Experimental results on free convection in a vertical annulus filled with a saturated porous medium are reported for height-to-gap ratios of 1.46, 1 and 0.545, and radius ratio of 5.338. In these experiments, the inner and outer walls are maintained at constant temperatures. The use of several fluid-solid combinations indicates a divergence in the Nusselt-number-Rayleigh-number relation, as also reported by previous investigators for horizontal layers and vertical cavities. The reason for this divergence is the use of the stagnant thermal conductivity of the fluid-filled solid matrix. A simple model is presented to obtain an effective thermal conductivity as a function of the convective state, and thereby eliminate the aforementioned divergence. A reasonable agreement between experimentally and theoretically determined Nusselt numbers is then achieved for the present and previous experimental results. It is thus concluded that a unique relationship exists between the Nusselt and Rayleigh numbers unless Darcy's law is inapplicable. The factors that influence the breakdown of Darcian behaviour are characterized and their effects on heat-transfer rates are explained. It is observed that, once the relation between the Nusselt and Rayleigh numbers branches out from that obtained via the mathematical formulation based on Darcy's law, its slope approaches that for a fluid-filled enclosure of the same geometry when the Rayleigh number is large enough. An iterative scheme is also presented for estimation of effective thermal conductivity of a saturated porous medium by using the existing results for overall heat transfer.