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Rare Canary Islands Dragon Tree grew on Tenerife cliff

Updated on October 10, 2014

Stirring tale of dragons and the lost pyramids of Tenerife

I had moved to the delightful village of Playa de San Marcos just outside Icod de los Vinos and, of course, I have been out exploring the countryside here. On one of my first rambles I was excited to spot a wild Dragon Tree growing from the rocky edge of a volcanic cliff down by the beach.

Wild dragon tree, balloon vine, figs and a pyramid

Wild Dragon Tree
Wild Dragon Tree
Balloon vine
Balloon vine
La Suerte pyramid near San Marcos
La Suerte pyramid near San Marcos

Icod de los Vinos and the Drago Milenario

Now whilst the city of Icod is famous for its 1,000-year-old Drago Milenario and I often go to view that amazing and ancient specimen, to see one of these trees in its natural habitat is a real thrill. There are hardly any left growing wild anymore so to discover one of these within a short walk from where I live really made my day.

In comparison with the mighty Dragon Tree in the park in Icod or many others in gardens and other places on the island, it is a small example of its kind, but when you look at what it is growing out of it is a wonder it has got as big as it has. It is such a terrible place for a tree to grow out there on a rocky crag high above the path below, and yet, perhaps because it is in such a difficult place to get to is the very reason it survives.

I carried on walking and my eye was caught by a whole group of fig bushes at the side of the road and there were plenty of fruit developing on them. That is one of the wonderful things about Tenerife, that you can actually find exotic fruit growing wild here.

Another plant that I noticed clambering all over the place was the Balloon Vine with bunches of its small white flowers and strange inflated bladder seedpods, which give it its name, both on the plant at the same time. The “balloons” remind me of the orange-red ones you get on the very ornamental Chinese lantern plant.

Wormwood - a bitter herb

In some of the rough ground at the edges of my path were masses of the Canary Wormwood and in fact I have seen this small shrub growing very commonly in the area. It doesn’t look up to much on first sight with its grey-green foliage, scruffy appearance and tiny yellowish button flowers but it is actually a very useful medicinal herb and a close relative of the Wormwood they make the potent spirit absinth from.

Canary Wormwood is used as a tonic for the digestion, to ease depression and even as an insecticide and for getting rid of worms, as well as many other properties but I like to crush its aromatic foliage and take a good whiff of its amazing smell. In Spanish it is called Incienso and this is very apt because it is like natural incense.


Absinthe is reputed to be a drink that causes hallucinations and you might think that perhaps I was suffering some side effects of inhaling the smell of the Wormwood, because next I spotted a pyramid poking out above the bananas and grapes at the side of the road. Luckily I had my camera with me at the time and can show you what I saw.


Now I had heard that there is a pyramid in Santa Bárbara, which is outside Icod and I have been meaning to investigate but I had never heard of a pyramid in San Marcos and yet I had found one. Of course the question is the same as that which is asked about the Pyramids of Güímar – who made these mysterious monuments?

The Güímar ones are famous because of all the publicity they get from the Ethnographic Park they are housed in and all the backing of shipping magnate Fred Olsen and explorer the late Thor Heyerdahl who created the place and suggest that they were built by the Guanche people long ago. However, some academics and sceptics claim otherwise and say the pyramids are of comparatively recent construction.

I have heard various theories including the idea that farmers here used to use up stones on their land to build these monuments to show off to their neighbours. My finca has got a bigger pyramid than yours – that sort of thing!

I have also heard that there were many more pyramids on Tenerife and that they were made by the Guanches but have been destroyed over the years by farmers and land-owners who saw no value in them.

Now to be fair to the Ethnographic Park in Güímar, it does have a question mark as a symbol against all the displays of information about the pyramids there. They are encouraging you to make up your own mind about them.

Naturally, I will endeavor to find out more about this San Marcos pyramid and any others I can discover. It will be my quest for the lost pyramids of Tenerife.

Footnote: Originally published in the Tenerife Sun newspaper in 2006.

Update: Sadly since this was published there was a rock fall from the cliffs where this Dragon Tree was growing and the area had to be closed off from the public. Because of the danger of further falling rocks and repair work that needed to be done the tree was removed.

© 2010 Steve Andrews


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Sadly the wild Dragon Tree is no more. There was a rock fall on the cliff it was on and they have closed off the road past and are working on securing the cliffs. Although the tree was on a section that didn't fall it has since been removed despite being a so-called protected species! I suppose someone thought it might help pull the rocks down and make the cliff more unstable so they were able to ignore its protected status.

    • profile image

      Jock Doubleday 6 years ago

      Love your article on pyramids, Wild Dragon trees, and Canary Wormwood. Can't wait to hear more about your findings on the mysterious pyramids of that ancient land.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Eiddwen!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A great hub and thank you for sharing.

      Take care


    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I am glad to hear you are interested in visiting the island, 2patricias! It is brilliant for walking here - some amazing scenery.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is an interesting Hub. One of our friends went on a walking holiday on Tenerife last year, and we have become interested in visiting.

      Will be taking a look for your hubs on the pyramids.


    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I am glad you enjoyed it Sally's Trove!

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Thank you for the lovely tour. I did not know there were pyramids on Tenerife, so I did some Google searching and found myself wandering all over the island, figuratively speaking of course. What a nice hour I had on this cold, NE USA winter day.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Bingskee!

    • bingskee profile image

      bingskee 8 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

      that wild dragon tree is exotic! i have not seen one in my life. thank you for sharing this and a happy new year to you!

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Ghost Whisper and hafeezrm!

      Ghost Whisper, I have at least two other hubs about the pyramids here, including this one:

    • hafeezrm profile image

      hafeezrm 8 years ago from Pakistan

      Nice photo and description. A virtual tour.

    • Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

      The IGNITER vs Corrupted Governments 8 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

      I would be very interested in learning about the San Marcos pyramid. I have done much traveling and love things such as this! The Balloon vine is very cool looking also!

      Cool Hub!