|Arid habitat above the sea near San Isidro|
The road we took was not busy and soon after we had started climbing, we passed through some interesting, dry habitat where there was a very convenient parking place. The area was close to the sea, and as well as being arid, had a considerable maritime influence. The first species I found belonged to Lotus, a genus I am particularly interested in. Although common and usually in maritime habitats, it was nonetheless good to find Lotus glaucus in reasonable quantities. Frankenia capitata also added to maritime species as did Aizoon canariense, a maritime species that is not typical of its family Aizoaceae.
|Lotus glaucus. Near the village of San Isidro|
|Frankenia capitata. Coastal species from near San Isidro|
|Aizoon canariense. Canary Islands, coastal endemic|
In hollows dotted around the site, two more typical members of that family growing together were dominant, giving them a different appearance. These species were Mezembryanthemu crystallinum and the smaller flowered Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum.
|Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum. Near San Isisdro|
|Aeonium urbicum. Near the village of San Isidro|
|Aeonium urbicum. Close up showing detail of flowers|
|Aeonium sedifolium. Near Vilaflor|
We then continued on to Vilaflor. The village is a bit away from the road that continues on to the Teide National Park, however we found two churches, and reckoned that the gardens we wanted would be those close by. The garden layout was a series of terraces, and to our great delight they were full of fine examples of Lotus berthelotii in perfect flower. There were also a number of other Canarian wildflowers present in the flower beds. Soon, we were taking a series of photographs of this little gem, so rare in the wild, and possibly confined to a single plant. I have heard that the reason it, and similar species have become so close to extinction is that they were pollinated by the long extinct Canary Sunbird. On blossoms in the garden, we were particularly pleased to see endemic Canarian Red Admirals that used to be included under Indian Red Admiral. They behaved beautifully allowing us to take several photos.
|The gardens at Vilaflor with a bed of Lotus berthelotii|
|Lotus berthelotii. In the gardens at Vilaflor|
|Canary Red Admiral. Endemic butterfly, Vilaflor Gardens|
It was a day or two later that we visited the La Tahonilla Environmental Centre just outside La Laguna where we had been told that many Canarian endemic plant species were cultivated, and sold. Soon after entering the gardens, I was totally delighted to see, under a palm tree, a few plants of the close relative of Lotus berthelotii which is Lotus maculatus. In fact there were a number of plants growing in another area of the gardens. This is an equally rare species in the wild, confined to a small area of coastal cliffs on the Anaga Peninsular. I was also totally delighted to find examples of Lotus mascaensis, an endemic that is confined to the Masca Valley, where it is not too uncommon. It is certainly a species I have never been able to find in the wild.
|Lotus maculatus. In La Tahonilla gardens near La Laguna|
|Lotus mascaensis. In gardens near La Laguna|
One of the very greatest surprises of the trip was to find Lotus berthelotii growing in soil surrounding a pavement tree in the centre of Puerto de la Cruz. I had my camera with me, and on closer inspection, the plants do not look quite right. They are intermediate between Lotus berthelotii and maculatus and I suspect they are of hybrid origin. This is mildly alarming, as it is possible that the plants that are relatively freely available commercially, are equally lacking in species purity. Looking at the illustrations in David Bramwell’s book on the Canarian flora, it is just possible but unlikely, that these intermediate plants are actually Lotus pyranthus, a species closely related to Lotus berthelotii that occurs on cliffs in pine forests on La Palma. This is unlikely, however as this species has larger flowers than Lotus berthelotii , and in Lotus pyranthus the flowers are more erect. There is a fourth species related to this group Lotus emeriticus that is confined to a single site in La Palma. Unfortunately, I have no personal knowledge of any of these La Palma Lotuses that clearly belong to the same group either in gardens, or in the wild.
|Lotus aff. berthelotii. In a street in central Puerto de la Cruz|
Lotus is a very important genus in the Canary Islands and contains several Canarian endemics including Lotus campyloclados that I have found on the edge of the Las Canadas caldera close to the base of Mount Teide. Visiting La Palma several years ago, I saw Lotus hillebrandii and two rather distinctive species Lotus glinoides with its mauve flowers, and Lotus lancerottensis on the eastern island of Fuertaventura.
|Lotus campyloclados. In Las Canadas close to Mount Teide|
|Lotus glinoides. In Fuertaventura|
|Lotus lancerottensis. In Fuertaventura|