Gran Canaria Flora
Plants of Gran Canaria
The plants of Gran Canaria are varied and abundant. The island of Gran Canaria was before the European conquests the most luxuriant. Subsequently it suffered a rapid process of deforestation due to the need for timber from the naval industry and the creation of large tracts of land for farming and livestock.
As a consequence, the island was devastated with only 60 thousand hectares of forests left. At the end of the 20th century, a process of reforestation began, especially in the mountain peaks. As it happens in the rest of the archipelago, in those islands with a considerable altitude different strata are observed with different vegetal species each, depending on the altitude.
Gran Canaria plants according to altitude
Gran Canaria plants vary according to the altitude, due to the different humidity levels and the different microclimates. The flowers also have special relevance due to their diversity and beauty.
Tabaibas, Cardones and Verodes
We can find this first level in the areas closest to the sea and of low altitude, extending between sea level and approximately 600 meters. The predominant ecosystem in this stratum is the semi-desert, populated by the xerophilous scrub. We find species such as the Tabaibas (Euphorbia), the Cardones or the Verodes (Kleinia neriifolia) in the plains as well as balos (Plocama pendula), tarajales (Tamarix canariensis) or white tajinastes (Echium decaisnei Webb), which can be found in the interior slopes of the ravines.
The thermophilic forest, related to the Mediterranean forest, extends in Gran Canaria between 200 and 600 meters of altitude, reaching a thousand meters depending on the face of the island where it is located.
It is an ecosystem more abundant in rainfall, has a more humid climate and receives slightly less hours of sunlight than the basal floor. At this altitude we can find a wide range of thermophilic vegetation such as palms, mastic trees, junipers, dragon trees, wild olive trees, mocanes (Visnea mocanera) and barbusanos (Apollonias barbujana), many of them endemic to the Macaronesian region. Today, despite the hand of man, good examples of this ecosystem are still preserved in places such as the Barranco de los Cernícalos or in the Caldera de Bandama.
The next significant stratum in the flora of Gran Canaria is the rainforest or monteverde. Within these ecosystems we can differentiate between the Canary Laurisilva, which extends between 400 and 1300 meters, and the Fayal-brezal, which does it from approximately 900 meters to 1500.
This common subtropical forest of the Macaronesia region is influenced by the trade winds, which maintains the annual averages between 15 and 19 degrees. The abundant precipitations turn it into a leafy rain forest with several arboreal species and great density, present especially in the northern part of Gran Canaria. This forest is also benefited by the phenomenon of horizontal rain present in most of the islands.
We find numerous species such as the laurel, the til (Ocotea foetens), the viñátigo (Persea indica) or the barbusano (Apollonias barbujana), or other smaller ones such as the bicácaros (Canarina canariensis), the crestas de gallo (Celosia cristata) or the various ferns.
These forests can be visited in natural enclaves such as the Brezal de Santa Cristina or Tilos de Moya, redoubts of what once was a great jungle known as the Selva de Doramas, which covered much of the northern half of the island of Gran Canaria.
It is a less humid ecosystem with little variety of vegetation. The protagonists are fayas (Myrica faya) and the brezo arboreo (Erica arborea), both of slow growth, their size is considerable and they protect to other more delicate species.
The Fayal-Brezal level is also a transitory territory between the Canary Laurisilva and the pine forest, since they can withstand the cold and water scarcity better.
The pine forest
The last stratum by altitude in the flora of Gran Canaria is the pine forest, extending from approximately one thousand to two thousand meters of altitude. The Canarian pine (Pinus canariensis) is the most abundant species of the archipelago. It extends over wide surfaces and reaches heights of more than twenty meters in height. In this ecosystem, rainfall is scarcer.