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The Flora of the Canary Islands is unique because of its diversity. There are about 1900 kinds of plants on the Islands of which about 800 are represented on Gran Canaria.
 

Here is a view covering the different plants, listed below:

Agave - Aloe - Avocado tree - Bamboos - Banana - Barilla - Bougainvillea - Dragon blood tree - Eucalyptus - Fig cactus - Flamboyant - Hibiscus - Poinsettia - Coffee - Canarian Harebell - Canarian Palm - Canarian Scotch Pine - Potatoes - Laurel - Heather - Onion - Almond Tree - Mango tree - Mulberry tree -
Oleander - Orchilla - Papaya - Thorn Apple - Senecio - Sugar Cane - Column-Euphorbia - Tamarisk - Tomato


Agave (Aga`vaceae) The name originates from the Greek agavos = admirable, excellent, and is referring to flowering plants. Agaves can be found everywhere in the dry parts of the Islands.  It will take from 10 - 20 years before, from the strong, fleshy leaves, long flower stems are going high, often more than 10 meter up. When the flowering is over, the plant will die, but will shoot much in its lifetime.


Aloe (Lili'aceae) The Greek Aloe means bitter, and refers to the leaves juice, which has been used as medicine, spice and skin lotion. Aloe Vera can be separated into two basic products: gel and latex. Aloe Vera gel is the leaf pulp or mucilage, a thin clear jelly-like substance obtained from the parenchymal tissue that makes up the inner portion of the leaves. The gel contains carbohydrate polymers, plus various other organic and inorganic compounds. Aloe gel has been used for topical treatment of wounds, minor burns, and skin irritations. American consumers are most familiar with aloe's use in skin-care products. Aloe products for internal use have been promoted for everything from , headaches, to arthritis, and many other conditions.


Avocado tree (Lau'raceae) or Aguacate, which is the Spanish name, originates from Tropical America, but is able to grow in subtropical areas, and therefore also on the Canary Islands.
On the Islands the green colour of the avocado pears are common in the household.
They are used in different salads and are also eaten as a starter with salt and pepper.


Bamboo (Gra´mineae) the highest grass in the world, with hollow, three like stalks, are growing in low places on the islands, where there are sufficient water, often in connexion with the watering plant in the banana plantations. The stalks, which in the tropical areas becomes 15 - 20 meter high, will in the Canary Islands become about 2 - 3 meter high.


Banana (Mu´saceae). The botanical name for banana is Musa, and the growing of bananas on the Islands is an important industry. It is said, that the plant was brought here from Guinea in the 1500 Hundreds, where it was used as an normal plant in the gardens, but as more hardy kinds was developed, it was in the end of the 1800 Hundreds one of the most important export articles on the Island.
Bananas from the Canary Island are smaller and more sweet than the bananas we normally buys in the shops, and as a whole it is the plant we mostly are connecting with the Canaries. In Spanish the plant is called Platano. With its stem and the broad leaves, it mostly reminds you of a tree, but it really is a "herbaceous perennial", where the stem actually is formed of the leaf sheaths, which together with the leaves die down when the fruit is ripe.
12 - 14 months after the plant is planted, the first and only inflorescence is produced. A bunch of bananas is ripe ion about 6 months, and every plant gives only one bunch of bananas. The old plant dies, but before that it has developed a sucker, that can be used in the propagation.


Barilla (Aizo´acae) is a so called purple plant, where the flowers come out in the middle of the Day, or when the sun is very strong.
Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum and Mesembryanthemum crystallinum are growing in the lowest part of the drought plants zone on barren soil. There are more kinds of the plant, also in the Canary Islands called cofe-cofe, cosco and vidrio. In earlier times, when there were a draught and it was difficult to get food, one roasted the seeds of the Barilla, and produced a special Gofio, which was used as a surrogate of the normal Gofio, produced from corn. To day the plant is looked upon as a weed.

barilla.JPG (9283 bytes)


Bougainvillea (Nyctagi'naceae) is originally an Brazilian liana, whose flowers are placed 3 and 3 together. Every flower is placed on the middle string of a coloured high leave, and this beautiful climbing plant are planted of most Canaries and newcomers as red, purple, orange or white flowers.


Dragon blood tree (Aga´vaceae) Dracaena Draco is the most remarkable tree you can find on the Canary Islands. The sap of the tree is blood-red and was in ancient times used to embalm the dead or to produce medicine.
The tree has an strong trunk and the leaves are fleshy and pointed like a spear. For the Islands indigenous population the dragon blood tree was sacred. There are only a few left, among other places at Icod de los Vinos on Tenerife and in Gáldar on Gran Canaria. The one in Gáldar is said to have been planted in 1718, and therefore it is the oldest tree on Gran Canaria.


Eucalyptus (Myr'taceae) Eucalyptus globulus comes from Australia. It was called the Fever tree, because it could keep the Malaria-fever at bay. It is planted in swamped areas, suck the water and helps to dry out the swamps and thereby drive the mosquitoes away. It is able to turn its silver shining leaves, so they catch the sunrays the least. The cones will be found on the ground and smell delicious. (Take a few in your pocket, and you will always have something nice to smell. Among other it is used in eucalyptus pastilles and in ointments against rheumatism.


Fig cactus (Cac'taceae) Opuntia ficus india is a cactus from Mexico, which was introduced on the Canary Islands in the 16. century. Fig cactus can be 3 - 4 meter high. The fruit is in Spanish called chumbo, and the plant chumbera. The Fig cactus was originally imported as a host for the small scale insect cochenillen. This small parasite ( cactus cacty ) is used by colour factories to produce  a red colour.
On the Canary Island it is used as a very effective quickset hedge.
The Fig cactus produce yellowish flowers, that turns to edible fruits. A ripe fig cactus is succulent and sweet. You should always use glows, when you clean the fruits, and very carefully take all the needles and eyes on the surface away. The very fine thorn goes through the skin and is hold in place by barbs. The fruit is used in salads, to desserts and is used in marmalade
.


Flamboyant (Papilio'naceae) Delonix'regia  is a fast growing, smallish tree with a very broad crown. The tree is easily recognised by the scarlet flowers and the shiny brown pea shells, which can reach a length at 50 cm. and a width at 5-6 cm. Even when it is a tropical tree, which normally belongs in the rain forest on Madagascar, it is doing fine in dry areas, without rain in several months.


Hibiscus (Mal'vaceae) Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is in the same family as hollyhock originates from the East Indies. It has big colourful flowers and is used much in tropical and subtropical areas as an ornamental bush, in hedges and as small trees in gardens and parks. There are different kinds whose flowers are both single and double. The colour of the flowers varies from red, yellow, Rosa, white and spotted.


Poinsettia (Euphorbi'aceae) Euphorbia pulcherrima originates in Mexico but is cultivated as an  ornamental bush everywhere in tropical and subtropical areas. In the Canary Islands the plant can grow to several meters in height, and is a ornamental plant in many gardens and parks. The flowers are small and is hardly noticeable, but in turn you notice the scarlet leaves, named braktees. There are different kinds with white and pink braktees.
Driving through Mogan you will see some trees with double flowers.


Coffee (Rubi'aceae) Coffee Arabica  is a deciduous tree, which can reach 10 meters in height. There is only grown a little coffee in the Canaries, but the plant is to be found some places, (also as a tree) It has got white flowers and red fruits as big as cherries.
The coffee beans is the two fruits which is in every fruit. Canary coffee is bitter to the taste.


Canarian Harebell (Campanu´laceae) is a bush with big scarlet flowers, flowering from January to April.


Canarian Palm (Palmae) Phoenix canariensis also called the Canarian date palm, originates from the Canary Islands, where it forma a up to 20 meter high tree. The feather formed leaves can be up to 5 meter long and 1 meter broad. The flowers comes in bunches and the fruit is small, dry and is noneateble.
The real date palm  with eatable fruits is African, and is named Phoenix dactylifera doesn't grow in the Canary Islands.


The Canarian Scotch Pine (Pi´naceae) Pinus canariensis is a high stemmed and up to 30 meter high tree. The young trees has a pyramid formed growth, while the old ones gets a broader and rounder crown. The tree is very important for the Islands, among other things as water gatherer.
When the fog and the clouds are over the islands, than the endemic pines, which is a special kind with 3 long needles "on every leaf" is capable of catching the moisture and transform it to drops, which thereafter falls to earth. The cones are very big - 20 - 25 cm.
Pinus canariensis mostly grows in the higher areas, and the tree has a special gift to survive  forest fires. At the same time, as the Europeans came to the island, there was to big a utilization of the pines among other things to furniture, balconies and more, on the islands and in Spain. From this utilization the Canaries lost about 80% of the pines on the islands.

 

Potatoes (Sola´naceae) Solanum tuberosum is a very important export article together with onions and tomatoes. In the Canary language one speaks of papa, and on castellan one talks of patata.
Because of the mild climate, it is possible to harvest twice a year, and it is the reason why the European markets has been customers outside their potato season. When the harvest on the European markets are plentiful the islands imports plants from Ireland and England.

kartofler.JPG (9021 bytes)


Bayberries (Lau´raceae) Laurus canariensis. Here we are talking about a special Canarian kind, which by the way doesn't segregate much from the European Bay tree (Laurus nobilis) there might be a little less aroma in its leaves.


Heather (Eri´caceae) Erica arborea can reach up to 20 meter in height. The small white or pink flowers looks like the normal heather bushes on the moors in august. The roots of the heather trees is called bruyére tree, and its dark brown, very hard and fine kind of tree is used to produce pipe bowls.


Onion (Liliáceae) Allium cepa grown in the islands is reckoned the most juicy and tasty in the world.


Almond tree (Ro´saceae) Prunus duchies, is a deciduous tree with an height of about 3 - 5 meter. which is grown many places on the islands, where there is sufficient water, special in the Barrancos. Its white and pink flowers gives a beautiful contrast to the barren stone landscape. It is flowering from the end of January / February.


Mango tree (Anacardiáceaea) Mangifera indica is a evergreen tree which originates from India, but gradually is spread in all tropical areas. Its tasty fruits are the size of apples, but are much more fibrous.


Mulberry tree (Mo´raceae) Morus Alba which originates from China is a deciduous tree. Earlier it was more spread than today. The few specimen left, reminds of a now disappeared silk industry. After the silkworm was imported to the Islands, the Canarian Engineer Augustin de Béthencourth y Molina in 1778, invented a silk spinning mill. But one couldn't stand against the  artificial products.

morbaer.JPG (9927 bytes)


Oleander (Apocy´naceae) Nerium Oleander is a evergreen bush, which can be up to 4 meter high. Oleander is everywhere on the Islands and is flowering with white, yellow. pink or red flowers.
Please Note, that the plants leaves and branches are very poisonous.


Orchilla (Roccella tinctoria) which maybe can be translated with colour-lichen, is a dry and stiff kind of lichen growing in tussocks high in the mountains and by difficult available coasts.
It is threaded and with a brown colour, which once in a while can look so dark, that it looks black. In-between there are white spots, and the highest plant is hardly more than 10 cm. For thousands of years this lichen has been used in the production of scarlet colours. Today the lichen is not exploited.


Papaya tree (Cari´caceae) Carica papaya, also called a melon-tree, originates from America and is a deciduous tree, which can reach 15 meter in height. It is cultivated a good many places in the Canary Islands because of the tasty yellow fruits, which look a little like melons, but is tasting quite different. -  something an orange and a threaded pear. Many is moistening the fruits in citron juice before they are eaten.


Thorn apple (Sola´naceae) Datura arborea is a small evergreen tree, often only a bush which many places is used as a ornamental plant. The bell-formed flowers in the night send out a penetrating smell.
The name Thorn apple is given because of the thorned fruit.
Please note, that all of the plant is very poisonous.


Senecio (Com'positae) Senecio kleinia has thick meaty stems with small lancet formed leaves, which often drops. They look a lot alike the leaves on an oleander.

senecio.JPG (8757 bytes)


Sugar cane (Gra´mineae) Saccharum officinarum was for hundreds of years the most important plant on the Canary Islands. It reached the islands by long and complicated roads, over among others India and China. Already in the beginning of the 16. century Portuguese sugar masters had the farmers growing the plants, which demanded much labour. That was why the negro slaves was imported to the islands, but the cultivating of  sugar canes had much better climatically conditions in the West Indies, and it therefore was better to sell the slaves to the West Indian plantations, and that's why the Canary Islands haven't got a black population majority.
Sugar cane is still produced on the islands, but mainly to use in the production of rum.


Column-Euphorbia (Euphorbi´acaae) Euphorbia canariensis. In Spanish it is called Cardón. It is a cactus like  plant with stems of 2 meter height, covered by thorns. It's flowering in July and August with small red flowers.
Please note, that it's milky juice is poisonous.


Tamarisk (Tamari´caceae) Tamarix canariensis, which is the correct name, is the Bibles desert plant and is often seen on the dry islands as log-branched bushes with very small leaves and flowers. It is the principal food for camels, as it has been since Moses time in Sinai, Negev and Moab's desserts.


Tomato (Sola´naceae) Lycopersicon is an important export article in the Canary Islands. The tomatoes is mainly cultivated in the southern areas in the low coast zones, and on the West coast around San Nicolas de Tolentino, where the valleys is covered with enormous greenhouses, and where a steady winter climate makes it possible lie a great part of the production to the winter months, where the request from Europe is the biggest. In total the export is about 300.000 tons.


La Charca Nature Reserve of Maspalomas http://www.grancanaria.com
Flora Vascular de Canarias http://www.floradecanarias.com
Canary Islands Flora http://www.canaryislandflora.com
 

 

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