Dragon Trees & Volcanoes
The remarkable islands of Macaronesia lie just a short sea crossing from southern Morocco, and yet they represent a quite different world. A series of huge volcanoes, some active some dormant. Within the spectacular lava landscapes and plunging coastal cliffs there are many unique plants, in a land where herbs have turned into shrubs and otherworldly populations of organ-pipe spurges vie with giant sow-thistles and buglosses. Both islands have stands of lush laurel forest and then there are the dragon trees, architectural members of an ancient flora that has largely disappeared, but still survives here and in a few corners of the globe. There are half a dozen unique birds too including the blue chaffinch. Tenerife also has the towering Mount Teide, a colossal and still active volcano that reaches 3718-metres and dominates the island.
An 8 day tour with Basak Gardner & Phillip Leipelt
Day 1 To Tenerife
Arrival at Tenerife South airport and transfer to our hotel. Overnight El Patio
Day 2 Masca & Garacchico
The northern side of the island receives more rain and so supports patches of laurel forest as well as drier rockier coasts, each with their own unique flora. Driving to Masca we climb into the rugged hills for superb views of the landscape, before descending to the black lava coast at Garacchico. Expect a wide range of interesting Macronesian native plants. These include genera, which we more typically think of as herbs, but here they have developed into shrubs of small trees; Echium giganteum, Sonchus congestus and Euphorbia balsamifera. There are extraordinary succulent forms too with Euphorbia canariensis, E. broussnetii, E. aphylla, Ceropegia dichotoma. With these are the delightful discs of Aeonium tabuliforme, yellow flowered Aeonium holochrysum. We should also encounter one of the loveliest of all Canarian plants, Canarina canariensis, with large amber orange bells on clambering stems. Overnight El Patio.
Day 3 El Teide Mountain & Botanical Garden
Central to the island is its’ creator Mount Teide, a colossal still active volcano that dominates the landscape. the lower slopes are clothed in woods of Arbutus canariensis, Laurus azorica, Persea indica, Pinus canariensis, whilst rock faces are crowded with the pretty succulent rosettes of Greenovia aurea and Aeonium spathulatum. Emerging silvery tufts of Echium wildpretii pepper a truly wild volcanic landscape of lave flows and bizarre rock chimneys, In the coastal town of Puerto Cruz is a pleasant little botanic garden with some good specimens including a fine spreading banyan and examples of Dragon Trees. Overnight El Patio.
Day 4 Anaga Peninsula
The far northern tip of the island is wild and rugged, with larger tracts of laurel forest and some stunning coastlines. Additional species of succulent flora and outsize herbs such as Aeonium canariensis, A. lindleyi, Sonchus acaulis and Echium leucopheum will be found here, along with the chance of the rare Echium simplex at Chinamada and the small green orchid Habenaria tridactylites, which has no close-relative between here and Nepal. Overnight El Patio.
Day 5 Travel to La Gomera
We will drive to the southern port at Los Cristianos for the one hour ferry crossing to the green island of La Gomera. After settling into the hotel and lunch we’ll take a trip to see an especially large specimen of the Dragon Tree Dracaena draco, which are now sadly all but extinct in the wild (through over-exploitation) though very widely planted in gardens. The extraordinary wide form of this plant is designed to capture water from mists. Some fine daisy species will also be common.
Days 6 & 7 El Cedro, Agulo and Garajonay
La Gomera is a wonderfully scenic island and we’ll spend the next two days exploring the various Canary Island Palm lined valleys and coastlines. The rocky outcrop of La Forteleza harbours a colony of Orchis canariensis and we’ll take the opportunity to walk up to this and other walks among the lush, fern-filled laurel forests of Garojonay National Park. Stands of blue Echium acanthocarpum frame viewpoints, Monanthes muralis crowd rock crevices and the pink daisies of Pericallis steetzi line the roads.
Day 8 Return flights
Our ferry crossing back to Tenerife arrives in good time for us to connect for our international flights home.