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The “Laurisilva” or Laurel forests of Tenerife and the Canary Islands

Updated on January 7, 2013

A woodland paradise for botanists

Tenerife in the Canary Islands is a real paradise for botanists and naturalists because it has several areas of laurel forest, or “laurisilva” as it is commonly known, and these woods are some of the only ones left in the world. They have survived in the mountainous parts, mainly in the north of the island.

In the late Miocene era and at the start of the Pliocene age this sort of forest was once common in the south of Europe and North Africa.

Photos of Tenerife wild flowers found in forests

Canary Islands Bellflower
Canary Islands Bellflower
Canary Islands Foxglove
Canary Islands Foxglove
Canary Islands Geranium
Canary Islands Geranium
Monte de Agua laurisilva forest
Monte de Agua laurisilva forest

Rare wild flowers and birds

The clouds that blanket the mountain sides on an almost daily basis bring much-needed moisture and create an ideal habitat for the trees, bushes and wildflowers that grow in these unique woodlands.

Many rare endemic species of animal and plant can be found in these laurisilva forests. The woodland pigeons Columba junionae and Columba bolli are two very rare birds that only live in this type of habitat.

The Anaga Mountains in the extreme north of Tenerife are one of the main areas of laurisilva forest that still flourishes. The Las Mercedes woods cover the mountain slopes with greenery.

Los Silos and the area of the Teno Massif has stretches of evergreen laurel forest, as does Agua Garcia, Güímar and some parts in the municipality of Icod.

Fairly near to the villages of Erjos, Las Portelas and El Palmar in Tenerife’s northwest is the forest-covered mountain known as Monte de Agua (Mountain of Water). This area is a good example of what is known as “Monteverde,” which means green mountain.

The Canary Islands Laurel (Laurus azorica), the “Barbusano” (Appollonias barbajuna) and the “Til” (Ocotea foetens) are some of the species of trees that grow in the laurisilva forest. In more degraded areas the Tree Heather (Erica arborea) or “Brezo” as it is called in Spanish, becomes the most commonly seen tree, as well as the Myrtle or “Faya” (Myrica faya). This mixed woodland is known as “fayal-brezal.”

Canary Islands Holly (Ilex canariensis) and the Laurustinus or “Follao” (Viburnum tinus spp rigidum) are another two of the trees that can be found in these evergreen forests.

Many types of ferns and mosses flourish in the damp conditions these woodlands provide, and especially in autumn and winter wild mushrooms and other fungi can be found.

Canary Island Bellfower (Canarina canariensis), Canary Island Geranium (Geranium canariense) and the Canary Island Foxglove (Isoplexis canariensis) are three endemic wild flowers that add their beauty to the laurisilva forests.

There are forest trails that are signposted and can be followed with ease, although it can get cold and damp very rapidly when the clouds come down and form the mists known as “bruma”. For this reason it is important to wear suitable clothing if you intend exploring these woodlands.

Many of the higher points on the mountains offer stunning views over the green-forested slopes and some of the most beautiful and magical countryside in Tenerife is in the parts where the laurisilva evergreen forests grow.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.


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    • Tenerife Islander profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Tenerife

      She it is an amazing island! I hope you get the chance to visit!

    • Dardia profile image

      Darlene Yager 7 years ago from Michigan

      This looks like a beautiful island, I would love to visit someday!