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Tenerife’s Green Heaven of Monte del Agua

A walk on the wild side of Tenerife

Footpath signposts near Erjos

Yesterday was a glorious day and I decided I needed a break from the computer and that it would be a good day to take a walk through the area known as Monte del Agua (Mountain of Water). I have seen this part of Tenerife once described as the “Green Hell” but for me it was a “Green Heaven.”

Setting out at 12.30 pm from the village of Erjos in the northwest of the island, I took the footpath that winds up into the ancient woodland and towards Monte del Agua. It is very aptly named because it is very often shrouded in dense misty clouds that keep the trees and vegetation moist.

Sounds of nature

I suppose if you got caught up in there when the clouds came down and if you lost the path then it would be a “hell,” but in the warmth of the summer sun it was perfect.

Every step of the way I could hear the sounds of nature – birds singing, lizards rustling in the undergrowth and the ever-present humming of honey and bumble bees gathering nectar from the masses of wild flowers along the way.

 

 Wild flowers of the woodland

Wild flowers of the forest
Wild flowers in a Tenerife laurel forest

I saw purple thistles of many types, the mauve Viper’s Bugloss (Echium plantagineum), Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius), golden-flowered Aichryson (Aichryson laxum), Canary Island Foxglove (Isoplexis canariensis), bright sunny yellow Canary Island Sowthistles (Sonchus congestus) and St John’s Wort (Hypericum grandifolium), Teide Wallflowers (Erisymum scoparium subspeciescinereum) and many more species all growing in profusion, and often in glorious mixtures of form and colour.

Canary Island Foxglove

Isoplexis canariensis
An endemic wild flower of Tenerife

I also passed many aromatic Balm of Gilead (Cedronella canariensis) plants and Canary Island Mint or Menta Poleo (Bystropogon canariensis) but the forest floor had its own earthy perfume mixed in with the resinous smells coming from the trees.

The woodland is an example of what is known as “laurisilva” and it gets its name from the plentiful Canarian Laurel (Laurus canariensis) trees, which are closely related to the Bay tree (L. nobilis). This is actually some of the only surviving forest like this in the world and it is home to some very rare fauna and flora.

The Bolle’s Pigeon (Columba bollii) is a very rare bird that needs this type of habitat for its survival. I didn’t see any but I did catch sight of many Chaffinches and Blackbirds and could hear many birds singing from somewhere in the greenery.

Other trees that grow in this type of forest are Tree Heather (Erica arborea) and Canary Island Pines (Pinus canariensis), the latter of which are often festooned in Old Man’s Beard lichen (Usnea articulata).

The fungus Exobasidium lauri

A very rare forest fungus

I spotted some of the antler-like growths of a strange parasitic fungus known asLaurobasidium laurii or Exobasidium lauri. This weird fungus grows out of the trunks of the laurel trees and is dependent on this type of woodland just like the Bolle’s Pigeon.

It was possible in some places to look out over the surrounding wooded valleys and also to see Mt Teide towering above it all in the far distance. Miles of green and more green!

Eventually I came to some footpath signs and began the walk downhill to El Palmar, a pretty village in the Teno part of the island.

On the way I went through some rocky and drier mountainside areas and I can honestly say I have never seen so many Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui) butterflies in my life.

These pretty insects have taken advantage of the very rainy winter we had that has brought forth a very plentiful supply of thistles of many species. These plants are the food for the butterfly caterpillars and the better the thistles do the more the Painted Lady can breed and feed its young.

The road to Buenavista

Phoenix canariensis
Canary Island Date Palms in El Palmar

I was hoping to get a bus from El Palmar but just missed one so decided to walk all the way down to Buenavista del Norte on the coast below. Exploring Tenerife by bus is a very good way to see the island but you see even more when walking.

I could clearly see the cone of Montaña Taco acting as a landmark below.

I finally got into Buenavista at 5pm and the next bus was in half an hour so I had plenty of time to enjoy a cold Dorada beer that tasted heavenly too after my long walk. Well-earned after all that long walk!

Tenerife Forest Fires Update

Tragically this beautiful area was one of those that was ruined in the forest fires of August, 2012. Much of the woodland has been burnt beyond all recognition and it is doubtful that many of the trees and plants will be able to regenerate from the blaze they were caught up in.

The island residents all looked forward to the winter rains which will help heal the scarred land, which in many places was made up of ashes and the charred remains of what were once green and healthy trees and plants.

Copyright © 2013 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

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  • Article by Bard of Ely

    avatar Born in Cardiff, South Wales, Steve Andrews lived there until 2004 when he relocated to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He used to live on the Ely housing estate and Big Issue magazine, in which he had a regular column, dubbed him the Bard of Ely making reference to his talents as a singer-songwriter, poet and performer. He is also a writer, journalist, author, public speaker and naturalist. In 1998 he worked as a TV presenter for two series of In Full View on BBC Choice. He is the author of Herbs of the Northern Shaman (O-Books 2010) and Hummadruz and a Life of High Strangeness (Amazon Kindle), as well as having contributed to Tenerife News and the Tenerife Sun newspapers and Kindred Spirit, Prediction, Feed Your Brain. Living Tenerife, Permaculure and the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners magazines. Bard of Ely has performed at the Glastonbury and Green Man festivals and was a compère for the Avalon stage at Glastonbury in 2002 and 2003. He has had his songs released on many independent labels including Double Snazzy, Very Good Records, Pink Lemon and DMMG Records. He is written about and quoted in books by several fellow authors, and is in Fierce Dancing, Last of the Hippies (Faber & Faber) and Housing Benefit Hill (AK Press) by C.J. Stone, in The World's Most Mysterious People by Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe (Hounslow), Real Cardiff by Peter Finch (Seren), The Trials of Arthur (Element) by Christopher James Stone and Arthur Pendragon, and in The Remarkable Life of Leonard Cohen (Omnibus) by Anthony Reynolds.
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