A botanical excursion to the Montaña Roja nature reserve, El Medano

Ophioglossum polyphylla, a tiny fern, about 3-5cm high, which appears after rain for a short while

Ophioglossum polyphylla, a tiny fern, about 3-5cm high, which appears after rain for a short while

Two friends who are keen botanists, like myself, did this short excursion on 17th December, but I did not have time to post a blog on it before I went away for Christmas.  When we visited it was 7 days after the storm which dropped a great deal of rain in Tenerife, and especially in the south.  We went to see a tiny fern which only appears after rain, and is just 3-5 cm high, which one of my friends had seen there, the Adders Tongue, Ophioglossum polyphyllum.

Matabrusca negra (Salsola divaricata)

Matabrusca negra (Salsola divaricata)

We parked on the car park about 600m from the car park on the edge of El Medano, where the windsurfers go, along the road to Los Abrigos, and right by a junction where a road opposite the car park goes to the Cueva de Hermano Pedro.  From there we walked straight into the reserve and found the Adders Tongue fern just about 50-100 m from the road, in an open gravelly area.  It is a delightful little plant, worth looking for and admiring, though most people would simply not notice it.

Common white saladillo, or in Spanish, Saladillo blanco común (Polycarpaea nivea)

Common white saladillo, or in Spanish, Saladillo blanco común (Polycarpaea nivea)

After enjoying the tiny ferns, we walked further towards the sea and found some circles of wire netting surrounding some very rare plants, Piñamar (literally Sea pineapple) Atractylis preauxiana.  It is a canarian endemic and on Tenerife is only barely surviving in very few sites. The authorities have obviously tried to establish a new site in El Medano. Some of the plants looked as if they were getting on OK, though others looked dead.  It might be worth returning in about a month to see if they are flowering.

Piñamar (Atractylis preauxiana)

Piñamar (Atractylis preauxiana)

There were lots of other common coastal plants starting to flower, including the Common white saladillo (Polycarpaea nivea), the Canary bird’s foot trefoil, (Lotus sessilifolius), the Chicken wire plant, Aulaga, (Launaea arborescens), Matabrusca negra (Salsola divaricata), Branching heliotrope (Heliotropium ramosissimum), Sea everlasting (Limonium pectinatum) and Canary Island rockrose (Helianthemum canariense).

Sea everlasting (Limonium pectinatum)

Sea everlasting (Limonium pectinatum)

We wandered towards the sea to take a look at the de-watering structures, or sismata in Spanish. They are curious geological structures to be found over a fairly wide area of the fossilised dune system, and are the result of an earthquake shaking a water-saturated sediment, causing water to need to escape from the sediment. The water flowed out via tubular structures which became more mineralised than the surrounding sediment and subsequently when the area is eroded, the sismata are more resistant to erosion and so stick up above the surrounding surface.

Examples of the sigmata or de-watering structures found near the beach

Examples of the sigmata or de-watering structures found near the beach

Espino del mar (Lycium intricatum). This bush had creamy white flowers instead of the usual violet.

Espino del mar (Lycium intricatum). This bush had creamy white flowers instead of the usual violet.

After that we wandered up the lower slopes of Montaña Roja, where more shrubby plants were growing, dominated by the common coastal spurge, the Sweet spurge or Tabaiba dulce in spanish (Euphorbia balsamifera). There were also examples of the Canary spurge, Cardón, (Euphorbia canariensis), and the little grey candelabra cactus, Cardoncillo gris (Ceropegia fusca), which was flowering, with its curious-shaped red flowers. Espino del Mar (literally Sea thorn) (Lycium intricatum) was also plentiful. Among the Sea thorn plants with the usual tiny trumpet-shaped purple flowers, I saw one with creamy-white flowers.

A very old, semi-prostrate shrub of Sweet spurge, or Tabaiba dulce (Euphorbia balsamifera) on the lower slopes of Mt Roja.

A very old, semi-prostrate shrub of Sweet spurge, or Tabaiba dulce (Euphorbia balsamifera) on the lower slopes of Mt Roja. Notice the slash marks on the lower branches.

It was noticeable that all the lovely old shrubs of Sweet spurge, which were mostly layered into the mountainside, had slash marks in their basal branches. I wondered whether this had been done to extract the latex which was used traditionally for medicine.

Cardoncillo gris - literally the little grey candelabra cactus (Ceropegia fusca) with its curious red flowers

Cardoncillo gris – literally the little grey candelabra cactus (Ceropegia fusca) with its curious red flowers

As we walked around the lower slopes of the mountain, I noticed a number of plants which I guessed was a wormwood (Artemesia family) but a species I had not previously seen. Fortunately some were in flower, and when I got home I could confirm from my books that it was Artemesia reptans. My favourite book for the endemic plants, David Bramwell’s ‘Wild Flowers of the Canary Islands’ says it is only found in Gran Canaria, but when I checked with the Flora de Canarias website I discovered it is found in Tenerife as well, and the picture on the site was taken near Montaña Roja where we had seen it ourselves. So that discovery made it a very exciting and satisfying little ramble from the botanical point of view.

Incienso menudo or amuley (Artemesia reptant) does not have an English name. It is a miniature wormwood.

Incienso menudo or amuley (Artemesia reptans) does not have an English name. It is a miniature wormwood.

I am not giving exact time or distance for this walk as it was a gentle wander around a nature reserve, looking at plants of interest. We spent around 2 hours there, which we enjoyed tremendously.

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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 January 2, 2014, in Botanical interest, South Tenerife, Walks in Tenerife and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great pics, Sally and a lovely blog. We lived and worked on Tenerife for around 20 years which inspired us to research walking guides and produce detailed maps – I even researched and published a couple of modest plant identification guides (now out of print).

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