Tower of Jewels

Tower of Jewles, Echium Simplex, in Breña Baja, La Palma, Canary Islands
Tower of Jewles, Echium Simplex, in Breña Baja

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!. Unfortunately I haven’t got a photo for you because a) it’s quite rare, b) it only grows high up the mountain, and c) it spends about 6 years as a less-than-fascinating rosette of leaves before it goes ballistic and produces the impressive flowers. Most of the pictures you can find on the web are of the pink sub-species which grows on Tenerife. Ours are just as magnificent, but they’re blue.

The picture at the top of the post is the next most impressive species, Echium simplex.  As you can see, this has huge tower of white flowers.
Blue tower of jewels (Echium webbi)  Breña Baja, La Palma, Canary Islands

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 3 Comments

  1. Only want to say your article is as tonishing. The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i can take for granted you are an expert on this field. Well with your permission allow me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with succeeding post. Thanks a million and please keep up the ac complished work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.