Summer walk in the laurel forest starting from Erjos (El Tanque)

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Reina del monte or Mountain queen (Ixanthus viscous) – another Canary endemic

We decided to do this walk this week, because a heat wave was beginning and the deep shade in the laurel forest is a welcome relief from the sun.  However, it is still hot, and there were sections (including when climbing) which were more sunny than we really wanted and we were all glad we had taken plenty of water.

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The track through the laurels, with Milky cineraria (Pericallis appendiculata) in the foreground – a Canary endemic found in laurel forests.

The great joy, for me, of walking in the laurel forest in the summer is that there are still flowers to see even when elsewhere they are becoming limited.  And as an additional treat, there are also lots of butterflies, and a few day-flying moths as well. Unfortunately the butterflies do not cooperate well with the photographer, and my equipment is not up to long distance shots, so I am afraid there is only one butterfly photo.  However, we did see a number of species including Small whites (Artogeia rapae), Canary large whites (Pieris cheiranthi), Cleopatras (males are startlingly bright yellow) (Gonepteryx cleopatra), Canary speckled woods (Pararge xiphioides), Clouded yellows ((Colias crocea), one Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and at least 2 species of day-flying moths which I haven’t yet identified.

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A small white butterfly (Artogeia rapae) feeding from a thistle flower

We set out from Erjos square across the road, past the little church on the right and crossed a minor road, going straight ahead on another minor road, until reaching a right angle bend where the road went right.  On that bend a path leaves the road and descends into a sunken lane.  Almost immediately there is a path junction with signposts although I can’t remember what the signs say, but we took the right turn going up a slope through some high grass with brambles growing out across the path, though not blocking it.  After a while the path widens and then reaches some steps leading up to a communications mast and a track.

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Unripe fruits on the sides of the cladodes (modified stems that look like leaves) of Climbing butchers broom (Semele androgyna), a Macronesian (Atlantic island) endemic. The fruits turn red when ripe.

We joined the track on a bend, so we went roughly straight on not to the left.  At the next bend the track plunges into laurel forest, and the coolness of the shade is a treat.  The track slopes gently downhill winding around the sides of the north-facing slope.  Beside the track on the banks and at their base are a variety of native and endemic flowers.  Unfortunately fewer on the banks than when we walked up about a month ago when we met a gang of Brifor workers being organised by a very bossy young woman who was telling them to rip off all the plants on the banks.  To my mind this was quite excessive, and not what they should have been doing.  I can understand cutting back, in order to keep the track open, but surely it is a good thing having plants growing on the banks to stabilise them and reduce erosion? In fact I thought that the reason they pruned back the trees growing at the top of the bank last year or the year before was to allow light in to encourage such growth on the banks. This is what was being done in the sunken lanes of Hampshire and Surrey where I used to live.

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The view from our favourite lunch spot in this area, partly obscured by low cloud

Enough ranting, and back to the flowers that are growing along the track – Canary islands cranesbill (Geranium reuteri), Forget-me-not (Myosotis latifolia), Reina del monte (Ixanthus viscosus), Tenerife sea-kale (Crambe scaberrima), Large-leaved St Johns wort (Hypericum grandifolium), Atlantic islands buttercup (Ranunculus cortusifolius), Capitana (Phyllis noble) and so much more. Some of these were past their best, but the sea-kale, which is the main foodplant for the larvae of the Canary large white butterfly, was flowering well. Unfortunately no picture as it is extremely difficult to photograph well.

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Descending through the woods on the new (to us) path

The aim of our walk was to explore a new path emerging from our favourite lunch spot in the area, a viewpoint looking over the forested valley.  So we were making our way to this place by the most direct route.  We did not know where the path would take us, so could not plan our route completely.  In fact, now we know where it goes, we would incorporate it into a different, circular, walk, using the track in only one direction, rather than both. But this time we had to go to where we knew the start of the path. So we turned left off the track onto a path which zig-zags at first, climbing up to a ridge and arriving at the viewpoint.  The viewpoint is a junction of 3 paths, two of which we know well, and normally use, but the third was the one we wanted to explore.  It leaves the viewpoint in a northerly direction, level at first but then begins to descend through the woods, quite steeply at first, then more gently. It was a well-trodden, clear path, and continued descending till it re-joined the track we were on earlier, but quite a long way further on.

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Lauribasidium lauri – a fungus which grows only on Canary island laurel trees

Near the bottom of the path, and along the track after we joined it, we were in a more humid area of the forest, and we saw a number of specimens of a fungus called Lauribasidium lauri, which grows only on the Canary island laurel trees (Laurus novocanariensis).  At the point where the path joined the track there was a riot of colour from the Large-leaved St Johns wort, the Balm of Gilead (Cedronella canariensis), and the Canary foxglove (Isoplexus canariensis).

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Canary foxglove (Isoplexus canariensis) brightens the track as we start to climb after exploring the ‘new’ path

We turned right to start climbing the track, but were reluctant to walk all the way up on the main track, so when we reached the junction with a track going left signposted as going to Las Moradas, we decided to go that way.  It was a longer route, but it is a very pretty section, and we thought the steep bit of path up would be in the shade, but unfortunately it was not all in the shade as we hoped.  I had also forgotten how far down the track takes you before you begin the climb on the path.  If we had remembered those two things, and on such a hot day, we might have decided to stick with the main track!

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The peeling bark of a Canary strawberry tree or Madroño (Arbutus canariensis)

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Canarian St John’s wort (Hypericum canariensis)

However, the diversion is very scenic with frequent views to the left, first of the ridge the path to Los Silos viaTalavera follows, and then back to the barranco the Las Moradas path descends.  When we walk this path in the winter we have lunch on a bend in the track near a big rock.  Behind the rock is a ridge where we sit with a fantastic view, but that was too exposed to the sun for us on Wednesday so we sat in the shade a bit further on to have our lunch.  Along this track as it descends

are a lot of Canary strawberry trees or Madroños for the locals (Arbutus canariensis). At this time of year the copper-red smooth bark is peeling off revealing a creamy colour beneath.  There are also a lot of Mocán (Visnea mocanera) trees – a small-leaved laurel which tolerates more open sunny positions. And in addition a lot of flowering shrubs such as Canarian St Johns wort (Hypericum canariensis) and Tenerife vipers bugloss (Echium virescens) both of which had finished flowering for the year, and Mosquera (Globularia salicina) which was still flowering.

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Broomrape flower (Orobanche sp.) growing next to Canary island cranesbill (Geranium reuteri)

On the way up the track I noticed a lot of Broomrape (Orobanche sp) growing beside the track mixed with the Canary island cranesbill. Broomrape is a parasitic flowering plant that has no chlorophyll of its own as it gets all its nutrients from its host.  As I saw it only with the cranesbill, I think it was probably parasitising that, but I did not dig one up to find out.  It is a fascinating group of plants but they are difficult to identify to species level as flower colours can vary.  I have looked up on the internet all the species listed as growing in Tenerife but there is little information available and none mentioned as parasitising the Canary island cranesbill.

This walk was about 17km long, with around 400m of ascent and descent. It took us 4hr 50m on a hot day.

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About Sally Whymark

When I retired and moved out to Tenerife a few years ago, one of the things I really wanted to do was go walking in the mountains. The scenery is very dramatic, and varied. The views are amazing. The native birds and butterflies and other fauna are remarkable. But the flowers - they're just stunning. Little did I know how this would fire up my interest in plants. While living in England, I had always had an interest in flowers and plants, indeed I ran a plant nursery with my husband for many years, but had not spent a great deal of time pursuing botany. But when walking in Tenerife, I noticed all the unfamiliar shapes of the local flowers, and longed to find out more about them. There are literally hundreds of species endemic to just Tenerife (or even just one part of it), the Canary Islands, or Macronesia (the Atlantic Islands, including Madeira, Canaries and Azores). They are so exciting, and so many of them are really showy as well. So I have started this blog to share with you my excitement at all the great sights I see when walking in Tenerife. I hope you'll enjoy it - and want to come here and experience it for yourself.

Posted on July 12, 2013, in Botanical interest, Walks in Tenerife, West Tenerife and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the write-up!

    Do the Canarian strawberry trees have edible fruits like the Irish strawberry trees (arbutus unedo)?

  2. I am really pleased to have found your blog. We are going to Tenerife next week and I am really looking forward to escaping from the resort, going walking and looking for butterflies. Do you have any tips for good areas to explore where I may see butterflies.
    Thanks very much.
    Nick

    • The best places for butterflies are away from built-up areas, and intensive farming areas. The laurel forests and their surrounding vegetation are excellent at this time of year with lots of butterflies. Also other natural protected areas, especially barrancos (ravines) where there will be more flowers. The coastal protected areas are not likely to be good at this time of year – in the south at least – as the vegetation is dried up. Up in the Teide National Park there will also be a lot of butterflies, though mainly Canary blues, and I have also seen Green-striped whites up there at this time of year. Enjoy exploring!

  3. Fantastic. Thank you very much for your help. I am certainly looking forward to exploring the island. I have to admit that the greener north appeals to me more than the south coast. Teide National Park should be very interesting too, particularly if there are a lot of Canary Blues and Green-striped White!

    • Sally. Did your Erjos walk last week. Fantastic. I saw 9 species of butterfly. I will send you more details when I get home. Thanks for the information. Any tips on a good place to see Canary Red Admiral? I’ve three days left here. Thanks.

      • Hi Nick,
        Glad you enjoyed the Erjos walk. I have not seen the Canary Red Admiral recently myself though we saw it regularly in our garden (near Guia de Isora) almost every evening in the winter. I suspect the dryness in the south, resulting in fewer flowers, means you are more likely to see them in the north of the island, on the margins between natural countryside and villages where garden flowers are aavailable. Good luck with your search.

  4. Sally,
    I said I would send you more information about the butterflies I saw on this walk. They were: Small White (very numerous particularly near Erjos), Canary Speckled Wood (very numerous again), Clouded Yellow, Southern Brown Argus, one Canary Grayling, two Canary Large Whites, one Canary Brimstone, Small Coppers and a Meadow Brown.
    I took a photo of the sign you mention in your description of the walk. The sign points towards Las Portelas and Monte del Agua.
    I have put some details on my blog at: http://nickmorgan-butterflypictures.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/tenerife-butterflies-july-2013.html
    Thank you again for the details. If we ever return to Tenerife then I will definitely arm myself with your book!

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