Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
...a Wonderful Botanical Garden Located in the Capital

My parents and Noah accompanied me on my visit to the Palmetum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife … and what mischief he got up to! We started in a small museum which they have at the moment, where you can see fossils, toys made from palms, diverse sculptures…

The octagon of Palmetum of Santa Cruz is an area where the most sensitive species are located


Canoe brought from Peru in 1996 made from the trunk of a palm tree

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In the future, this small exhibition will be expanded into an authentic, extensive ethnographic palm tree museum with the more than 3,000 objects which they already have.

Manuscripts of India (the first books of history that were made on segments of the palm trees) about three centuries old, located in the museum of Palmetum of Santa Cruz.

In turn it also explains how it evolved from a rubbish dump (in the year 1995) to a botanical garden … ‘from hell to heaven’ in the words of Carlo Morici (the botanical director of the Palmetum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife), who guided us on our beautiful and interesting botanical tour. 

There is a sustainable corner where the origin of Palmetum is shown at this beautiful orchard.
Antonio (part of an organization that offers courses in environmental education), Carlo Morici and my family.

Obviously, in 20 years of history, the nature in the area has evolved but so has its fauna. Where initially there were only rubbish, rats and seagulls, now there are more than 30 very interesting Canary Island birds which have appeared spontaneously.

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There is a sustainable part where they show the hellish origins of this beautiful garden. The pulp (the garden waste of the whole city of Santa Cruz) which covers the ground in the Palmetum produces organic material and reduces the wastage of irrigation water almost by half, because it means undersoil insulation and in the long run provides nutrients. They don’t use compost or fertilisers because they use recycled water from the city, and thanks to the new birds in the area there is a form of pest control.


Prices and Opening Hours at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Adults pay €6 and resident adults pay €1.50. Children between 2 and 12 years old pay €2.80 and resident children pay €1. Resident over 65s, the unemployed and disabled people pay €1.

The Palmetum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is open from 10am to 6pm (closed from 1st to 6th January, as well as 24th, 25th and 31st December). To be able to see everything without rushing, you need at least two hours.

At these prices, there is simply no excuses to not visit the Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife ...

General Guidelines by Which the Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife Was Created

In the world there are 2,500 species of palm tree and in the Palmetum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife they grow some 500 (one in every 5 palm trees which there are in the world) and with the clear goal of conservation they have focused principally on those species which are endangered.

In the Palmetum of Santa Cruz you will find Syzygium cordatum, whose fruit has a slightly bitter taste, but with many vitamins that prolong life. The flower is a beauty.

The park is divided into bio-geographical sections, with references to the continents (America, Asia, Africa) but mainly dedicated to islands around the world (Caribbean, Hawaii, Madagascar, etc.). It is a collection of island palm trees on an island, because island species are the most threatened, and for that reason it focuses less on the continental species because they are in less danger.

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Just by devoting a bit of awareness in our cities it would be possible to collaborate in this protection. An example would be that instead of planting Washingtonia palm trees in landscaping, it would be just as easy to plant a Tahina spectabilis palm tree, of which there are more than hundred in Madagascar and around other hundred being grown across the world.

Aside from its goal of protection, there are beautiful elements to enjoy such as the vantage points, spectacular surrounding views of the ocean, and the greenhouse known as the octagon which is where all the most delicate species can be found.

From the viewpoint of Caribbean at Palmetum, you can see the new area of Santa Cruz and Anaga in the background

To start with, planting in the area was a difficult process as there were some gas leaks which affected some of the plants, but bit by bit the system started working. 

There are maintenance and large areas that are still under development (such as the nursery, the pavilion for workshops, ...)

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In the Palmetum there are 26 degasification wells (some 20 metres deep) to pump the gases which are still produced in the centre of the mountain.

One of the wells at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz.

In the Palmetum they wanted to grow all of the palm trees in the world, but obviously it is not always possible. One reason is the difficulty in obtaining some species and also the climate in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (coastal oceanic subtropical), and therefore palm trees from other climates can be grown for a specific purpose, but it is much more complicated developing and caring for them.

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They have planted very special palm trees which, being away from their place of origin, have not overcome the adaptation process or their growth has been slower than normal.

There are botanical institutions and plant specialists which have collected seeds for years and now have set up a large field of mother plants. One of the most famous was started by Jeff Markus in Hawaii, with about 500 species – Jeff is "the father of all mothers" who spent his whole life gathering seeds, mainly from the Pacific area and Madagascar.

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In order to be able to have certain rare species of palm tree you have to be constantly alert, because they are collected only once every 5 or more years and then become extremely rare, except those which manage to adapt and remain.


Starting our Visit at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz

Indigenous Area and Exotic Fruit Trees

The first section is the one dedicated to indigenous nature, with Canary Island palm trees, dragon trees, euphorbias, etc., but as it was impossible to include all the nature from the Canary Islands, they created an ecosystem from an area near the city of Santa Cruz. A seasonal pond was created in order to recreate the typical aquatic atmosphere of the Canaries.

Dragon trees and palm trees, among other plants are some of the representatives of the Canary nature at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz

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They have created a type of thermophilous forest from Anaga (a symbol of the great biodiversity and endemic qualities of the Canary Islands), which is the most endangered ecosystem in the archipelago and is now only 6% of its original size.

Immediately having gone up part of the slope we came across an area which is intended to give room to those plants which couldn’t be planted in their geographic sections because of a lack of space.

There is a very large collection of unusual fruit trees, like mangos from Ceylon, mangos from Borneo (their skin smells of diesel, but it is a very juicy, sweet fruit), even the biggest fruit which a tree could give with the flavour of pineapple/strawberry … awfully sweet :)

Carlo Morici offering a Barringtonia flower

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These wild botanical ancestors of modern fruit trees have very intense flavours in comparison to what is grown and marketed today.


Madagascar

Having arrived at the landing, we started to walk in the shade of the palm trees and one of the first areas we visited was the one for Madagascar. They have created a pond area in order to grow swamp palm trees, and a few metres away there is a very arid slope where there are Madagascan desert palm trees (Ravenea xenophile) which are some of the slowest palms in the world to grow.

And the tour at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz begins...

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The tallest Madagascan desert palm trees which we found in the Palmetum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in September 2015 had taken 19 years to grow 2 metres.

Plaza de Madagascar at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz.

In the lake they are growing Mangroves, which are some of the few plants which can grow in the sea. The Mangrove seed is a viviparous seed, so the internal seed germinates and creates the root; it germinates inside the body of the mother to buy time.

When the root of the mangrove is longer, it begins to float and when it hits something, it will stick and develop more quickly by having a bigger body.
Ficus Sakalavarum is a curious semi domesticated fruit (fig of Madagascar) whose fruit not everyone likes

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The establishment of plants in the sea is very difficult, not just because of the salt, but also because of the swell, the continuous movement of which makes the growth of trees in general almost impossible.

Madagascar lake at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz

The seeds of the Triangle Palm (from Madagascar) are very valuable, and the trees are beautiful and easy to grow. The name is thanks to the arrangement of the palm leaves.

A question occurred to me, and it might have occurred to you too if you have visited Icod – is the one in the centre of Icod a Triangular Palm Tree? Carlos Morici explained that it is a common species which suffered trauma at some point in its life and, before losing its main tip and being resigned to death, it produced various which are very flimsy. If seeds were planted, other normal palm trees would have grown.

In the Palmetum of Santa Cruz you will find Triangle Palm (Madagascar) very precious for its seeds
La palmera de Icod de siete ramas es una palmera común.

Pacific

The Araucarias columnaris have now become a forest of 50 trees, and the idea is that they grow into the side of the mountain and arrive at the sea, and over the years become 40 or 60 metres tall. The headland which you can see from the south motorway is the curve of the Palmetum. Its special characteristic is that if a hurricane were to hit, it would be able to lose all its branches and months later regenerate without a problem.

The Atlantis Nurseries sold many rare plants in Tenerife and have ceded some of their most prized of their collection to the Palmetum of Santa Cruz
The Araucarias columnaris are very common in The Pine Island (New Caledonia)

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They are starting to introduce other mountain Araucarias, but they require the ultimate care as they are more fragile that those which are planted currently. There are 18 species of Araucarias in the world, and 13 are from New Caledonia.

The Araucarias Columnaris from New Caledonia, when they arrived in 2000 to the Palmetum of Santa Cruz, were a bunch of parsley

The only fully aquatic conifer in the world is a dwarf pine-like tree, up to 3-5 metres tall, originally from New Caledonia.

Area where this aquatic plant conifer was going to be planted, which trunk is surrounded by very thick cork, so the floating objects can stumble and continue their way.

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One of which was planted the day after our visit :) There is a conservation project on the island (there are only 300 or 400 species in the whole world), as mining companies have dwindled the population. That particular conifer has spent four years floating in a tub waiting for this moment.

The view from the observation deck of the Pacific area at the Palmetum is simply beautiful ...

Octagon

This is the most intimate place in the Palmetum (2,300m2), with more delicate species which don’t survive very well away from it. It is an environment with very little wind, lots of shade and streams and waterfalls which create a humid atmosphere. That humidity escapes less thanks to the shade in the area. It is cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

In the octagon of the Palmetum of Santa Cruz the most sensitive species are planted ... and children investigate them...

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They are in the process of restoration and new development, as they had to plant everything again in 2013. Now there is better control over what they have and when and where it is best to plant them.

The octagon of Palmetum is very cozy

Here you will find cacao trees, vanilla plants, different types of yam plant – plants with silver leaves from an equatorial climate which grow for as little as 4 months a year when the climactic conditions are appropriate for their growth (in summer), which means that they have grown in 16 years the amount that other species have grown in 5 years.

The holy banana tree of the gods in New Guinea is only grown in few places in the world. Belgians researchers put their cells into tissue culture from this banana tree in the 80s and brought them to Belgium to conserve them. After requesting them, the Palmetum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife were given the cells from that banana tree; they woke them up and after a few processes they have this plant.

The cells of the banana tree from the sacred gods of New Guinea were brough to Belgium in the 80s, so they could be conserved

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Why is this banana tree extraordinary? Now it is the tallest banana tree in the Canary Islands at 7 and a half metres. And why is it holy? The pineapples don’t fall and the bananas are enormous and orange, with an overdose of vitamins, which gives them an almost medicinal, healing property...

There is a common legend across the Pacific. The holy banana trees (Fehi bananas) were attacked by the normal banana trees long time ago. The Fehi  won and that’s why they live high up in the mountains with their bunches looking up to heaven. Those that lost (the normal banana trees) ended up on the coast, condemned to have their pineapples look at the ground.

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The first genetically-modified bananas were made with the bananas from the holy trees. The Vitamin A gene was extracted from the "fehi banana" and injected into a commercial banana, with the idea of making the first plantation in Africa, although the assembly of the Pacific populations demanded that it was a wrongful use of the gene.


Australia, Asia and Africa

The variety of plants in this area is really wide and very particular. As an example, the Arenga westerhouti will die and flower once in its life (around 20 years). If it doesn’t leave any seeds then the species will be lost and they will have to look for new seeds.

The red dwarf banana (more easily harvested) and other banana.

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The big palm trees usually live 100 to 200 years. The ones which have survived the longest reached 700 years and those which flower the least die after 10 years.

The Holy Basil from India, if you take one a day you never get sick :) ... it can even regulate the mood of adults and children.

There are many plants for which there is no worry about conservation because of their commercial interest, but they can still be found in the Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife because of the particular information pertaining to them. 

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This same economic interest is what caused lots of Canary Island palm trees to be planted and cared for on La Gomera in order to produce sugar-cane liqueur. Tenerife, being the largest island and having had the largest population of palm trees, only has a tiny proportion of what it once had.  Did you know that the Canary Island palm tree has the most leaves in its crown? Up to 100 leaves.


Caribbean

The area for the Caribbean is the largest and most valuable part of the Palmetum, to the point where you will find the only examples of the Hemithrinax compacta from Cuba planted away from the island. In the Caribbean square they have recreated a waterfall which serves as a beach with diverse species from the coastal environment in the Caribbean.

The Kings of Spain (when they were still Princes) inaugurated the Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife the January 24, 2014 and the Princess planted a palm tree near the square of the Caribbean area.

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The day after the inauguration, a windy storm broke one of the leaves on the palm tree planted by the princess, but by ‘royal insistence’ the palm tree resisted with one leaf left.

The Jumagua fan palm (Hemithrinax ekmaniana) is originally from Cuba and there there are only found on a limestone hill where there are more than a 100 individuals, so it is essential to look after them.

The Jumagua fan palm (Hemithrinax ekmaniana) is originally from Cuba and it is located at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz

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The Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is one of the few places in the world where they grow the Jumagua fan palm. Initially they had two and from those others have appeared. 


The Palmetum with Children

With an entertainer the visit becomes an adventure, simplifying the concepts which are taught. Educational tours are offered, which is one of the missions of botanical gardens. Personally I think that children over 5 years old will be able to learn a lot, while those younger than that will enjoy (a lot) the long walks, animals and nature which they find.

Noah with a Barringtonia flower.
Noah analyzing one of the

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The education of humanikind is born from plants: ‘that one can be eaten, that one can’t be eaten. Be careful with that one - it stings’. It is the basis of education as it is known. Building rockets comes later :)

Grandpa Pablo and Noah spent a fun day at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

How to Get to Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

You have to head for the capital of the island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, towards the coast, close to the Recinto Ferial, Auditorio de Tenerife Adán Martín and Parque Marítimo.

Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife - Avda de la Consituición, 5, 38005 - Santa Cruz de Tenerife

http://www.palmetumtenerife.es

Parking at the Palmetum of Santa Cruz with the Recinto Ferial behind.

Final Comments from the Authors About the Palmetum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Yet another place in Tenerife which has left us amazed and surprised, and especially for me (a fan of palm trees) it has been a huge luxury walking through this beautiful botanical garden. Notwithstanding that, you have to say that the Palmetum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife has required a lot of patience and hard work, because we aren’t talking about a building – they are living things and follow their own process of growth without worrying about economic pressures. It involves getting the plant itself, planting it, hoping that it adapts to the area and grows – it’s a long process.

In the Palmetum of Santa Cruz a

In few hours of visit, the Palmetum revealed many secrets, although many stories and anecdotes had to be missed out so that this article didn’t become even longer than it already is … But how many more details could be discovered in another three visits? Perhaps you can leave us some of your experiences :)

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And I can’t hold it in anymore - one last secret … The Ravenea musicalis is the holy grail of palm trees. It is an aquatic palm tree from Madagascar, and with any luck one day we will be able to enjoy it at the Palmetum in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. At least the biologists will not rest in their resolve to get one…

So don’t let external appearances stop you … the Palmetum is open awaiting you with great treasures inside.

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