Lanzarote is one of seven islands that make up the Canary Archipelago, situated less than 100 kilometres from the African coast and favourably influenced by the Canaries Current and Trade Winds.
The islands emerged from the Atlantic Ocean by volcanic activity, Lanzarote is believed to be around 19 million years old whilst El Hierro was formed less than a million years ago. The islands were a stopping point for international trade and many species of plants derived from the passing ships.
In the nineties Lanzarote was declared a 'World Reserve of the Biosphere' by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) which is the first time such an award has been given to a full island.
The Lanzarote landscape changed dramatically with two volcanic eruptions which took place over a period of 6 years between 1730 and 1736 and again in 1824 but did not claim any lives. As a result there are more than 300 craters on the island. The volcanoes devastated the face of the island, burying villages and replacing fertile fields with lava rock. Timanfaya translates as "Fire Mountain" covers an area approximately a quarter of the island and is one of the National Parks of Spain.
Following the eruptions the farmers had to find a way to survive and continue growing crops. They dug down through the layers of lava and volcanic ash to the earth below. They found that the land covered with ash produced more crop and they developed a method where they used the loose ash to cover their fields. The ash was porous and allowed moisture from the night dew to seep through to the plants whilst preventing the evaporation from the heat of the sun. A similar method is still used today with crushed lava rock known as picon.
We have picked a selection of flora to be seen around the island with hints on where to go if you want to find some:
Vines are cultivated all over the island, some as a hobby and others commercial vineyards. The white grape is more favoured although red is also grown and there is a strict calendar for pruning, watering and sulphur following the lunar cycle. Protected from the wind in zocos (circular stone walls) and planted under layers of volcanic ash.
Head to La Geria to see landscapes of vines which can resemble moon craters with the volcanic zocos.
This is a simple shrub which grows on most soils and prefers sunny areas. It will grow up to 4m tall and has very small yellow flowers in the centre of the leaves which turn from green to red. Widely cultivated the plants are available in all shades of red, white and pink.
Very popular at Christmas and can be seen decorating the local roundabouts.
These shrubs are very popular as hedging and can be seen in many different colours such as red, yellow and pink. They prefer rich soils but will grow in less favourable conditions. The sunny conditions here produce abundant flowers and they grow fast.
The main avenida in Tias has Hibiscus planted in the middle.
These shrubs are seen profusely across the island mainly with pink or white flowers. They grow easily up to 4.5m but gardeners beware as the plant is very poisonous even though the sap can be used to treat some skin disorders.
These trees look similar to a weeping willow and grow up to 15m tall. They have small white clusters of flowers then small red fruits, the seeds are hot in flavour and have been used instead of pepper, hence the name.
This palm can grow up to heights of 24m, you can tell the type of palm by the leaf, the Washington is like a hand / fan shape.
The village of Haria is known as the valley of a thousand palms, there are plenty of examples of both types.
This is the local palm and can grow to heights of 15m. The leaves are banana shaped and on taller trees they fall into a circular shape. The orange fruits are similar to dates and are edible but seldom picked.
Most of the main roads are planted with these palms and covered with red picon.
Yucca (The Spanish Bayonet)
A common household plant in England that can grow to 7m as a single tree or with multiple trunks in the gardens in this climate. The white flowers stand tall from the spikes and later are black fruits.
There are 2 mature plants on the dual carriage way leaving Costa Teguise.
This tree looks something between and elephant's trunk and something from the prehistoric ages, normally a wide and short trunk then splits into a series of trunks where leaves sprout in a circular fashion. The tree is so called because of the colour of the bark when cut is red and was nicknamed 'dragon's blood'.
Some really good mature examples are around the town of Teguise.
There are two types of cactus we know as prickly pear grown in Lanzarote, when in flower you can tell them apart as one has yellow and the other has orange flowers, other than that their thorns are different but from a distance they both look the same. The prickly pear was grown to harvest the cochineal beetle which was one of the main exports from the island in the years before tourism. The locals also harvest the prickly pear to eat.
Guatiza and Mala are full of fields of prickly pear.
This wonderful climber makes a stark contrast to the white buildings, the thorny stem goes woody and they can be trained up pergolas to provide welcome shade from the sun. They flower all year round and can be found in many different colours from purple, red, pink, white, orange etc.
Visit the Plaza de la ConstituciÃ³n in Haria, there are 4 bouganvilleas in purple trained up pergolas above the aljibe.
Echinocactus Grusonii (Mother in Law's Seat)
This is a very popular cactus and can grow up to a metre wide; it is round in shape, yellow and green in colour with long thorns up to 5cms in length. They make a stark contrast to the red / black picon and look fabulous in pots.
Visit the Jardin de Cactus
Bird of Paradise
This plant can take up to 7 years from planting to flower. They are strange and beautiful and resemble a bird hence the name. The trunks consist of leaves sheaths wrapped up and the orange or yellow flowers have a blue lower part. Often used by florists in bouquets.
Can be seen in the middle of the main carriage way from Arrecife to the airport.