Tower of Flowers

A bumblebee on a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii).
A bumblebee on a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii).

 
Because La Palma is an island, the plants here evolved in isolation, and many of them are unique to the island, or to the Canaries. One of my favourites is the Tower of Jewels — Tajinaste in Spanish and in Latin, the Echium genus. It’s related to borage, and most species have a big spike with hundreds of tiny flowers.

The most spectacular is Echium wildpretii, which really is a tower — it’s anything up to 3 m tall! It’s also known as red bugloss, Tenerife bugloss or Mount Teide bugloss. The Spanish name is tajinaste grande or tajinaste rojo, although the ones on La Palma can be blue or mauve.

GTC visible between two Towers of Jewels (Echium wildpretii)
GTC visible between two Towers of Jewels (Echium wildpretii)

And they flower on the peaks of La Palma in late May or early June. As you can see, they’re gorgeous.

Towers of Jewels (Echium wildpretii) in the Caldera de Taburiente at Los Andennes.
Towers of Jewels (Echium wildpretii) in the Caldera de Taburiente at Los Andennes.

Blue tower of jewels (Echium webbi) Breña Baja, La Palma, Canary Islands
Blue tower of jewels (Echium webbi), Breña Baja
Tower of Jewles, Echium Simplex, in Breña Baja, La Palma, Canary Islands
Tower of Jewles, Echium Simplex, in Breña Baja

The picture above is the next most impressive species, Echium simplex.  As you can see, this has huge tower of white flowers. I found this one growing at Monte de las Breñas, in Breña Baja, and it’s the first one I’ve seen in almost 20 years on the island.

On the other hand, you see a lot of Echium webbi. These are usually a sizeable bush, with lots of smaller flower spikes. Again, they’re a lovely blue, and they always seem to attract lots of bees.

Blue tower of jewels (Echium webbi)  Breña Baja, La Palma, Canary Islands
Blue tower of jewels (Echium webbi) Breña Baja,

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

This article has 1 Comment

  1. Tower of Jewels, Sheila, you are great, thanks for your beautiful photos of the flowers and the scientific data, I hope to see those floral wonders in 2017.

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