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Blog Islas Canarias OFFICIAL CANARY ISLANDS
TOURISM BLOG
www.hellocanaryislands.com

A journey through La Palma’s plant world


Highlights
How to Enjoy Carnival on Tenerife
Deserted beach and abandoned salt pans in Lanzarote
La Palma: A Heaven for Stargazing
Experience participating in Transgrancanaria
A Road Trip Around the North of Fuerteventura
A Journey to the end of the World, or to Punta de Orchilla
Diversity on the rocks: Hundreds of unique species
La Gomera, the romantic getaway
Following a Tapas Route on Tenerife
Enjoy a trek to the highest point in Lanzarote
Fiesta de la Cruz on La Palma
Gran Canaria’s Other Rock: Sacred Roque Bentayga
A day in the outback of Fuerteventura
Walking to the Beautiful Valley on La Gomera
"Fototrek” an amazing annual photographic adventure in El Hierro
An incredible Whale & Dolphin watching experience in Tenerife
The secret white sand beaches of Lanzarote
On the sunny side: Los Llanos de Aridane
Exploring South Fuerteventura by Car
The Best Bit of Las Canteras Beach is Underwater
La Gomera, lush and beautiful
Paragliding above the valley of El Hierro. What an experience!
Three ways to enjoy Teide in Tenerife
Tasting Lanzarote: Cosecha 2015
La Palma, a taste of the tropics
Jardín Canario Viera y Clavijo, one of the highlights of Gran Canaria
From a Magic Spring to a Secret Lake, Five Curiosities on La Gomera
Jinama and Charco Azul
Amazing boat excursion to the Archipiélago Chinijo marine reserve
Lanzarote sunrises
La Palma: a Treasure Trove of landscapes in One Island
Viewpoint Mirador de la Peña, the smallest hotel of the world and the giant lizard
A Hike Around Gran Canaria's Volcanic Hotspot
Fuerteventura, Strong Wind
La Gomera: A day visiting dolphins and whales
Lanzarote fishing: Fresh fish for lunch
Exploring the Historic Centre of La Laguna
“Ruta de la Tapa” in Valverde
Driving the Las Mimbreras road
Discover the Beautiful North of Lanzarote by Car
Excursion to the Isla de Lobos
La Gomera – a rural tourism paradise
Festival of La Bajada de la Virgen de los Reyes
A morning in Santa Cruz de La Palma
The water route, Valverde and the Bonanza rock
Exploring the San Juan Volcano
Vegueta: Time Travel In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Old Town
Why You Don’t Want to Miss Out on Trekking Masca in Tenerife
Experience Tinajo: Rural traditions and breathtaking natural beauty
A lovely stroll around Villa de Valverde
A Spring Tour Of Gran Canaria
Through the back roads of El Paso
Relaxation and wellbeing, enjoying Lanzarote´s natural treasures
A trip along the coast of El Golfo, El Hierro
Exploring the Highs and Lows of Puerto de Mogán
Why You Will Absolutely Love Exploring Amazing La Graciosa
The Wild North of La Palma
Tenerife, best locations and the British favourite hotspots
Enjoy the best of Lanzarote at Noches de Jameos
Relish the thrill and views of El Faro La Entallada, in Fuerteventura
Menceyes and our Lady of Candelaria, in Tenerife
The Wine Run Lanzarote: food, wine and scenery
Experience the beauty of the pink caves of Puertito de Los Molinos
A Saturday in the beautiful village of Haría, Lanzarote
A must do in Fuerteventura – Picnic in the dunes of Corralejo
Playa San Juan in Tenerife, a charming place
A walk along the El Golfo ridge, El Hierro
The five best places to eat in Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura
A cup of coffee at Casa José Saramago, Lanzarote
Why Forestal Park is One of the Best Experiences in Tenerife
San Sebastián, the high part of Santa Cruz de La Palma
Sunset On The Rocks At Puerto de Mogán in Gran Canaria
A walk from San Andrés to Hoya del Morcillo, El Hierro
Enjoyment for the active traveller – Climb the Volcanic Mount Roja
Teguise: immerse yourself in Lanzarote’s history
How to Enjoy a Stunning Walk in Tenerife from Playa San Juan to Los Gigantes
Tazacorte, in La Palma: more than just a sun trap
Art, Architecture and Frogs in Gran Canaria's Garden City
Carnival time on El Hierro
One of the best family days out in Fuerteventura
Journey to another planet at Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote
From the sea to the sky, a circular drive in South Tenerife
A journey through La Palma’s plant world
Los Carneros de Tigaday, El Hierro
Relaxing Weekend staying in the picture perfect beaches of El Cotillo – Fuerteventura
Lanzarote’s southwest coastline: where ocean meets lava
How to Enjoy North Tenerife and Wine Tasting in One Amazing Trip
A trip around La Palma’s south coast
The Quiet South Gran Canaria Beach With Two Names
What to explore, How to get there and where to stay in San Sebastian the capital of La Gomera.
Relax by the sea in El Tamaduste
The best olive oil in Fuerteventura – Verde Aurora Bio Farm
Hiking in La Geria: a bird’s eye view of the volcanoes
How to Enjoy a Unique Excursion Around Stunning Santa Cruz
El Tablado, La Palma’s remotest settlement
Swimming And Snorkelling At El Puertillo in North Gran Canaria
Enjoy a morning at the local produce Market in San Sebastián de La Gomera
A tour around El Hierro’s “Mirador’s”
Betancuria, the ancient capital in the mountains of Fuerteventura
How to Enjoy an Easy Adventure from Puerto del Carmen to Puerto Calero
A walk across Llano de Las Cuevas in La Palma
How to Enjoy a Superb Luxury Sailing Trip in Tenerife
From Jungle To Desert at Maspalomas In South Gran Canaria
The sweetness of La Gomera and the Canary Islands – Palm Syrup
Cycling on El Hierro is a great way to see the Island
Isla de Lobos, a natural Paradise
Volcanoes, wine and British history in Lanzarote
The mini-Volcano Route, La Palma
How To Try And Do Tenerife From Top To Bottom In Three Days
Playa Santiago – A glorious mesh of sleepy fishing village and luxury hotel complex
A Day at the Canaribbean In Gran Canaria
Hermigua, the beautiful tropical valley of La Gomera with a Gofio Museum
How to Enjoy Authentic Lanzarote at the Lovely El Charco de San Ginés
La Gomera’s longest beach in the Valley of the great king – Valle Gran Rey
The Charm of Vallehermoso – The Beautiful Valley in La Gomera
How to Discover La Gomera With an Amazing Jeep Safari Adventure
Calle Cano: A Las Palmas Street Where Old And New Blend Together
Three places off the usual tourist track in Tenerife
La Gomera one of the most gorgeous island for hikers, ramblers and casual afternoon walkers
Poema del mar, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
An ascent of Bejenado
Four best places to visit in Fuerteventura
Up The Monte: Exploring Gran Canaria's Wine Country
5 Excellent Experiences to Try When You Visit Tenerife
Exploring the Barranco de las Angustias
4 best places to visit in La Gomera, by a Canary Island resident
A lovely walk from Mirador de Jinama to The bell tower Joapira
Walk the beautiful arid landscapes of Fuerteventura – Betancuria
In Gran Canaria And Sick of Sand? Head To The Parque Sur For A Siesta
Keep cool with a craft beer tour in Lanzarote
A walk from Arenas Blancas to Verodal (Local walk reference SL-EH2)
Tijarafe: touring La Palma's sunny northwest
Eco-friendly relaxation in the north of Lanzarote
Related
articles
Deserted beach and abandoned salt pans in Lanzarote
La Palma: A Heaven for Stargazing
Experience participating in Transgrancanaria
A Journey to the end of the World, or to Punta de Orchilla
Diversity on the rocks: Hundreds of unique species
La Gomera, the romantic getaway
Enjoy a trek to the highest point in Lanzarote
Gran Canaria’s Other Rock: Sacred Roque Bentayga
A day in the outback of Fuerteventura
Walking to the Beautiful Valley on La Gomera
"Fototrek” an amazing annual photographic adventure in El Hierro
La Gomera, lush and beautiful
Paragliding above the valley of El Hierro. What an experience!
Three ways to enjoy Teide in Tenerife
Jardín Canario Viera y Clavijo, one of the highlights of Gran Canaria
From a Magic Spring to a Secret Lake, Five Curiosities on La Gomera
Jinama and Charco Azul
La Palma: a Treasure Trove of landscapes in One Island
A Hike Around Gran Canaria's Volcanic Hotspot
Fuerteventura, Strong Wind
Outdoor Living Lanzarote
The water route, Valverde and the Bonanza rock
Exploring the San Juan Volcano
Why You Don’t Want to Miss Out on Trekking Masca in Tenerife
Experience Tinajo: Rural traditions and breathtaking natural beauty
A Spring Tour Of Gran Canaria
A walk along the El Golfo ridge, El Hierro
Why Forestal Park is One of the Best Experiences in Tenerife
A walk from San Andrés to Hoya del Morcillo, El Hierro
Enjoyment for the active traveller – Climb the Volcanic Mount Roja
Journey to another planet at Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote
Hiking in La Geria: a bird’s eye view of the volcanoes
A walk across Llano de Las Cuevas in La Palma
Cycling on El Hierro is a great way to see the Island
Volcanoes, wine and British history in Lanzarote
The mini-Volcano Route, La Palma
La Gomera one of the most gorgeous island for hikers, ramblers and casual afternoon walkers
An ascent of Bejenado
A lovely walk from Mirador de Jinama to The bell tower Joapira
A walk from Arenas Blancas to Verodal (Local walk reference SL-EH2)
Tijarafe: touring La Palma's sunny northwest
www.hellocanaryislands.com
Previous article
23 Apr 2018

There are not many places in the world where you can drive from the coast to almost 8,000 feet (2,426m) above sea-level in just over one hour. But that is precisely what reaching La Palma’s highest peak entails. In May and June, the island’s summit region is decked with spectacular flowering bushes, making this the most colourful time of year for plant lovers.

The easiest way to reach the top is via Santa Cruz, from where I set off in mid-May this year. About one kilometre north of the town I turned left at the signpost to the Observatory of Roque de los Muchachos. From this crossroads, the road winds through Mirca, one of higher residential neighbourhoods. Once at the church of Candelaria, a turning on the right appears, and here begins the true ascent. A conspicuous sign announces the fact that this is a high mountain road, and due caution is required.

My main reason for visiting the Roque on this occasion was to photograph some of the island’s most outstanding plants, especially in the high zone. By the time I reached Candelaria, I had already passed through the first belt, the fringe of coastal scrub encircling the island, a mixture of succulents and drought-resistant shrubs, adapted to the long dry summers and sparse annual rainfall. This plant community is sometimes referred to as the African element in La Palma’s flora. One of the most typical members is the columnar Canary Island Spurge.

Canary Island Spurge, La Palma, Canary Islands

A little higher, on the hillsides around the Candelaria church, remnants of the second zone could be identified, the most conspicuous being the Canary Island Palms.

Canary Island Palm, La Palma, Canary Islands

This attractive palm takes its name from the islands, where it grows naturally. It is also frequently planted as an ornamental, and can be admired in botanical gardens all over the world. The seeds, resembling small dates, are not suitable for human consumption, but the sap is still harvested on La Gomera to produce palm honey. Before land was cleared for farming, zone-two vegetation included Dragon Trees, juniper, wild olive trees, and many other plants. Now reduced to isolated patches, it was originally a kind of dry woodland, or chaparral, regarded as the Mediterranean component of the native vegetation.

As I continued my drive, the first chestnut trees soon began to flank the roadsides. Clearly, I was entering a much wetter part of the island. In fact, the typical layer of clouds visible from the coast usually has its base at this altitude. The chestnut trees increased in number, and visibility was impaired by a light mist. I had entered the “sea of clouds”, and could see how damp the roadside foliage was. I passed large specimens of tree heather dripping with moisture, and other evergreen trees belonging in the formation known as Laurel Forest, the Subtropical ingredient in La Palma’s plant world.

Evergreen woodland at Tagoja, La Palma, Canary Islands

A sign came up on the left indicating Montaña Tagoja, where a quick glance at the map showed that I was now just over 1,000 metres above sea level: not even half-way to the top! Fortunately, the going was easier from here onwards, the bends being less pronounced, and the slopes a little gentler. And another transition was underway: the laurel forest was gradually phasing into the following vegetation zone.

Within a matter of minutes, the broad-leaf forest with its lush undergrowth had almost vanished, and stately Canary Pine trees lined the roadside, their long, delicate needles silhouetted against the light. Many of these native conifers had massive, scaly trunks. And now that the mist had cleared, I could see blue sky overhead: I had evidently driven through the cloud layer, and was leaving the steaming jungle below me. What an amazing contrast! I stopped to take photographs of the pine-clad mountainsides, a landscape suggesting the Temperate character of the island’s greenery.

Pine forest above the sea of clouds, La Palma, Canary Islands

I returned to my car and drove on. Pine forest could be seen on all sides during the next stage of the ascent, covering vast areas of La Palma’s higher slopes. A thick carpet of pine needles lay on the ground beneath the trees, preventing the growth of other wild plants, and giving the forest an open appearance. I got out for a quick breath of fresh air. In the sudden silence outside, it felt cool and dry, and a resinous aroma hung in the atmosphere.

Back on my way again, the pines began to thin out as the tree-line approached. The scattered specimens at this high altitude looked gnarled and weather-beaten. I was about to enter the last of the five zones, the so-called summit scrub, plausibly classified as Alpine. This was what I had really come to see and photograph.

Summit scrub, La Palma, Canary Islands

At about 2,000 metres above sea-level, roughly from the Km 27 sign onwards, the forest had reached its upper limit. The slopes were now covered in a dense layer of bushes, dominated by so-called Sticky Broom (Adenocarpus viscosus), with limited species variety, except in the occasional clearings. The preponderance of codeso, the Spanish name for this resilient shrub, is the result of excessive browsing by goats.

Before the area came under strict conservation measures in the mid-20th century, goat-keepers customarily brought their herds to the high parts of the island to find forage. The goats were allowed to feed in the wild, and they naturally consumed the plants they found tastiest. As a result, certain species became scarce, while others benefited from this selective browsing. Sticky Broom was obviously not among the herbivore’s favourites, so it now makes up about 90% of the ground cover.

There was little traffic on the summit road, and I was able to scan the wayside as I drove along, I spotted clumps of endemic La Palma Violets (Viola palmensis), and patches of the pinkish Mountain Wallflowers (Erysimum scoparium). But the undisputed star of La Palma’s high mountain flora is a tall, spire-like plant known as Pink Bugloss, or La Palma Bugloss (Echium wildpretii ssp trichosyphon). The name “Tower of Jewels” was originally coined for the very similar, but redder, Tenerife variety. Both plants have flowering spikes reaching heights of up to 3 metres.

The first stand of La Palma’s botanical gem can be observed along the roadside between Km 27 and Km 28. I was planning to visit a whole plantation of these beauties afterwards, just beyond the Observatory turning, so I made a brief photo-stop and continued my journey. These conspicuous plants were buzzing with Bumble Bees.

Close up of La Palma Bugloss, La Palma, Canary Islands

I hadn’t driven far before I saw evidence of the National Park’s attempts to restore the island’s natural vegetation. Several plots were fenced-off to protect the carefully-planted seedlings from potential damage by rabbits, or introduced Barbary Sheep. Thanks to these efforts, numerous endemic plants have been brought back from the brink of extinction.

Since no trip to the top of La Palma would be complete without a walk along the Caldera rim, I parked at the sign indicating Pico de La Cruz, and hiked up to the nearby peak. The views from this 2,351-metre-high mountain are exceptional.

View from Pico de La Cruz, La Palma, Canary Islands

Pico de la Cruz is also an ideal place for a refreshment stop, as there are plenty of flat rocks to sit on, and large boulders to act as windbreaks, if needed. From this privileged vantage point, the entire perimeter of the Caldera de Taburiente can be taken in. This enormous depression is about one mile deep, and on such a sunny day I could make out the west coast banana plantations, and the town of Los Llanos de Aridane, shimmering in the heat haze 2,000 metres below.

View from the Caldera rim, La Palma, Canary Islands

I returned to my car and set off on the last stage of my journey. If you are planning to visit the Roque de los Muchachos itself, you need to turn left at the Observatory sign and proceed through the site. From the junction, it’s only a short drive to the highest point. However, my intention on this occasion was to visit the National Park’s pink bugloss “garden”, located a short distance ahead, along the road to Garafía.

La Palma Bugloss, La Palma, Canary Islands

La Palma’s pink bugloss was close to extinction a few decades ago. In the 1980s there were only about 200 of these remarkable plants left, confined to inaccessible rock faces. That means only 200 in the world, by the way, since it is exclusive to the island.

The plants take between 3 and 5 years to flower, and once they have done so, they die. The basal leaves form a rosette of up to one metre in diameter, and the larger the rosette, the larger the flowering spike will become afterwards. Since 1990, the National Park has been engaged in a two-pronged recovery strategy, in which seeds have been directly sown in the wild, and seedlings have been grown in nursery facilities and then planted outdoors in suitable areas. To give you an idea of how much work has gone into this project, in 2016, 33,000 leaf rosettes were counted, of which 2,400 developed into flowering plants.

So, from the African coast I had traveled up to the Alps in little more than one hour. And while the glaciers and grassy meadows may be lacking here, La Palma does have its own equivalent of the iconic alpine Edelweiss... admittedly a somewhat scaled-up equivalent: the dazzling summit bugloss, unofficial plant symbol of the island.

La Palma Bugloss, La Palma, Canary Islands

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Highlights
How to Enjoy Carnival on Tenerife
Deserted beach and abandoned salt pans in Lanzarote
La Palma: A Heaven for Stargazing
Experience participating in Transgrancanaria
A Road Trip Around the North of Fuerteventura
A Journey to the end of the World, or to Punta de Orchilla
Diversity on the rocks: Hundreds of unique species
La Gomera, the romantic getaway
Following a Tapas Route on Tenerife
Enjoy a trek to the highest point in Lanzarote
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Gran Canaria’s Other Rock: Sacred Roque Bentayga
A day in the outback of Fuerteventura
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"Fototrek” an amazing annual photographic adventure in El Hierro
An incredible Whale & Dolphin watching experience in Tenerife
The secret white sand beaches of Lanzarote
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The Best Bit of Las Canteras Beach is Underwater
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Three ways to enjoy Teide in Tenerife
Tasting Lanzarote: Cosecha 2015
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From a Magic Spring to a Secret Lake, Five Curiosities on La Gomera
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www.hellocanaryislands.com