Flora

The harsh environmental conditions of the Teide National Park, to which the great majority of plant species cannot adapt, are those that cause, in the high mountain of Tenerife, a process of adaptive radiation that has led to the emergence of a significant number of endemic species. Of the 168 species of vascular plants that have been cited so far for the national park, 58 are endemic to the Canary Islands, and among these 33 are unique to Tenerife and 12 to the park itself.

The territory of the park is at an altitude of between 2,000 meters above sea level in its plains and 3,718 at the top of Mount Teide. Therefore, since during a large part of the year you can reach very low temperatures, frosts are very frequent. On the other hand, Las Cañadas are under the influence of the trade winds, so the climate is generally dry and there is a high solar exposure. Moreover, rainfalls are less than 500 mm per year, being, many times, in the form of snow. The frequency and intensity of the wind increase evapotranspiration.

As adaptations to these rigours, it is visible: the dense covering hair that protects plants from high solar exposure, at the same time that allows them to maintain humidity; small leaves to reduce water loss by perspiration; pillowed forms that, being compact and dense, improve resistance to the large changes in temperature and intense wind.

The vegetal formation that dominates the landscape of Las Cañadas is the retamar-codesar, whose most representative species are the retama del Teide (Spartocytisus supranubius) and the codeso de cumbre (Adenocarpus viscosus). At the lower limit of its distribution it mixes with the pine trees and, at the upper level, as it is the case of the retama, it goes up to 3,000 metres in the slopes of Mount Teide and Pico Viejo. Other species that enrich the landscape are the hierba pajonera (Descurainia bourgeauana), with its spectacular yellow colour, and the rosalito de cumbre (Pterocephalus lasiospermus), with its bluish colour and great abundance. These shrubs were very exploited in the past, not only for food and bedding for livestock, but also for firewood (especially in the case of the retama). Currently, the production of honey is the only use that is allowed.

As unique plants, it is worth mentioning the endemic alhelí del Teide (Erysimum scoparium), of beautiful mauve flowers and typical of rocky landscapes. Both this plant and the tonática (Nepeta teydea), another endemism that shares the summits with the palm trees, accredited their medicinal properties. The tonática (Nepeta teydea), easy to distinguish by its small purple flowers, grows in the cracks of rocky areas. The margarita del Teide (Argyranthemum teneriffae), of appealing flowers, is one of the species that gets to a higher altitude, since it can reach 3,500 meters above sea level in the slopes of Teide.

These are, precisely, the domains of one of the greatest treasures of the park: the violeta del Teide (Viola cheiranthifolia). This plant of small size shows off its beautiful flowers well later in the spring. It is the most characteristic and emblematic representative of the flora of the summits, only observed between 2,400 and 3,600 m of altitude. At this altitude, it coincides with the rare edelweiss del Teide (Laphangium teydeum), a small plant of light shades and yellow flowers that lives associated with the hot soils affected by the steams emanating from the fumaroles.

Another very characteristic species is the tajinaste rojo (Echium wildpretii), with its floral stems of conical shape of up to 1.5 m in height and abundant red flowers that stand out in the landscape during the months of May and June. Smaller and rarer is the tajinaste picante (Echium auberianum), of beautiful blue flowers, which grows preferably in pumice soils. This brief description of the floristic richness of Teide National Park can not be finished without mentioning some especially scarce taxa, such as the cedro canario (Juniperus Cedrus) and the moralito (Rhamnus integrifolia), typical of the crags. The scant cardo de plata (Stemmacantha cynaroides) is a protagonist of many conservation activities, like the rosal del guanche (Bencomia exstipulata), showy shrub belonging to a genre unique to the Canary Islands.

This chart outlines the species present in the park that are reflected in the national and canary catalogues as vulnerable (VUL) or endangered (END) species.

 

CEEA

CCEP

Common name

Juniperus cedrus cedrus

VUL

 

cedro canario

Silene nocteolens

VUL

V

canutillo del Teide

Bencomia exstipulata

END

E

rosalito

Helianthemum juliae

END

 

jarilla de Las Cañadas

Salix canariensis

 

V

sauce

Stemmacantha cynaroides

END

E

cardo de plata

Dactylis metlesicsii

 

V

jopillo de cumbre

CEEA: Spanish Catalogue of Endangered Species. CCEP: Canary Catalogue of Endangered Species.

There is a good sample of all of them in the botanical garden of El Portillo.