Flora of Lanzarote

Flora of Lanzarote

Although the island is arid and has little relief, it has a good set of endemic species. In the Famara massif in the north of Lanzarote, there is the largest number of botanical endemisms per km2 in all of Europe.

As for the native vegetation, the marine flora and exclusive land plants stand out. The areas of greatest botanical interest are found in the Famara cliffs, the Ajaches cliffs, Malpaís de La Corona and organic sand beaches.

The island has little representation of trees; although, yes, palm trees abound especially in the beds of ravines and in the valleys. Many are in the municipality of Haría, located in the valley known as the valley of a thousand palm trees.

Gorse and bushes

They form large areas commonly called «weeds». These are very old badlands where the soil, excessively saline and rocky, only admits the colonization of lichens, gorse and bushes.

The weeds of Teguise and El Rubicón are the most important on the island due to their great extension.

From a floristic point of view, the weed is not very important because it lacks endemic or rare taxa.

Among the most frequent species are: 

In addition, the presence of epiphytic lichens that dominate the scree is frequent:

Vegetation of mountain massifs

In Lanzarote two mountain massifs stand out, the Risco de Famara and the Ajaches. The area populated by this type of vegetation has been shrinking in the Canary Islands due to human pressure.

It should also be noted that both formations provide shelter and nesting places for numerous species of Canarian fauna.

Vegetation in salt marshes

Las zonas encharcadas durante las mareas altas están ocupadas por una vegetación muy específica, adaptada a la alta concentración de sales ya la inmersión periódica de las mareas. Estas formaciones reciben el nombre de saladares.

En el pasado la distribución de los saladares fue algo mayor y han sido los problemas de contaminación y, sobre todo, la presión del turismo, las causas que han reducido a solo unos puntos concretos y reducidos del litoral lanzaroteño:

Los saladares en general presentan una riqueza florística media pero son comunidades de alto valor paisajístico, faunístico, florístico y biogeográfico. Desde el punto de vista faunístico representan un hábitat ideal para las aves migratorias y limícolas que encuentran comida en estos enclaves tan especiales.

Vegetation on beaches

En el litoral lanzaroteño podemos distinguir dos tipos de playas según la naturaleza de sus materiales: las de arenas claras y las de arenas negras.

Vegetation in recent badlands

The recent malpaises are perfectly delimited by the volcanic materials emitted during the eruptions of 1730-36 and 1824, coming to form a space of about 200 km2 that houses the Timanfaya National Park. Within the Park, you can see older materials that were surrounded by recent lava: they are called islets.

The short time that has elapsed since the eruptions until our days, together with the climatic characteristics, has prevented a greater evolution of the soils, which makes it difficult for vascular plants to settle in them.

So Thus, we find that the predominant vegetation on the lavas is lichen, capable of colonizing the bare rock and contributing to its disintegration. They are located in those cracks where the wind has deposited fine materials resulting from erosion and where moisture can accumulate. Certain vascular plants are also capable of taking root on historical pyroclasts (volcanic ash).

As for the islets, they already have a formed soil, and it must be said that they have a certain floristic importance; on the one hand, by constituting enclaves where it lasted. the flora existing before the historical eruptions and, on the other, by later becoming sources of dispersion that at the time provided the installation of plants in new volcanic terrain.

Kunkel and Carrasco (1978), Manzanero (1987) counted 170 species, of which 15 are considered cultivated, 11 are endemic to the Canary Islands, and 3 are endemic to Lanzarote:

As communities of interest appear within the Park, the humid cracks between Timanfaya and Islote de Hilario are the tabaibales. These constitute curious enclaves through which heat escapes, in addition to housing some hygrophilous species, among which we can mention: Centaurium tenuiflorum, Juncus acutus, Gnaphalium luteo-album, etc.

Tabaibales are communities of succulent thickets typical of the Canarian basal floor, characterized by being mainly made up of succulent species of the genus Euphorbia. The most representative present in Park I is the tabaibal del Mojón, where the sweet tabaiba (Euphorbia balsamifera) predominates, along with other species such as Kleinia neriifolia, Suaeda vera and Lycium intricatum. Other tabaibales, less extensive than the first, are Halcones, Islote de Betancores (both with a predominance of E. balsamifera) and Caldera Bermeja (consisting mainly of E. obtusifolia).

Throughout history, the area populated by this type of vegetation has been shrinking in the Canary Islands due to human pressure. It is also noteworthy that these formations provide shelter and a nesting place for numerous species of Canarian fauna.

Outside the National Park, on both sides of the road from Masdache to Yaiza, there is a volcanic lava flow belonging to the 1730-36 eruption characterized by the presence of «pahoe lavas. -hoe» and cracks where ferns such as Davallia canariensis and Cheilantes catenensis can survive. The most interesting thing about the colada is the existence of a Crassulacea of the genus Aeonium. It is the Lanzarote endemism Aeonium lancerottense. Other phanerogams present are: Umbilicus horizontalis, Polycalpaea divaricata, Helianthemum canariensis and Micromeria varia.

Vegetation in ancient badlands

This space of great volcanological, scientific and cultural interest occupies the northeastern end of the island from Lancelot. It extends from the town of Arrieta to Órzola and from sea level to the 600 m elevation of the Corona Volcano.

From a botanical point of view, the tabaibas dominate the badlands of La Corona:

The tabaibal of the Volcán y Malpaís de La Corona is one of the largest in the Canary Islands and, also, one of the most diverse in terms of flora on the island. Among the species that accompany the tabaibal are: Kleinia neriifolia, Rubia fruticosa, Lycium intricatum, Ceballosia fruticosa and Asparagus nesiotes

In Malpíes, in the Siete Lenguas rocks, Maytenus senegalensis stands out as a rare species. This African species is found in inaccessible areas of the island and only six specimens have been recorded on the island.

The rocky vegetation that exists on the edges of the volcano is composed mainly of small plants of the Crassulaceae family such as Kleinia neri Aichryson tortuosum and Sedum nudum. Also noteworthy is the presence of an olivillo, Olea europa ea, its situation on the island being quite critical.

Throughout the entire badland, the richness of lichens such as Xanthoria resendei, Xanthoria parietina, Lecanora sulphurella and Caloplaca glorieae is evident.

Ravine Vegetation

The ravines of the island of Lanzarote do not have a typical or specific vegetation, which prevents us from associating a specific plant community with them. Depending on the situation, weather and soil conditions, certain plant species and plant colonies will be installed or not. However, a differentiated treatment deserves both the Barranco de Tenegüime and the Elvira Sánchez, as they are enclaves of great botanical interest.

Haría Palm Grove

This is a palm grove nestled in the Haría valley between houses and orchards. In the past, there were more than 10,000 palm trees, a figure that has been reduced over the years due to human pressure.

This unit of vegetation is important because its component (Phoenix canariensis) is endemic to the Canary Islands, being the most important group of trees on the island that also configures a landscape of great beauty.

Vegetation on coastal cliffs

To the north of the island where the Risco de Famara is located, an important macrospace that extends from North to South, from Punta Fariones to the Barranco of the Gallows in Teguise.

From the point of view of vegetation, it is the most complete enclave on the island, as it is home to the different types of plant communities existing in Lanzarote. Its inaccessible orography, both for man and for goats, has provided the refuge for the most interesting and rare endemisms on the island.

The Risco de Famara houses an important relictual flora with more than 12 exclusive species (Marrero, 1992). Of the 291 taxa enumerated to date, 10 are endemic to Macaronesia, 24 endemic to the Canary Islands, 21 endemic to the eastern islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura), 19 are endemic to Lanzarote and the Chinijo Archipelago, and 14 are exclusive to the Risco de Famara.< /p>

The existing plant communities in the Risco de Famara obey climatic, edaphic and anthropic factors.

Vegetation in coastal dunes

There are three dune enclaves in Lanzarote that deserve different treatment: Mancha Vagal, Dunas de Órzola and Dunas de La Graciosa.

The most characteristic taxon is Traganum moquini, which can fix large dunes

Lichen Flora

One of the most surprising aspects of Lanzarote's vegetation, despite the island's semi-desert climate, is the great abundance of lichens that cover the volcanic terrain, both those of recent origin (Timanfaya, Volcán Nuevo, Tinguatón) as well as other older ones (Malpaís de la Corona, Riscos de Famara). The small fissures and hollows of the volcanic substrates facilitate the fixation of the lichen propagules, especially in windy places exposed to the humidity of the trade winds and the sea breeze. Lichens generally absorb water and nutrients directly through their stems, without needing higher requirements to thrive.

So far, some 150 lichen species have been cited for the island, although their number may be closer to 200. It must be taken into account that many species are tiny and difficult to detect, particularly in dry periods, since that its stem becomes almost imperceptible.

In the coastal cliffs, such as those of Famara, important orchilla communities develop. These lichens, belonging to the genus Roccella, were collected in ancient times to obtain a purple dye, and were one of the most important sources of income for the early island economy.