... a Wonderful Botanical Garden in Santa Cruz

 

The park is divided into bio-geographical sections. Some are dedicated to continents (America, Asia, Africa), but most are dedicated to islands (like the Caribbean, Hawaii, Madagascar, etc.). The garden mainly consists of a collection of island palm trees, because the island species are the most endangered.

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It’s possible to help with the garden’s goal simply by having a bit of awareness in cities. For example, instead of planting the Washingtonia palm tree when landscaping, we could plant palm trees like the Tahina spectabilis. Roughly 100 remain in Madagascar, whilst only another 100 are being grown in other places around the world.

Prices and Opening Times at The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Entry costs €6 for adults and €1.50 for local residents. The entry price is lower for children and some other groups. The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is open 10am-6pm. You’d normally need about two hours to be able to see everything without rushing through your visit.

General guidelines for the creation of The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

There’s an exhibition explaining how the garden evolved from a rubbish dump in 1995 into the botanical garden of today. Carlo Morici, the guide who showed us round the garden, described it as a transformation ‘from hell to heaven’. They plan to develop it into an extensive ethnographic palm tree museum that will be home to over 3,000 specimens. 

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The garden has 26 degasification wells, some of which are 20 metres deep. These pump the gases which are still produced in the centre of the mountain.

Garden waste produced by the city of Santa Cruz, also known as ‘pulp’, covers the ground in The Palmetum. The pulp produces organic material and almost halves the wastage of irrigation water, recycled from water used in the city. No compost or fertilisers are used in the garden and 30 species of Canary Island birds serve as pest control.

 

In The Palmetum, the goal is to grow and protect as many palm trees as possible. This isn’t always possible, as it’s sometimes very difficult to obtain certain species for the garden. Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s coastal oceanic subtropical climate means it’s often possible to grow palm tree species from other climates. However, raising and caring for them can pose a challenge.

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Tenerife Travel Secret

Botanical institutions and plant specialists have collected seeds for years and set up a large field of mother plants. One of the most famous of these fields was built by Jeff Markus in Hawaii. Jeff Markus is "the father of all mothers" who has spent his life collecting seeds from the Pacific and Madagascar. His field is now the home of roughly 500 species.

The start of our visit to The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

We went to The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife as a family. Our son got up to a lot of mischief!

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The Indigenous Area and exotic fruit trees

We started at the museum, and continued to the section dedicated to Canary Island palm trees, dragon trees, euphorbias, etc. The Indigenous Area is next to the thermophilous forest from Anaga. This forest is a symbol of the great biodiversity and endemic qualities of the Canary Islands. It is the most endangered ecosystem in the archipelago – now only 6% of its original size. A seasonal pond was built to recreate the Canary Islands’ typical aquatic environment.

There’s a very large collection of unusual fruit trees, which includes mangos from Ceylon and Borneo. The skins of these mangos smell of diesel, but they’re still very juicy and sweet. The area even has the largest tree-grown fruit, which has a mixed flavour of both pineapple and strawberry. It sounds awfully sweet 😊.

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These wild ancestors of modern fruit trees have very intense flavours when compared to what is grown and marketed today.

Madagascar

The Madagascar area has a pond that was specifically created for growing mangroves. These are swamp palm trees and one of the few plants that can grow in the sea. A few metres away, there’s a very arid slope which is home to the Madagascan desert palm trees (Ravenea xenophile). These trees are some of the slowest-growing palms in the world, only growing two metres in the last 20 years.

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The Dypsis decaryi, also known as the triangle palm, is beautiful and easy to grow. Its seeds are also very valuable. I asked Carlos Morici if the palm tree with multiple branches in Icod de Los Vinos was a triangle palm tree. He explained that it’s a common species which has suffered trauma at some point in its life. Before losing its main tip and dying, it produces several new and very flimsy tips. Normal palm trees grow from the triangle palm’s seeds.

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The Pacific

The Araucarias columnaris have grown into a forest of 50 trees. They grow into the side of the mountain and up to the sea, to a height of 40-60 metres. The dwarf pine tree is the only fully aquatic conifer in the world. Originally from New Caledonia, it can grow to between 3 and 5 metres tall. The one in The Palmetum was planted the day after our visit (in September 2015).

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There are 18 species of Araucarias around the world, 13 of which are from New Caledonia.

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The Octagon

At 2,300m2, this is the most intimate place in The Palmetum. There’s very little wind, lots of shade, some streams and waterfalls – all of which create a humid atmosphere. It’s also cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

This area is the home of the most vulnerable species of cacao tree, vanilla plant and yam plant. The yam plant has silver leaves, comes from an equatorial climate and only grows for four months in summer. The area’s star attraction is the sacred Fe’i banana tree of the gods of New Guinea. It only grows in a few places and it’s now the largest banana tree in the Canaries (7.5 metres). It’s considered sacred because the pineapples don’t fall and look to the sky, and the bananas are enormous, orange and rich with vitamins – giving them almost medicinal healing properties. 

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Belgian researchers took samples from the holy banana tree in the 80s and preserved them as tissue cultures. The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife were given the cells from that banana tree. They then revived them and, after a few attempts, this current plant survived.

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Australia, Asia and Africa

There’s a wide variety of very particular plants in this area. For example, the Arenga westerhouti will die and flower only once during its lifespan of around 20 years. If it doesn’t leave behind any seeds the species will be lost, and researchers will have to search for more. There are other common palm trees in The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife that have economic value. For instance, the Canary Island palm tree in La Gomera is used to produce sugar-cane liqueur. Tenerife used to have the largest population of palm trees, but only a tiny proportion of this population remains today.

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Palms in numbers: did you know that the Canary Island palm tree can have up to 100 leaves in its crown? That’s more leaves than any other palm tree. The big palm trees usually live between 100 and 200 years, and the oldest can live for 700 years. The trees that flower the least tend to die after only 10 years.

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The Caribbean

The Caribbean area is the largest and most valuable part of The Palmetum. In the Caribbean square, they have recreated a waterfall with a variety of species from the coastal area. This square is also the home of the only Hemithrinax compacta specimens.

The Jumagua palm (Hemithrinax ekmaniana) is originally from Cuba. They are only found on a limestone hill where there are more than 100 individual trees. It’s therefore essential to look after them. The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is one of the few places in the world where they grow.

Activities for Children at The Palmetum

Several educational tours are available. These form part of the garden’s main mission and, in the company of an entertaining guide, can be an adventure. I personally think that children aged 5 and above will be able to learn a lot from the tours. Younger children will still enjoy themselves, but they’ll prefer the long walks, animals and nature along the way. Humankind’s education began with plants: “that one can be eaten, that one can’t be eaten. Be careful with that one – it stings”. It’s the bedrock of education as we know it. The building of space shuttles happened later 😊.

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How to get to The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The Palmetum is in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, near the coast and the Recinto Ferial, Auditorio Adán Martín and Parque Marítimo.

The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife - Avda de la Constitución, 5, 38005 - Santa Cruz de Tenerife

 

https://www.palmetumtenerife.es

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Final Comments from the Authors about The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The Palmetum was yet another place in Tenerife that left us feeling amazed and surprised. It was a privilege to walk through this beautiful botanical garden. That aside, a lot of hard work and patience has gone into The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It definitely must have been a very long and arduous process. As well as its protection goal, there are some beautiful elements to enjoy. The vantage points give spectacular views of the ocean, and the greenhouse – the Octagon – houses the most vulnerable species.

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We learned a lot of very interesting and little-known secrets over the course of a few hours at The Palmetum. Unfortunately, we couldn’t mention lots of these facts as this article was already very long. Nonetheless, here’s one final secret: the Ravenea musicalis, an aquatic palm tree from Madagascar, is the most sought-after palm tree.  With any luck, we’ll one day be able to see it in The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Don’t be swayed by external appearances; the doors to The Palmetum are open and wonderful treasures await you inside 😊.

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