|Euphorbia canariensis - reminiscent of organ pipes|
Our first experiences in La Palma were not as happy as they might have been. On the coach taking us to where we were to stay, I asked our tour operations representative about car hire. She gave the opinion that she doubted whether it would be possible. Our spirits took a further dive when the site of the hotel was indicated to us. It was a hotel with a beach, surrounded for miles by acre after acre of banana plantations. Luckily at the hotel reception, car hire presented no problems, so the next morning we had a car to take us around the island.
In many people’s eyes, looking for roadside plants while driving is far from a good idea, and my wife was strongly of this opinion. Although I was confident that looking out for endemics while negotiating tight, hairpin bends was quite safe, she was not. [She still isn't]
One species I did spot from the car in some quantity in an area of woodland was the orchid Habenaria tridactylites which was in fine flower.
|Vegetation developing on volcanic ash|
|Vegetation beginning to develop on ash following the most |
recent eruption of 1971
|Wild Dragon Tree|
|Echium pininana in a garden in Jersey, Channel Islands|
|Echium pininana flowers closely resemble|
those of UK native Viper's Bugloss
|Caldera de Taburiente|
|Gigantic Rock Pinnacle on the edge of |
Caldera de Taburiente
|Caldera de Taburiente with rainbow|
|Mount Teide in the distance from La Palma|
Another island well worth a visit by botanists visiting the Canary Islands is La Gomera. From Tenerife it is reached by ferry from Los Cristianos arriving in San Sebastian. En route, it is not unusual to see a pod of pilot whales, or the tiny sea bird, the Little Shearwater so rarely seen off Britain.
I have been to La Gomera twice, once when leading a party of naturalists, and once on holiday. On the second occasion, we took our hire car across on the ferry. From San Sebastian, a road takes the visitor up to the Garajonay National Park which is a World Heritage Site because of its ecology and endemic wild plants. Unlike Tenerife, it is wonderfully peaceful, and the roads are never crowded with cars. The roads passing through Garajonay go through woodland, but the road banks supply just the right conditions for many of the species endemic to the island. In other parts, the habitat is more open, and the countryside is dotted with the Canarian endemic palm, Phoenix canariensis along with a confusing array of bushy spurges, many of which grow in the island. I believe I saw the rare Euphorbia lambii, but only through binoculars, so I was unable to photograph it.
One great surprise after seeing the almost tree sized Sonchus species elsewhere on the islands is to find Sonchus wildpretii with its linear leaves. Unfortunately I have never seen it in flower, however I was lucky to see it at all as it is very rare. The genus Pericallis has many very beautiful Canarian members, but I personally prefer Pericallis steetzii as my favourite, seen occasionally on road banks in Garajonay. Two important endemics were seen on rocky ground with San Sebastian in the distance. These were Aeonium decorum with its purple tinted leaves, and Sideritis lotsyi, similar in many ways to other endemic Sideritis species seen throughout the islands.