Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tenerife's Flora And Fauna

Macaronesia is the name given to the groups of Islands which scatter across the centre of the Atlantic. One such group is the Canary Islands which boasts the greatest variety of flora. Throughout the Canaries there is a mixture of endemic and cultivated plants, tropical and sub-tropical.

The largest of the Canary Islands is Tenerife, which although by most standards a small island it does carry a rich diversity of plant life. One of the reasons for this diversity is the climate. Tenerife's climate is remarkably varied for such a small island, apparently caused by the winds being affected by the rugged contours of the land. There are reported to be some 140 plant species thriving on the Island thanks to the climate and variety of volcanic soils.

For anyone interested in wildlife or flora there is are many treats awaiting them on Tenerife. Although the south of the island is quite dry and barren the rest of Tenerife has a wide variety of plant life to marvel at.

The unusual Red Tajinaste, which flowers in late spring and the Las Canadas are among the most spectacular examples. The flowering Teide wall flower or Codesco spread a fantastic yellow carpet during the spring, creating a sight to remember and enjoy.

Tenerife is also well known for the Drago tree, which is one of the oldest living members of the plant kingdom. 20 million years ago it was prevalent throughout the Mediterranean but the coming of the Ice Age meant that they remained only in Madeira, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands. Today they are only naturally grown in Tenerife and the neighbouring island of La Palma.

Tenerife's ancient settlers, the Guanches, revered the tree and performed sacred ceremonies with it. What was particularly interesting to them was that the colourless sap turned crimson upon contact with air and light. It became known as dragon's blood. The trees were looked after and have achieved a great age but it is difficult to be accurate because the bark does not create normal annual circles. Nevertheless, the most famous Drago tree, the Millenium Drago at Icod de los Vinos on the northern coast, is at least 650 years old and possibly over 1000 years. It is 17 metres high with a girth of 6 metres. They can be seen in most towns and villages in the north of the island. As well as the Millenium Drago, it is worth seeking out the Drago de la Ramble, magnificent against the blue ocean, and the Drago in the Sitio Litre gardens in Puerto de la Cruz.

Endemic species of wild birds also have appeal. With its dark blue feathers and elegant appearance, the Blue Chaffinch is one of the most beautiful and distinct, and is found in the pine forests. They may have originated from the nearby African continent and then evolved during their isolation on Tenerife.

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