The Baetic Cordillera is home to a number of Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrub plant communities, including shrublands, oak woodlands, broadleaf forests, and coniferous forests, which vary with elevation, soils, and topography. The cordillera, together with the Rif Mountains of Morocco which face the Baetic Cordillera across the Alboran Sea, is one of the Mediterranean basin's ten biodiversity hotspots, known to ecologists as the Baetic-Rifan complex. The Baetic mountains are home to a rich assemblage of Mediterranean plants, including a number of relict species from the ancient laurel forests, which covered much of the Mediterranean basin millions of years ago when it was more humid.
The Baetic Cordillera comprises a number of mountain chains in Southern Spain and Northern Morocco, separated from each other by the Alboran Sea. Gibraltar is also considered to be part of the Baetic Cordillera. Most of these mountain chains are better-known by their own name. The Cordillera Bética forms a great arc that follows the Moroccan coast from Oujda in the east to Tanger in the west, then crosses the Strait of Gibraltar and goes east again from Cádiz to Valencia and the Balearic Islands.