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Masca Barranco in May

A narrow gap near the bottom of the barranco

Canary Willow (Salix canariensis) and Canary Palm (Phoenix canariensis) in the base of the barranco

The Masca Barranco (Ravine/Gorge) is a very dramatic landscape with ever-changing views as you walk either up or down. It is also a very special place for plants, many of them rare. In addition it is a popular tourist destination and consequently is sometimes very overcrowded, which detracts from its landscape and ecological attractions. In May when we visited, it was still busy, but not at its busiest.

We decided to take the earliest boat from Los Gigantes and walk up the barranco from the beach. It was pleasantly quiet in the barranco until about half-way, when we started to meet large groups coming down.

 

Dorycnium eriophthalmum, a rare Canary endemic.

We saw many unusual plants and flowers on the way up, the first exciting one was the Dorycnium eriophthalmum, a rare Canary endemic which is not found in many places. I have seen this in flower earlier in the spring so was not expecting flowers in May but was delighted to see just a fewAround this area we also saw Tenerife Samphire (Vieraea laevigata) hanging on many of the damp cliffs.

 

 

 

Tenerife samphire (Vieraea laevigata) hanging on a shady cliff

In the lower part of the barranco we saw the following in flower, though I did not get good pictures to share: Tenerife Lavender (Lavandula buchii), a grey-leaved species common in Teno, Polycarpaea carnosa on the cliff sides, Polycarpaea filifolia in secluded parts of the base of the barranco, Maple-leaved mallow (Lavatera acerifolia), and Palomera (Pericallis lanata) with its lovely purple daisy flowers. We also saw a couple of shrubs of Maytenus canariensis, but not in flower, as well as many other plants.

A flatfish area of rock raised high above the barranco bottom crowned by a Dragon tree (Dracaena drago) surrounded by Euphorbias

Around the middle of the climb up the barranco we met another exciting species in flower, Canary Knapweed (Cheirolophus canariensis). I had never seen this species in flower before so it was a real treat, especially as it appears the only wild population of this species is in Masca barranco. It was good to see that there were specimens over a wide area in this section, including up the cliffs either side.

Canary Knapweed (Cheirolophus canariensis)

 

Queen’s crown (Gonospermum fruticosum)

As the barranco widened the views extended, and included a vista of Canary palms growing naturally on a slope up towards the village. They are the dominant tree in the thermophile (warm-loving) woodland in this area. In this open upper area most of the plants had finished flowering by May, especially in this dry year.

Finally there is a steep slope to climb to reach the village. On a warm day in May, in the full sun, it is a fairly draining experience, and a refreshing drink in one of the bars is very welcome, before we found our taxi we had ordered for our return to Los Gigantes.

 

 

 

A slope covered with Canary Palms (Phoenix canariensis)

The walk took us around 3.5 hours, walking up.

The fantastic Masca Barranco

Our first view up the barranco after leaving the beach

Our first view up the barranco after leaving the beach

I haven’t written in this blog about the Masca gorge, or barranco, and neither did I include it in my book ‘Tenerife Nature walks’ despite it being one of the most botanically interesting areas of Tenerife.  One reason is that the gorge is very overcrowded with literally hundreds of people going both up and down, many of them not particularly suited to doing such an arduous walk, so I do not particularly want to encourage more.  However, if you are interested in the botanical rarities which can be found in the gorge, and are fit enough to do the walk, it is a very rewarding experience.

 

Polycarpaea filifolia, a Canary endemic found near the bottom of the gorge

Polycarpaea filifolia, a Canary endemic found near the bottom of the gorge. Photo taken Jan 2013

 

This time we decided to walk up the gorge, so we took the boat from Los Gigantes to Masca beach.  It was nice to do it that way, but I think if you want to look at the plants, it is probably better to do the walk downward.  I was struggling to keep up with my friends and did not have time to take good photos of most of the flowers I saw, so I have used some from previous visits.   The gorge has tremendous biodiversity, but I have concentrated on the ones you are less likely to see elsewhere, when choosing the photos to put on this blog.

Dorycnium eriophthalmium, a rare Canary endemic shrub found a short way up from the beach. Photo taken March 2011.

Dorycnium eriophthalmium, a rare Canary endemic shrub found a short way up from the beach. Photo taken March 2011.

 

I’m not going to describe the walk as once in one end of the gorge, the only way out is either the same way, or the other end!  And while there may be various choices of paths in places in the barranco, you cannot get lost.

Walking up the gorge

Walking up the gorge

As we went up the gorge, I am describing the plants in a bottom-up order.  The first plant I was excited to see was Vieraea laevigata,  a fresh green clump of a plant hanging from a side of the gorge, with yellow daisy flowers.  It is a Tenerife endemic, confined largely to Teno, but a delight to see.  Unfortunately, my photos did not come out!

 

Soon after I saw more than one dwarf shrub with soft filiform leaves and tiny white flowers, Polycarpaea filifolia.

The large distinctive leaves of Salvia Broussonetii, a Canary endemic which flowers late in summer.

The large distinctive leaves of Salvia Broussonetii, a Canary endemic which flowers late in summer.

 

Higher up, on a bend in the gorge where the path is a few feet above the streamed, I was surrounded by fresh green shrubs around 1 metre high with creamy white flowers. These are Dorycnium eriophthalmium,  a rare Canary endemic.

 

Fruits and leaves of the tree/shrub Maytenus canariensis.  These plants can be seen in various places up the gorge, but I did not see any flowers or fruit this time.  Photo taken Jan 2013

Fruits and leaves of the tree/shrub Maytenus canariensis. These plants can be seen in various places up the gorge, but I did not see any flowers or fruit this time. Photo taken Jan 2013

 

I began to see clumps of large crinkly and hairy leaves, about 15cm / 6 inches across.  I saw them in several places up the gorge.  They are the leaves of Salvia broussonetii, a rare Tenerife endemic which is confined to the Teno and Anaga regions of the island.  It flowers in late summer.

Teline osyroides, a Tenerife endemic of the broom family, largely confined to Teno and West Tenerife

Teline osyroides, a Tenerife endemic of the broom family, largely confined to Teno and West Tenerife

 

Throughout the middle part of the gorge I came across several shrub-sized specimens of Maytenus canariensis which is known in Spanish as Peralillo, or little pear tree.  This is because the leaves bear a resemblance to pear tree leaves, though they are stiffer and more waxy.  The plant can grow to the size of a small tree.  However, this year I was unable to see any flowers or fruit on them, so the photo is from 2013.

 

Another view of the dramatic gorge

Another view of the dramatic gorge

Also in the middle part of the gorge, in various places, were the small upright shrubs of Teline osyroides, brightening up the valley with their yellow flowers.

 

 

 

Teucrium heterophyllum, a Macronesian endemic.

Teucrium heterophyllum, a Macronesian endemic. Photo taken Jan 2013

Previously I have seen the flowers of Teucrium heterophyllum in the gorge, fairly near the top.  It is a lax grey leaved shrub, and the flowers are hard to see, under the leaves.  I did not see them this time.

 

Echium strictum, a canary endemic

Echium strictum, a canary endemic

As we started to emerge from the gorge into the sunshine just below Masca village, we saw some specimens of Echium strictum in flower.  This isn’t the most striking of the tajinastes (as the Vipers Bugloss family is called in spanish), but still an interesting plant.

We walked up the gorge in 2.75 hours, including a lunch break, but I would have liked to spend a lot longer looking at the plants and flowers, so if that is what you like doing, allow plenty of time – there’s a lot to see!