Palm trees in Tenerife in the Canary Islands
Palm trees found on Tenerife
Tenerife’s subtropical climate is ideal for many species of palm tree. These tall and graceful trees add an exotic flavour to the island’s landscapes, parks, gardens and beach fronts where they are planted.
Tenerife has its own endemic species of palm, which is known as the Canary Date Palm or Canary Palm (Phoenix canariensis). It is a native to all of the Canary Islands and still grows wild in palm groves in some places like the mountain village of Masca.
Species of palm
The Canary Palm has a very thick trunk and it can reach some 20 metres in height. This palm has massive leaves that are carried in a rosette at the top of the tree. After flowering, small date-like fruit called támaras are produced.
There is not enough flesh on these fruit for them to be much use as a food although they are edible and were eaten along with the young leaves of the Canary Palm by the Guanches, who lived on the Canary Islands before the Spanish conquest.
These people also made clothes and baskets from the palm leaves and many items such as mats, brooms, hats and other items are still fashioned from the flexible leaves today.
On the island of La Gomera the sap is gathered and known as palm honey. It can often be seen for sale in shops on the Canary Islands.
The Canary Palm’s fruits have been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for stomach and respiratory problems. They are boiled and mixed with goats’ milk.
The non-endemic Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is a very close relative and it flourishes on Tenerife too. The Date Palm produces vast numbers of its popular sweet and sticky fruit.
Because it can create hybrids with the Canary Palm there has been a lot of opposition to it being grown on Tenerife due to very real concerns that this hybridisation will weaken the genetic line of the native palm.
There are plenty of Date Palms on Tenerife though, especially in the southern resort areas.
The Senegal Date Palm (Phoenix reclinata) has reddish-orange or black fruit and, as can be seen from its botanical name, it is a relative of the two species of palms already mentioned. It is also planted in many places on Tenerife.
The Desert Thread Palm (Washingtonia filifera) and the Thread Palm (Washingtonia robusta) are very often seen along roads, in parks and other places where ornamental trees are grown.
These palms produce long inflorescences that can be seen hanging down and in amongst the leaves. After flowering, thousands of small dark-brown or blackish fruit are formed and these often fall off and can be seen all around the parent trees.
The Thread palms are very hardy and also stand up well to being near the sea. Thyey are often chosen as the choice of trees to be planted at the top of the island’s beaches.
The unusual Piccabean Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) is a native of Australia but is grown on Tenerife. This palm has a very smooth trunk and the strange habit forming its inflorescences to be followed by its fruit just below the lower leaves.
The Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis) is one of the taller palms, and its very thick trunk can reach heights of 25 m. The tiny fruit are edible and the sap of this palm is used to make palm honey and palm wine, as its name suggests.
The Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera) grows well by the sea and in the warmer parts of the island but isn’t cultivated for its popular nuts here.
The Cuban Petticoat Palm (Copernicia macroglossa) is named after the skirt of dead leaves that hang down around the trunk. Petticoat Palm is also used as the name for the Thread Palm already mentioned because this palm often has dead leaves all around its trunk too.
Palms are regularly pruned of dead leaves on Tenerife though because they are a known fire hazard, and whilst the leaves and trunks may well survive a blaze the dead fronds can become tinder dry and add to the problem if fire breaks out.
The Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) is originally from Japan. This attractive and unusual plant isn’t really a palm because botanically it is a cycad. The Sago Palm only grows to some 3 m in height but it is a popular choice for large gardens, parks and shrub borders because of its very ornamental nature.
The Sago Palm has males and females, and the males produce large cones. The female Sago Palm carries weird modified fronds in the heart of its rosette which in turn produce large orange seeds.
It used to be grown and harvested for its sago flour, which was used in puddings, but after it was found to be potentially carcinogenic this was stopped.
The El Botánico botanic garden in Puerto de la Cruz has a large collection of palms and they are labelled so you can clearly identify the species.
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
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