Burr Marigolds

June 7, 2015

  My father was a botanist, so he really looked forward to his first trip to La Palma. One of the plants he most hoped to find were burr marigolds – Bidens alba. But he later said he was trying not to hope too much in case he was disappointed. That made me laugh, because they’re an extremely common roadside weed. In fact they’re a right nuisance for exactly the…

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Cochineal and Prickerly Pears

In the 1850s the export market for Palmeran wine collapsed, and somebody had the bright idea of going into cochineal production. Before the advent of synthetic dyes, this was far and away the best red dye available, particularly for wool. For one thing, it doesn’t fade. Cochineal is made from a parasitic insect (Dactylopius coccus), which lives on prickly pears (tuneras), so the plants and insects were imported from Mexico….

May 5, 2014
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The Dragon Tree Viewpoint

There’s a rather nice viewpoint in Puntagorda, on the main road at km 78. Its most obvious attraction is the dragon tree, leaning much further over than the tower at Pisa. > But when I was last there, I was charmed by a tame red-billed chough, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax barbarus. They’re relatives of rooks and crows, but this particular sub-species only lives on La Palma where they’re called grajas. They’re something…

July 30, 2013
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Burr Marigolds

My father was a botanist, so he really looked forward to his first trip to La Palma. One of the plants he most hoped to find were burr marigolds – Bidens alba. But he later said he was trying not to hope too much in case he was disappointed. That made me laugh, because they’re an extremely common roadside weed. In fact they’re a right nuisance for exactly the same…

June 6, 2013
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Poppies

La Palma has lots and lots of wildflowers at this time of year. We even have five different poppies on La Palma. The Corn Poppy, Field Poppy, Flanders Poppy, or Red Poppy is easily the commonest. This is the poppy that mostly grows wild in fields. The next commonest comes from California, which has a similar climate. And then there’s the opium poppies, which are presumably garden escapes. And finally…

April 6, 2013
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Los Tilos: Ancient Forest

August 20, 2011

Laurel forest at Los Tilos One of my favourite bits of tourist feedback about La Palma island was the disgruntled Brit who described Los Tilos as: “Just a load of trees.” Well yes. And Beethoven’s Ninth is just a load of notes, and the Mona Lisa is just a load of paint. Los Tilos, in San Andres and Los Sauces, is home to one of the best surviving laurel forests…

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