and Platyderus varians, being a the first Central System endemism and Sierra de Guadrrama endemism the other ones. These are small species, less than 15 mm, having their habitats in the National Park summits. They live in heights above 2,000 m, in melting ices moist areas (N. vuillefroyi and O. carpetanum), in pinewoods, brushwoods and mat-grass pastures, about 1,700 m to 2,400 m (P. varians) and in wild pines forests (L. constrictus).

Ciervo volanteOne of the most striking carabids in the Sierra de Guadarrama is the lucanid Lucanus cervus, or Stag beatle, whose males reach 80 mm. It is the largest beetle in Europe. Its color is reddish and males have large jaws shaped similarly to stag antlers, which have given origin to their name. The larvae are xylophagous, they feed on rotting wood of oaks and ilex, and the adults feed of the sap of these same trees. Therefore, its distribution is limited to the Sierra de Guadarrama oak and Pyrenean oak areas. It is classified as vulnerable status at the community of Madrid level, and it is included in the Wild Species List under Special Protection Regime, the Habitats Directive Annexe II, and Berne Convention Annex III.

Within the family of the cerambycid, there exist several remarkable species in the Guadarrama Mountain range. The greater capricorn beetle, Cerambix cerdo, is a xylophagous species, usually feeding of Quercus subspecies, although it has also been associated with another type of woodland. Its larva feeds on their dead wood, for 3-4 years before adult metamorphosis.  It can reach 60 mm, although its length is very variable depending on the diet in the larval stage. The distribution is Eurasian, though more linked to the Mediterranean area. In the Sierra de Guadarrama it has been mentioned basically in oak forests in Cercedilla area. The species is included in the Wild Species List under the Special Protection Regime and the Habitats Directive Annexes II and IV.

Another very characteristic cerambycid in the Guadarrama Mountain range is Iberodorcadium hispanicum. It is a beatle about 20 mm length with black hairy elytra, sometimes turning to brown, with two parallel white lines in each eld. It is very abundant in the spring months in matgrass pastures or alpine meadows zones, with or without dominion of brushwood groves. It is very similar to Iberodorcadium graellsii and I. ghilianii, quite common in the Sierra de Guadarrama. These three species are endemic to the Sierra de Guadarrama. It is mainly due to their isolation of since they are non-flying species, which has led to a differentiation of the Sierra de Guadarrama characteristic species and subspecies. I. hispanicum is classified as sensitive to habitat alteration status at the community of Madrid level.

{tab Other Insects}

Among the orthoptera, or grasshoppers, there are several species with certain peculiarities. Podisma carpetana, is an orthopter classified as extinction risk status at the Community of Madrid level. Dark brown with yellowish to green rings of abdominal segments. The Sierra de Guadarrama subspecie is the carpetana, and the Sierra de Guadarrama is the only known habitat.

Another orthopter very common in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, is the Iberian mountain cicada, Steropleurus stalii. It is a very abundant specie in the summits and among the brushwoods during the summer season. Its color, in mature state, is dark chestnut, and olive green dominates in more immature states. The abdominal segments have a lighter, slightly beige coloration in their terminal area.

As for the social insects - the ants -, they abound in the Sierra de Guadarrama. 102 different species of ants have been mentioned in the Sierra, although the Red wood ant (Formica rufa) is the most abundant and characteristic in the National Park. It makes large humps formed by accumulation of needles, and brooms in upper levels, reaching up to half a meter height. Although its normal distribution limit is the pine forest, it has been observed in areas up to 2,000 m height.

Several insect species whose development depends on a good water quality live In the National Park aquatic ecosystems. They are trichopterus, odonata, ephemeroptera and plecoptera species. All species of these orders have aquatic larval development, and the life cycle of some species lasts up to three years (eg Perla marginata).

There is a remarkable trichopterus taxonomic wealth in the National Park. They live in the Sierra de Guadarrama streams and rivers headwaters and many of them are Iberian endemism (Larcasia partita, Athripsodes braueri, Thremma tellae, Limnphilus guadarramicus, Catagapetus maclachlan, Agapetus segovicus). The limnephilid Allogamus lauretaus, northern half peninsular endemism, is particularly relevant.  Although living in lotic waters, it has come to colonize the Peñalara Lake. This species is classified as sensitive to habitat alteration status at the Community of Madrid level.

As for the ephemeroptera, several species stand out, belonging to genera such as Habrophlebia, Baetis, Cloeon, Serratella, Ephemera, Siphlonurus, Drunella, Heptagenia, Epeorus, Ecdyonurus, etc. In the Sierra de Guadarrama, they are limited to streams and rivers headwaters, although they also colonize rivers average sections. Both Serratella hispanica and Drunella paradinasi are species discovered and described in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park rivers (Eresma and Lozoya rivers) standing out for their endemic character. They are classified as sensitive to habitat alteration status at the Community of Madrid level.

Plecoptera is the most demanding insects group in terms of water quality. They develop in headwaters and high sections of the National Park water flows, generally very cold and well oxygenated. Their larvae are aquatic, and depending on the species, they spend in larval stage from months to years, and then develop in flying adults, usually in the spring or summery periods. Life in the adult state, although variable depending on the species, lasts from a few days to a few weeks, sufficient time to reproduce and deposit back the putting into the aquatic ecosystems. The species most characteristic in the Sierra de Guadarrama are: Dinocras cephalotes, Perla marginata, Amphinemura guadarramensis (endemism), Protonemura navacerrada (northern half peninsular endemism), Protonemura hispanica (peninsular endemism), Protonemura pyrenaica subspecies. (Northern half peninsular endemism), Brachyptera arcuata (peninsular endemism), and up to 9 species from the Leuctra genus, of which the outstanding Leuctra madritensis, a northern half peninsular endemic species, classified as sensitive to habitat alteration status at the Community of Madrid level.

As for the odonata, which includes dragonflies and damselfies, several species inhabit in the National Park.  In the main river courses, Cordulegaster boltonii stands out, being replaced in lower stretches of streams and rivers by Calopteryx virgo, Boyeria irene and Onychogomphus uncatus.

Cordulegaster boltonii is par excellence the rivers and mountain streams dragonfly. It is a great size dragonfly, black coloured with yellow spots as rings, and greyish green eyes color. Its distribution is European and North Africa. In the National Park, it inhabits in the silty backwaters of fast and cold waters close to sources.

Other odonata inhabit the National Park wetlands, such as Aeschnea juncea, A. isosceles, A. affinis, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, Libellula depressa and L. quadrimaculata, specifically at the Peñalara Massif Ramsar Site.


More about nature

Peñalara Massif wetlands

The Peñalara Massif is the site with the highest concentration of high mountain lakes and ponds in the Sierra de Guadarrama.


Information on the reptiles of the Sierra de Guadarrama, some of them very little known.


The species that inhabit the mountain rivers, some of them unfortunately introduced.


Dozens of bird species fly the skies of the Sierra, including some of the most emblematic species of the national park.


Dozens of species growing on trees, on rocks, covering the ground.....

Sierra de Guadarrama Rivers

Mountain rivers and streams are an essential feature of the national park.

Sistema de observación meteorológica

El parque nacional cuenta con una red de estaciones meteorológicas de alta montaña.


Dozens of mammal species inhabit the Sierra de Guadarrama.

Peñalara: glaciology and glacial vestiges

The best glacial remains of Sierra de Guadarrama


The Sierra de Guadarrama has a high richness of amphibian species.

Geology and Lithology

Rock types and geological history of the Sierra de Guadarrama.


The little-known fauna of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

Exceptional trees

Magnificent specimens of different species with exceptional characteristics.


Fungi play a fundamental role in the ecology of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

La Pedriza: a particular granite batholith

La Pedriza is a singular mountain relief, unique in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Sierra de Guadarrama Climate

Description of the climatology of the national park.

Vegetation and Natural Systems

Get to know the vegetation of the national park, with 8 natural systems represented.


Around 1680 species and subspecies of plants inhabit the national park.