Sofias Country Gardens
Tenerife botanical gardens
In winter while my own garden is still sleeping I try to get away every now and then to catch some sun, and so it was that I visited Tenerife in November 2021. Everywhere I travel, I try to visit the local botanical gardens. It is like a game I play, the collecting of botanical gardens, and by now I have visited at least 35 different ones. Botanical gardens vary a lot in shape and size, in content and upkeep, and that is exactly the fun of it. I always learn something new!
The botanical gardens in Tenerife lie in Puerto de la Cruz, on the northern coast of the island. This area is more evenly rainy and less dry than the southern parts of the island, so well suited for a tropical garden. It is actually a very old garden, having been established in 1788 by the Spanish King Carlos III who wanted a garden for tropical plants that could supply his palace in Madrid with exotic plants from the New World. When plants were brought over from Spanish territories in South and Central America, they needed a stop-off point to acclimatise to the new climate and weather conditions in Europe. For this purpose the Canary Islands with their sub-tropical climate were perfect, and so the gardens were created and named Jardín de Aclimatación de la Orotava. Eventually with time the purpose of the gardens changed, and nowadays it is considered one of the most important botanical gardens in the world along side Kew Gardens.
The gardens span an area of 20,000 square meters laid out in beautiful form with neat paths lined with low hedges around large planting areas. Being a sub-tropical garden it is lush like you wouldn't believe! It has a great collection of palm trees, bromeliads (for ex. pineapple), aloes, aroids and moraceae (the wild fig trees). With the garden being over 200 years old, there are many impressively large and old trees including the enormous Ficus macrophylla f. columnaris pictured below and the Bald Cypress or Ciprés calvo (Taxodium distichum) with Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) in the topmost picture of this blog post. The Bald Cypress originates from the United States of America and is one of the few conifers that shed their needles in autumn, quite early in the season. As the needles shed they turn into magnificent hues of yellow, orange and cinnamon, making it quite a showstopper.
The gardens also have an important role in the preservation of endemic species of the Canary Islands, and works as a research center for botanists. In its herbarium archives it has more than 40 thousand dried specimens of native flora that is open for researchers by appointment, together with the extensive library that is curated by the botanical gardens. For the general public the gardens are usually open 9 am - 6 pm weekly, but after covid it is probably best to double-check the opening times!