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Tenerife herbs: the Canary Islands Houseleek is an Aeonium species

Updated on March 24, 2013

Houseleeks grow on walls and roofs

Houseleeks are a group of curious succulent plants that often grow, as their name suggests, on walls and roofs of houses. Other species grow on cliffs, rocky ground and mountainsides, and there are many types that can be found in Tenerife and the other Canary Islands, although they are rare on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

Houseleeks are species of Aeonium and have various medicinal qualities so are used in herbal medicine as a treatment for a variety of ailments.

They are are very attractive plants and are often grown in gardens and parks and by collectors of exotic and succulent plants.

Photos of Houseleeks

Aeonium on a wall
Aeonium on a wall
Aeonium speices
Aeonium speices

Houseleeks described

Houseleeks grow in rosettes of succulent leaves either more or less level with the ground or on a stalk. They bear inflorescences that tower above the rosettes and carry loads of small but very pretty star-like flowers that can be white, pink or golden yellow depending on the species.

Aeonium tabuliforme has a remarkable flat rosette of tightly packed and flattened leaves. It grows on cliffs and mountainsides in the Northwest of Tenerife. It is known as Pastel de Risco in Spanish, meaning "Cake of the Cliff," an apt description of its appearance and habits.

A. holochrysum is one of the yellow-flowered species and is often seen in the north of Tenerife where it frequently grows on rooftops and walls, as well as rocky places in the countryside. Its flowers make a pretty sight in spring on the island.

The white-flowered A.urbicum is another of the more commonly encountered species of Houseleek found on Tenerife. It is one of the types that bears its rosettes towards the top of its succulent stems.

A. mascaense is named after Masca, the mountain village area which is the limit of its very restricted range. A. lanzerottense is, as its name suggests, an endemic species from the island of Lanzarote.

Some types of Houseleek will also grow as epiphytes on the trunks of palm trees.

Medicinal properties of the Canary Island Houseleeks

Because Houseleeks are so succulent they have a great deal of mucilage in their leaves and this is why they are of benefit in healing wounds and treating burns. mashed up leaves of a Houseleek can be applied as a cataplasm to treat haemorrhoids. 

An infusion or the diluted juice from Houseleek leaves can be used to combat sore throats and bronchitis and has anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties.

The leaves of these plants can be applied directly against the foreheads of babies that are suffering from fevers. The cooling leaf-surface helps bring down the temperature of the infant. 

Houseleeks contain flavonoids including quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin and it is these substances that are thought to give the planst their herbal properties.

The Tenerife species A. lindleyi is a traditional antidote for the caustic burning latex of the "Tabaiba" spurge species in the Euphorbia family.

As well as all these medicinal uses, the plants wonderful appearances, especially when in flower, are sure to delight anyone observing the Houseleeks in the wild.

Copyright © 2011 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.


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    • Tenerife Islander profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Tenerife

      Thanks for posting, BkCreative! Glad you like my hubs!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Love your fabulous hubs about the herbs of Tenerife. My cousins just got back from yet another cruise and once again went to the islands. They've even stayed with friends on Canary Island. Usually, I get to live vicariously which is fine too.

      Rated up! Yay!