La Laguna the University City
I have always had a particular liking for La Laguna because it was the first place I ever stayed on Tenerife when I first came here in December 2002 and fell in love with the place. I think it’s because of all the lush vegetation that grows in its parks and gardens due to the regular rain this university city gets.
La Laguna (The Lagoon) once was a huge lake until the land was drained back in the 19th century for farming, so it is aptly named and still today gets more rainfall than anywhere else I know on Tenerife. That doesn’t worry me though because I come from Wales, which is also very wet for much of the year.
When I had first arrived in Tenerife I remember being fascinated by seeing plants like the medicinal herb Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum ) growing all over the place on waste ground and even in cracks in the pavement, as well as the strange looking Dragon Trees.
Something else that I was excited by was seeing all the epiphytic plants such as ferns and Canary Island Sowthistle species (Sonchus spp) growing high on the palm tree trunks where they had found a place to root in the leaf scar cracks. Other opportunists, besides the sowthistles, are the Houseleeks (Aeonium holochrysum) but these grow on the roofs and in cracks in walls.
The impression I get of La Laguna is one of growth, not just in size as Tenerife’s university city, but as a place where plants grow well in any nook or cranny they can find.
I also associate La Laguna with water and a bird that needs this is catered for in the heart of the city where there is a charming duckpond near the cathedral. There are brown ducks and white ducks and multi-coloured ornamental ducks and greedy and watchful pigeons often join them for scraps that people throw.
The good thing about La Laguna and the Tenerife climate is that when the rain stops and the sun comes back out, it all dries up very quickly and the place is a pleasure to walk around, especially with all the cobble-stoned streets and the magnificent Canarian architecture to behold. I had finished my wander around the city, which was getting rather full of shoppers so I headed for the bus station.
Taking a road I know well which goes over the motorway I stopped to have a look at a patch of ground at the top of the bank overlooking the road. I could see wild plants and grass and I wanted to collect some of the lush La Laguna grass as a special treat for my cat Tiggy. Tiggy only appreciates wild types of grass and turns her nose up in disgust at “Cat grass,” which you can buy in many shops.
As I bent down to pull some up I had a look at a plant I didn’t recognise and still haven’t identified. There were many snails all over it and on surrounding vegetation. There were even more under the rocks I turned over but they were a different shaped type.
Then I saw an insect flying and as it landed I got a clear look at it and could see it was some type of bug. It was on a leaf of the plant I didn’t know and on other leaves there were more of its kind.
In fact I had stumbled upon a whole colony of an interesting looking insect. The bugs were a dark blackish colour with some flecks of red, long antennae and very long back legs with little projections on the sides, almost like jodhpurs.
When I got home I looked it up in my faithful guide to Tenerife’s wildlife, Historia Natural de las Islas Canarias by David and Zoe Bramwell, and there it was, no mistaking it. The bug I had found in La Laguna was a Leptoglossus membranaceus .
I read the descriptive notes, which said it is locally common on Gran Canaria, which it is restricted to. Well, I have found them on Tenerife, I thought, and wondered if I had made an important discovery.
Armed with the Latin name of the insect I had found I did some searching on the Internet where although I could find nothing about it living on Tenerife, I did learn that it is a Leaf-footed Plant Bug and is also known as Leptoglossus australis .
I always wonder how the experts work out where plants and animals live and how they can be so certain about the information they give out. For example, does somebody go around counting the bugs on Tenerife? I somehow doubt it and it would be a very difficult job.
Anyway, next step is to contact the zoology department of La Laguna University and ask them if they know that Leaf-footed plant bugs of the species Leptoglossus membranaceus are thriving in their city.
Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun
Copyright © 2013 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.