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A pretty parasitic flower of the Canary Islands called Cytinus hypocistis

Updated on February 20, 2016

The Teno mountains have some rare flora

The Teno mountains in the northwest of Tenerife are known to support some rare flora and fauna. The area is relatively unspoiled because of how remote a lot of it is due to the height of these Canary Islands mountains.

It is only has small villages in some parts, surrounded by ancient "laurisilva" evergreen laurel forests, Tree Heather ("Brezo") woodland and steep mountain cliffs and ravines. There are mountain roads but no buses travel to a lot of the Teno area and the only access is by car or on foot along the many footpaths.

Teno is known for its goat's-milk cheese and keeping these animals is one of the main sources of income for the people who live there.

Photos of Cytinus hypocistis

Cytinus hypocistis
Cytinus hypocistis
Cytinus hypocistis growing on a Rockrose
Cytinus hypocistis growing on a Rockrose

Parasitic flowers are very unusual

Various species of Rockrose (Cistaceae) grow on the mountainsides of Teno, including Cistus monspeliensis, and these plants are the host of the parasitic Cytinus hypocistis, which can only be seen in the flowering season because it has no normal stems or leaves and produces its flowers around the rootstock of the plant it is growing on.

Cytinus hypocistis cannot produce its own chlorophyll so it has no green parts but itis very pretty though with bright-yellow flowers and reddish outer parts to them. A clump of these blooms stands out and at first sight looks like a bunch of new buds for the host plant that have turned the wrong colour.

This species is also found in the south of France, Portugal and elsewhere in the Mediterranean area as well as in Morocco. It is reported to be common in many places where it grows but isn't very widespread on Tenerife and isn't even included in books about the wild flowers of the islands.

The Cytinaceae genus to which this species belongs used to be included in the Rafflesiaceae, which includes the Rafflesia, which is the largest flower in the world and also a parasite.

Cytinus hypocistis can apparently be cooked and eaten as an asparagus substitute but it would be a real shame to do so and thus destroy this rare and unique beauty.

© 2010 Steve Andrews

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