Sóller Botanic Garden

Wild flora from other islands

M7 Canary Islands flora

Flora of the Canary Islands in a Mediterranean context

The endemic flora of the Canary Islands reflects the geological age of these islands. Fossils of leaves and fruit found in the Mediterranean basin, also at the Balearic Islands, and particularly in the mountains surrounding the Sóller valley, corresponds to species found today only on the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. These fossils date from the Miocene and the Pliocene ages of the Tertiary period and are up 20 million years old!!

During those times, vegetation of the Mediterranean basin was very similar to the laurel like forests of which some are left on the Canary Islands.

Thus, we find that many plants from the Canary’s have their origin and nearest relatives around the Mediterranean basin. That is the reason why, in a conservation garden dealing with plants from the Mediterranean islands and to better understand the complexity of bio geographical relations between species which form them, it becomes essential to integrate in the Garden a small sample of what our flora must have been like some 20 million years ago.

Macaronesian zone

The word, Macaronesian, (Makaro= happy, nesias= islands) means the "fortunate islands", and refers to combined Atlantic archipelagos, (Azores, Madeira, Savage, Canary, and Cape Verde) and a small part of the African continent (south of Morocco and Sahara) where many closely related species also live.

The Canary Archipelago has the richest flora, with some 1.860 species, of which 521 (28%) are endemic.

Canary Island vegetation

The Canary Islands are divided into two phytogeographic units: the eastern islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura), and the western islands (Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma) The eastern islands are drier, while the western islands are affected by the trade winds, a situation which produces a wide range of micro climes which in turn develop different zones of vegetation:

 

Lower level 0-300 (400) metres over sea level.

Dry and warm climate with long hours of sunshine and low rainfall. It is formed by the following communities

  • Sea shore: species growing on sandy soil an influenced by sea spray.

  • Carduus-spurges: a community of succulent bushes like "cardoons" (Euphorbia canariensis), the "tabaibas" (E. balsamifera and E. obtusifolia), the "verode" (Kleinia neriifolia), the "wild incense" (Artemisia thuscula) and the "cornical" (Periploca laevigata).

  • Thermophilic forest: This forms a forested transitional strip between the lower level and the higher, and is made up of pines and juniper. The species are of both Mediterranean and North African origin, such as Pistacia atlantica and Juniperus phoenicia, or endemic species like the Canary Palm (Phoenix canariensis) and the typical "drago" (Dracena draco).

Higher level (400-1800 metres above sea level)

It is oriented north and northeast: humid and cool, oceanic in character, were we find forests of:

  • Laurel-like forest: basically a group of evergreen, shady and warmth loving trees. There are some 18 characteristic trees species which can be above 20-30 metre in height and bushy undergrowth made up basically of ferns such as Woodwardia radicans.

  • Fayal-Hethers: is situated on transitional zones between the evergreen laurel-like forests and the pine forests. It has it own characteristic species such as Myrica faya (faya), Ilex canariensis (Canary holy), Erica arborea (heather), and Erica scoparia subp. platycodon (yew) among others.

  • Pine woods: Canary pine (Pinus canariensis) with undergrowth of Cistus montpeliensis, Cistus symphytifolius and Chamaecystus proliferus. They are commonly found on the southern slopes, where it is dry and sunny.

Cliff dwellers: can be found growing at all levels. There are communities that live on the cliffs, canyons, steep mountainsides with broken surfaces and full of fissures which are normally shady. The most typical families found are Crassulaceae (Aeonium, Monanthes, Aichryson, Greenovia) and Asteraceae (Sonchus).

Echium wildpretii, or the "Teide’s wall flower Erysimum scoparium.

High mountain (more than 2000 metres above sea level)

Dry climate, long hours of sunshine and thermal oscillations. The dominant species are known as "Teide’s broom" (Spartocystisus supranubius) and the "Picks laburnum" (Adenocarpus viscosus). In association with these shrubs you can find the "lank grass" (Descurainia bourgaeana), the "red viper’s bugloss of the Teide" Echium wildpretii or the "Teide’s wall flower" Erysimum scoparium.