Tenerife herbs: Palo de Sangre the Stick of Blood

Stick of Blood

The Stick of Blood, which is the translation of the Spanish "Palo de Sangre," is a rare herb of Tenerife, La Gomera and Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. Botanists know it as Mocetella moquiniana.

Palo de Sangre has been aptly named because the upper parts of its woody stems are covered in tiny red hairs. It forms a bush or small tree and is found growing in rocky areas, ravines and on cliffs, as well as being planted as an ornamental shrub in parks and gardens.

It has been used as a medicinal herb and is a plant that has been included in the herbal medicine traditions of the Canary Islands. The roots of the Stick of Blood are boiled to make an astringent infusion. It can be used as a treatment for digestive disorders as well as for healing wounds.

Palo de Sangre photos

Palo de Sangre in close up
Palo de Sangre in close up
Palo de Sangre
Palo de Sangre

Rose family

The Stick of Blood is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), although you would have to be a botanist to know why or to guess this from looking at the plant.

It can grow as high as four metres and bears blue-green pinnate leaves that are similar in many ways to those of the much smaller Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor), which is in the same family and also has medicinal properties. These leaves can reach some 20 cm in length for the whole stalk they are on and they grow in rossetes at the end of the stems.

The end part of the Stick of Blood's stems are covered in minute reddish hairs on its upper branches and these contrast against the blue-green foliage making it a very attractive plant to see.

The Stick of Blood bears hanging inflorescences of tiny flowers which are greenish on male plants and a reddish colour on females. The seeds are winged and go brownish when dry.

Where the Stick of Blood grows wild and in gardens it self seeds easily enough so it is a mystery why the plant is so scarce in it its natural habitats. The seeds drop down all around the buses and trees of the Palo de Sangre and germinate where they fall.

In Tenerife it is mostly seen in the north of the island. It grows in the wild on the cliffs and ground that borders the road through Tierra del Trigo in the northwest, and on the steep road that goes down from this village to the Los Silos area below. Stick of Blood is also grown in the gardens of Parque del Drago in Icod de los Vinos.

In view of its scarcity in the wild, Palo de Sangre is a protected species under the provisions of the regional Order regulating the conservation of plants and it is listed in Annexe II.

Palo de Sangre, the Stick of Blood, is truly a rare and wild beauty and once you have seen it you will recognise it again because of its unique appearance.

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LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 5 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

Thank you for sharing this beautiful herb, and all of the others. I am catching up on reading from September. Thanks again. Happy New year 2011 and beyond.

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